Improve/Improv

For the last year I have been part of an improvised comedy group . We meet weekly ( haven’t always been able to attend, but that will change this year with new work life balance aims ) to workshop games and techniques and I have now performed in about 5 gigs with them .

Learning how to improvise has been enormously helpful to my teaching and also to my wellbeing. I will aim to explain a few reasons why .

1. Saying yes 

Improv forces you to say yes .You have to agree with your partner to make whatever scenario you find yourself in work . Eg if your partner says , “Hello doctor ……”  If you say ” but I’m not a doctor” you have just killed that scene dead . I’m a bit of a control freak ,I sometimes found it difficult to relinquish planning ideas that I thought were best in the past I  might say , ” No but” or “yes but…” that it almost as bad as saying “no” . Its just killing someone else’s idea dead. Since learning improv I have found myself saying yes more often and just going with the flow . It’s risky , exciting, creative and fun .

2. Not always getting the laugh 

I don’t think I am brilliant at improv , but I am lucky enough to work with people that I think are . Over time I am getting quicker and better. It’s not about always getting the laugh , not everything I say will be funny . It’s ok to play the straight guy .In fact that can be the funniest thing ( I am perfecting my Paul Merton straight face) . Getting a laugh feels great , but actually helping someone get a bigger one feels good too . It might be a duff  idea for advert break , or a terrible scenes we’d like to see . But it might just spark another person to take a leap  into a better joke .

In terms of my teaching , this is about  support . Recognising  the skills of others and letting them flourish .Put the seed of an idea , but be brave enough to let someone else tend the seedling.  In terms of teaching it’s about encouraging children to take that leap . To put that pen to paper and have a go . So what if the first one isn’t that good , the next one will be even better , a little tweaking here and there and you could have an amazing piece of writing . You can spark own creative journey. The more you do it , the better you get .

3. Fun 

I have taught some improv skills to kids and you know what ? They love it ! They are a lot more fearless that adults  and  there are also  a whole host of other skills that it develops . The best thing is that the whole classroom  usually ends up in fits of laughter through a simple game such as 2 headed expert ( which can be tailored to any topic – good for sentence building skills)

This is a subject I will return to as I  continue my adventures in improv.

Even if you don’t feel brave enough to have a go yourself , why not get out there and watch someone else do it or you tube whose line is it anyway and Drew Carey’s Improvaganza  .

There is a whole host of games on the internet such as this encyclopaedia 

Further reading

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre
Keith Johnstone
ISBN 0878301178 (ISBN13: 9780878301171)
Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out
Mick Napier
ISBN 032500630X (ISBN13: 9780325006307)
Improv Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Improvising in Theatre, Comedy, and Beyond
Tom Salinsky
ISBN 0826428584 (ISBN13: 9780826428585)

I am looking forward to starting my drama /improv club again and will hopefully be updating this blog  with ideas, thoughts etc

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#Nurture14/15 looking forward

So its the first day of 2015 and having just written my reflections on the last year , I’m on a roll so will get started on this one as well .
Well the end of 2014 forced me to take a break and reflect so I have done a lot of thinking about what I want out of life . Here are just a few of the things I would like to achieve this coming year .

1. Organise – Get on top of finances and clear debts – really important this one it links in with teaching in that I will often buy a book or resource and not charge it back to school . Moving out of my classroom the other day made me realise that I need to downsize a lot. In my personal life this is also true . So will really try to ask myself these questions Do I need it ? Can I afford it ? Is it worth it ? I have just unsubscribed from all of the shopping emails that I get sent as well. I need to do some serious shifting of old clothes, books and other junk .
2. Write – Not just blog posts , but journals , letters, allsorts .
3. Cut down  meaningless screen time – I really need to get out of my faux relaxation habit of slumping on the sofa and browsing the internet of an evening . Especially facebook . I did have a bit of a break from it and it was great , so I am going to make a better effort at this .
4. Create – I have a lovely craft desk and a ton of paper and dies, stamps , inks and other goodies so I need to make better use of them as I really do find that immersing myself in creating is a bit like meditating .
5. Travel – whilst I would live to go further afield I am really happy just dotting up and down the country with my husband for odd weekends .Would like to do some more walking as well.
6. Perform – I will hopefully get back on stage with The Same Faces and am hoping to land a part on one of the many productions that Masque is putting on this year.
7. Learn – from my mistakes and move on.
8. Enjoy – My job ( it is changing a little this year so I am looking forward to some new challenges ) I have really reflected on what it is to be a teacher and I need to focus on the main reason I came into teaching which is for the children.
9. Run – just get up and run


10. Nurture – myself with good food , good habits and lots of pampering .
11. Stop – worrying about the past and future and live in the now .

