As this year sees the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I make no apologies for the headings in this article, taken from the great man himself. Children have been learning about William Shakespeare and the countless plays that he wrote. My Year Two class have thoroughly enjoyed learning how he wrote his sonnets due to the closure of theatres during the plague and giggling about men playing all parts, including that of women.
This article originally appeared in the free June 2016 edition of UKEdMagazine – Click here to view.
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Being a teacher requires a sort of acting on a daily basis. For example, most adults having a bad day can keep themselves to themselves, but not teachers. When 30 little people or young adults are looking to you for inspiration, knowledge and entertainment, it is useful to remind ourselves of the great job we do. With many hats being worn each day, ranging from the banker collecting trip money, the doctor attending to little Bill’s grazed knee and the fountain of all knowledge for children and their parents, we are indeed acting more than we realise.
Of course, there are stark reminders throughout the school year when schools host themed days for various reasons. Often, these days are to raise awareness of important events and to raise money for various charities where children and adults embrace fancy dress and pay a small contribution for doing so. February was Safer Internet Day and in March, World Book Day saw Little Reds, Gruffalos and Harry Potters galore! Typically these days are based around key messages and outcomes. If we have inspired that child who dislikes reading to rush off and open a book, comic or e-magazine, we have achieved something that would have been trickier otherwise.
Sometimes, fancy dress days are all in the name of good old fun. Our school recently had a Shakespeare week with the Friday being the big event. You can imagine my delight when one child commented on how pretty I looked as Queen Titania from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in my ridiculous gold dress complete with fairy wings and tiara. But isn’t that the point? For that child, seeing her teacher dressed differently and showing that it’s OK to have a laugh has really helped her to remember what she learned that week. Most importantly, it has taught her that it’s OK to have fun and not feel pressured into always ‘doing things by the book’.
Not Slept One Wink
We as a profession find ourselves all too often drowning in a flood of paperwork, standards to keep and ‘guidance’ to follow. Working with the children is the most valuable use of our time but there is an increasing amount of pressure to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ without exception. Being sleep deprived due to late nights planning, marking and (dare I say it) test worries won’t help anyone, but we are all guilty of it. With the end of Key Stage Assessments (SATs) being taken nationally, there are increasing numbers of reports about unnecessary levels of stress amongst children and educators. It begs the question, what can we do to combat this?
Inevitably, no matter how good the lesson looked on paper, things rarely go to plan. I often find that some of the best lessons I’ve taught are the ones that go off script. Shakespeare himself would have almost certainly have endorsed a little improvisation here and there. I know that I personally welcome theme days, dressing up and whole school events as a bit of light relief from the usual routines and I’m sure other professionals would agree.
Heart of Gold
It’s fair to say that we work exceptionally hard and have to ‘wear our hearts on our sleeves’ in order for children to trust us. By building these positive relationships and modelling qualities which the children will need for life, we should remember that we could have the next playwright amongst us. However, should that not be the case, we go to the workplace every day whether it be a themed day or not, to try to inspire the future generation. Although actors have the skill of pretending to be whomever they wish, I believe that if we have done our job right, every child will go home with belief in themselves and the confidence to seize whatever opportunities they aspire to achieve.
So next time you embrace your inner Romeo, Florence Nightingale or Gruffalo, remember the impact that your part has in the whole production… the holistic child.
Catherine Steel is a Y2 teacher and Computing Subject Leader at Redbridge Primary School, London. Find her on Twitter @TaffTykeC or at catalystforlearning.wordpress.com