12. Support– my colleagues , pupils,family  and friends

13. Challenge – myself to do new things , step out of the comfort zone every now and then and don’t be afraid to ask for help .

14. Smile 

15. Relax  and with that I’m off to slouch on the sofa with … a book

Nurture 14/15 looking back at 2014

There’s that phrase isn’t there ? “can’t see the wood for the trees”  and this year I was forced to do a bit of pruning in my life . It’s been a very challenging year for many reasons  and whilst I won’t go into detail here , I will just say that something had to give and it was almost me .

I didn’t do a 13/14 nurture blog ,in fact as you can see I haven’t blogged for over a year .

I think I would like to change that , but we’ll see how it goes .
So, I’ll just take a look back at the last year :

1. Looking after myself – I learned the hard way that I need to look after myself . I didn’t see the signs where others did , but luckily I was able to take time and reflect on what  my values truly are .

Putting my feet up .


2. Launching a brand new behaviour policy and seeing it work – at the end of summer, I went to a fantastic course with Paul Dix and with his help was able to create a workable policy that is delivering results across the school .
3. Acting in a play- ok it was just a bit part and I was replacing a drop out, but I had lines and make up and costume . It was fun ( I played Helen of Troy in Troilus and Cressida)

4.Learning new skills – I got a pyrography set for my birthday and have spent some lovely hours burning away . I made a few xmas pressies as well .

5. Appearing on stage in an improv comedy group- again I call myself the ‘supply’ improviser , but I have had the chance to appear onstage a few more times this year with ‘The Same Faces’ I really love improv and have learned a lot this year .

6. Running a half marathon- yup I did the great North Run again and knocked a few minutes off my time. Very proud of myself .

7. Giving up booze for 6 months – not as hard as you would think. Although I do wish there was a bit more choice in bars for non drinkers .
8.Understanding the benefits of sharing – in my case especially of talking about problems rather than hiding away from them .
9. Appreciating the amazing colleagues that I work with .
10. Kind words from parents – it really does make a difference when you are thanked .
11. Being able to support children who are struggling . As pastoral leader this isn’t always easy , but I always try to be there to listen .
12. Seeing amazing live music . My husband and I have spent a lot of time travelling to gigs around the country, quite a few of them bands we both loved in our younger years. Highlights were : Arcade Fire, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, NIN and The orb . There’s something special about being right there .

13- Being married for 10 years – my husband is amazing

14 – Making time for friends – lots of cups of tea, shopping and day trips and maybe the odd glass of wine ;-p

A recipe for successful writing

A few weeks ago I went to Nottingham , a city I once lived in . I was really pleased to find that a favourite cafe of mine was still tucked away ,up an alleyway, near the now deserted shop I used to work in .

Whilst there I ate a delicious sandwich- granary bread with tofu, artichoke hearts and pesto, served up with a lovely carroty , cabbagy salad .
What does this have to do with writing? you ask yourself .
Well when I got home I decided that I wanted to eat that sandwich again. So I decided to try to replicate the flavours and ingredients I had tasted . It reminded me of the taste challenge on Masterchef ,where the contestants have to eat a meal that has been cooked by the experts and try to identify the different ingredients, herbs and spices that make up the recipe .

In the classroom we ask children to read texts and try to identify the elements that make it a particular genre . “What are the features? ” we ask our children. The contestants on Masterchef have to work out how the dish was made , was it fried, boiled , sautéed or baked. This takes skill, it does not come naturally to most.The more dishes one has tried , the more likely they are to recognise the texture or the taste of a dish cooked in this way . in the same way the child who has been exposed to wide range of reading material , who has been able to make decisions about which genres they like to read , is more likely to recognise those features easily. Reading is key to building a bank of knowledge about what writing is and what it does.

So the ingredients , the words if you like . The contestants on Masterchef need to taste the dishes carefully and mistakes are often made . Is it pork or lamb ? Prawns or scallops . Subtle differences can result in a dish that is very similar , or a compete disaster.
Our children can be given the words to use in their writing . A word wall could be transformed into steak , or horsemeat burgers depending on the skill of the writer. Lack of knowledge could result in boiled sirloin steak , or sautéed lettuce ( not entirely appealing )

If we feed our children a diet of grammar, worksheets and boring texts, then the end result won’t be anything special . Yes we have to start with the basics , just as a cook needs to learn how to mix flour and eggs , or slice vegetables , a child needs to know what a sentence is and how the words fit together. A chef can follow a recipe step by step , but this isn’t what makes a tasty meal. The more times that dish is created and tasted , the more that the chef begins to deviate from the recipe ,adding their own twist perhaps a new seasoning or a different vegetable . The chef learns to combine tastes and flavours , through experimenting and often making mistakes learns which spices complement certain meats and vegetables.

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Where’s the off switch ?

I was going to call this post  “Switching Off ”  but my lovely colleague beat me to it ,read her fab post here .

But that brings me to mind why us teachers find it so hard to switch off in the shorter holidays or in some cases the summer holidays as well .

My husband does a stressful job , I don’t envy some of the work he has to do , yet when the shift is over and he is back home , he thinks nothing of  switching on the pc for a couple of hours of gaming  . So why do I feel differently ?

Someone very close to me has recently had to be signed off their job due to stress  ( they are not a teacher , but in one of the other professions  where  these problems are all too familiar) . It has made me think very carefully about what I want out of life and why I place so much importance on work .

I love teaching , but I have had a very difficult few years  in the job , My dad ( who is a retired teacher ) constantly reminds me on the phone to beware of burnout when he hears me talking about books I need to mark , or  planning that needs to be done . I used to laugh and say ” Don’t worry that’ll never happen to me ” , but it nearly did . I found myself in a  trapped , unable to work out what needed doing and just working  all the hours I had, blindly  thinking I was holding it all together . I wasn’t .

Luckily, a fresh start in September has given me  a chance to reassess my career . It hasn’t been easy and I am still very much a novice at my new job. I have made mistakes  , but the difference is that I am able to ask for help,  listen, learn and act .  I am lucky to have supportive colleagues  and am beginning to understand the importance of working together  towards a shared goal.

Anyway about that off switch . I found it this week (well the mute button!)  . I went away to my in-laws and took no work . Instead I filled my days with  walks in the countryside and reading . Pure Bliss . I have a very busy mind ( another blog post I think)  but I do feel that I was able to quieten my thoughts   a little this week .  I will return to work  feeling a lot brighter  and I will make sure that I work when I need to work and try to  make time for me  as well .

Teaching is a hard job . I define myself as a teacher , but I am also a wife , a daughter , a sister ,a friend  and me .

I think that list might need reorganising a bit 🙂

Right I’m off to put those walking boots on!

These boots were made for walking

These boots were made for walking

Thoughts during a short run about teaching in the long run

Every Saturday, after a long week at work, I face the mental challenge of whether to drag myself out of my lovely cozy bed to run around the park . I take part in event called parkrun , which is an organised 5k run that anyone can do .

As I  was running last week , I started to think about teaching and particularly  how children might experience lessons . I was thinking a lot about maths lessons for various reasons .

So here is what went though my mind:

I start off the run full of enthusiasm and manage to keep up a pace with most of the other runners. This last for about 40 metres. As I  realise  I need to slow down , the rest of them seem to effortlessly  continue on .

A child in a lesson could feel like that I suppose .Recently , I was communicating with a parent about her child and she was worried he was losing his enthusiasm for maths  . He was used to being top of the class, but now there were others  who were quicker and more mentally agile.I thought about that child as I ran because  as I slipped back  from the leaders it didn’t bother me .

Why ? well I had never been at the top , I am fairly new to this running lark and I only do it once a week , whereas others are pro runners who “live running”. The challenges and the  mental argument I have whilst attempting the course is with myself – not the others .I want to improve my pb  and the only way I can do that is by practising . I am in control of whether or not I get better .

But what of that child who must surely be disappointed  to have lost his position at the top of the rankings? I need to help that child realise that he has great potential and that  with hard work , he can  progress. He needs to  be able to  see that progress in a lesson or over a longer period of time .I need to  teach him how to do that  . If he gives up he will be out of the race.

Running around the park, I observe that  there are a number of fantastic volunteers  who keep us on the right course, clap or cheer encouragement ( very important especially after the agonising hilly part-which you do twice!) . They don’t run the race for me . They don’t  take the hills away . They don’t even hand out water  or oranges.  But that smile and acknowledgement  , that knowing look and “well done” or “keep it up” as I stagger past them  makes me think of my role in the classroom .

I want my children to feel the challenge  in a lesson .But  I recognise that a kind word of encouragement and an acknowledgement of the effort they are putting in , can really boost that child’s  stamina during a lesson . The encouragement doesn’t just have to come from me . The other parkrunners  cheer on  each other . Many stay and clap as the final competitor makes it through the funnel. As I make my way up the final stretch , runners who managed the course in half the time are walking back to their cars and they  still have time for a “nearly there” or a ” keep going” . Having a bunch of people who are all doing the same thing , whatever their level  is really great to be part of . I want my children to learn to encourage each other in much the same way . A shared  responsibility to not just pack up and leave  before the final runner has made it . We are all in this together so lets help each other out .

A few hours after I have finished the race  I get a text and it tells me the time I have achieved this week . I get really excited to receive it and it comes with a “well done!” and if I have  beaten my PB  it tells me so . I can go into a chart that tells me all my past times and how well I am doing compared to others . That feedback is pretty quick and seeing my name  go up the rankings or just seeing a new pb next to my name , puts a smile on my face . If I don’t make it , guess what? I make it my aim to beat it next time.

Well if you are a teacher reading this , I don’t need to spell out that one . Feedback works .

So those were my thoughts that went through my head as I ran last week . I did get a pb !

This morning I got up and did it all over again.

Butterflies

It’s that time of year again . I put it off as long as I could, but now I am sitting here with butterflies in my stomach .

Aah the begining of a new term. You can tell it’s nearly upon us , or in the case of my Leicestershire colleagues  already started ( Well they did finish the week before us  in July! ). Twitter is now ablaze with before and after images  of shiny new classrooms , BevEvans wonderful site is being hit thousands of times a minute, laminator sales are hitting the roof  and  thousands of us teachers and wondering how on earth we are going to get up  at stupid o’clock next week .

So why the butterflies ?

Well I am a very  infrequent blogger (shame on me . I will try to do better) . I have had a very challenging year for a number of reasons  and I haven’t really felt like sharing any of it online( Close friends know the ins and outs)

The reason I have butterflies is because I am nervous. I am starting a new job and this is the perfect opportunity to become the teacher I know I can be . Everyone is rooting for me .

The difficulty with a new job is that you cannot know everything straight away . It is a learning curve . There are different procedures, ways of teaching, planning etc . I know that I will take everything in my stride and I won’t let the children down ( they are the most important people as far as I am concerned) . I want to be the best that I can and that is one reason that i was determined to have a proper break , which I have done .

So I have cocooned myself away and not thought about work for a long time . I have wrapped myself in the silks of friendships , family and good books.

I am not an ugly caterpillar any more.

I am ready to hatch and fly off  into a whole new bright and positive frame of mind

Previous Older Entries

Vocabulary Ninja

"Words unlock the doors to a world of understanding."

Steps in teaching & learning

Using technology in the classroom

TechnoStories

Bev's adventures in ICT

Adventures in Learning

in an EBD Classroom

Classroom Tales

Reflections, Resources and general musings from a primary school teacher.

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