Art for Art’s Sake

With no deadlines, exhibitions, performances or exams in sight, it’s a little like the Zen conundrum about a tree falling in the forest. Without a witness, does your creative work exist? Are you happy to make art for art’s sake?

Good Creative Habits

During this period of social distancing and self-isolation, it could be all too easy to slip into a malaise. However, it’s now more important than ever that we each look after our physical and mental health. And this can be an opportunity to get into good creative habits.

Most of us recognise the need for regular routines in eating, sleeping, getting dressed and maintaining personal hygiene. But how many of us see creative self-expression as a daily necessity? Physical exercise is something we know we should all do for ts own benefit. ‘Art’, on the other hand, can still be regarded as either an amusing diversion or a lucrative career option.

The latter is, of course, a rarity. Of the millions who aspire to fame and fortune through their art, only a handful will achieve them. But the creative process is available to literally everybody: anytime, anywhere. And, just as with physical exercise, this activity brings its own rewards at very little personal cost.

Creative Role Models

Normally, at this point, I would relate the topic under discussion to working with children. Clearly, the collective act of group learning has been mostly suspended for the time being. But that doesn’t mean we cease to be creative role models for our youngsters.

Many of us will have children at home. Those that don’t will be in touch with others that do. And we all influence one another through our words and deeds. So, even at a time when few pupils are in school, maintaining our own creative activity as adults remains vitally important.

Abstract Expression

So, how do you stay motivated to be creative? The best way is to not think of  motivation at all. Make your art a part of your habits and routines. And don’t think about the outcome.

A good approach is to try some abstract expression. This may sound a little fancy, possibly even pretentious. However, taken at its most basic level, it is simply about freeing yourself from expectations.

If learning a dance routine feels like an onerous task, try moving for the pure enjoyment of physical exploration. If you don’t know what to paint (or don’t think you are talented enough to represent a specific scene or image) just play with some colours and see what happens. Bored of practicing scales on your instrument? Throw away the notes and simply make some noise.

The Proverbial Forest

If not now – when? You have licence to go off piste. You can literally ‘dance like no one is watching’. This is your chance to make a habit of expressing yourself.

Don’t just do it once, though. Make it a regular part of your routine. Perhaps after getting dressed, before bed or after meals. And then see how that effects your mood and mental health over the longer term.

You are in the proverbial forest with nobody there to see you. But that doesn’t mean your art doesn’t exist. Creativity is an innate part of us all that demands an outlet.

So, if for no other reason – make art for art’s sake.

 

Please Yourself

Juggling for Beginners

Let Go The Reins

Do ‘Something’

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

What is Your Label?

This week, two things jumped out at me from the radio. One was from Radio 4’s ‘Saturday Live’, the other the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. Both concerned identity… what is your label?

Who Are You?

For those of us of a certain vintage, this evokes a minor hit from a major rock band. For the rest, it’s a straight forward, yet impenetrable question. What determines our sense of self and – by extension – self-worth?

It was a schoolteacher who addressed this issue, in a very timely and measured manner, on Radio 1’s Breakfast Show. He was speaking, on behalf of all teachers, to the nation’s pupils. He was particularly addressing those that, in the midst of coronavirus-related school closures, will be missing exams and/or leaving early.

The Whole Person

Those youngsters face uncertainty in relation to their exam grades. These marks, in turn, will – of course – have an influence on the future prospects of each pupil. This teacher wanted to assure all concerned that whilst exam grades are naturally of great importance, they do not define the whole person.

Pupil measurement, at all levels of education, is a contentious issue. The idea that a child can be labelled according to SATS results, GCSEs, A levels, and so on can be the source of anxiety, disappointment and demotivation. However, as our friendly headteacher pointed out, how we label ourselves can be something altogether more positive.

Fulfilling Your Identity

Which brings me to the Radio 4 ‘Saturday Live’ guest, Alice Morrison. She had worked within the media industry, enjoying high status and big salaries. However, when her business fell foul of funding cuts, she looked to her passion for adventure as a way forward.

What struck me, in particular, was when Alice talked about deciding to call herself ‘Alice Morrison, Adventurer’. By allowing herself to choose her own label, she then began to fulfil that identity. And this resonated with me personally, since I did more or less the same thing, when I began to refer to myself as a composer in my late twenties.

Dream & Aspirations

It may seem trivial but how we label ourselves is actually important. Clearly, in neither case did we just say ‘I’m going to be this’ without any preparation or prior learning. But here is the point: we never stop learning. Once we have chosen a particular direction, more and more learning becomes a necessity in order to follow that path.

Young children are often asked ‘what are you going to be when you grow up?’. I think many of us have come to the realisation that, in actual fact, we never really grow up. However, many do lose sight of the dreams and aspirations they had as a child. They allow labels that others impose to define and limit them.

Unique Talents

As the teacher on Radio 1 said, it is important to value yourself for your own unique talents. These may be academic; they may be artistic; they may be in the ability to empathise and care. And, whilst we strive to enable our youngsters to fulfil their potential through education, we need also to encourage them to choose labels for themselves.

It may sound grand to call yourself ‘adventurer’. However, if that is your true calling, it would be wrong to refer to yourself as anything else. Children have the wonderful ability to imagine themselves to be almost anything. Fostering this imagination is a vital step towards them later achieving their goals.

You’ve Got to Have a Dream

Let’s remind our pupils that labels applied by others are not the only ones that count. And, thereby, help them on the road to self-determination.

As Oscar Hammerstein II once said:

“You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream,

How you gonna have a dream come true?”

 

What is Your Personal Truth?

Please Yourself

Alice Morrison, Adventurer

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

 

Please Yourself

Last week, we talked about preparation. How creativity can give confidence in meeting challenges. And how, in the end, you should be happy with your own work & please yourself.

Falling Apart

How prescient then, when one of the composing commissions cited fell apart in the final phase. The details are unimportant but, essentially, I was commissioned to write some music for a promotional film. The footage had been planned, shot and edited. I had been then drafted in to provide a soundtrack. I was given a guide track to work to and a fairly vague brief of what was required.

It became clear, right at the end of the process, that the people commissioning this piece had not made sufficient preparation. They had not fully thought-through what the promo was for or what it should say. So, in receiving the finished piece, the top decision-maker (who had been absent throughout the process) then decided it was not what she wanted.

Substantial Creative Work

Clearly, there had been a lack of proper communication in this instance. The production team (myself included) will still be paid for our work, so nothing has been lost from that point of view. However, nobody wants to be part of a project that is seen to have been a failure. But was it really?

The fact remains that a substantial piece of creative work has been made. The camera angles are magnificent, the lighting crisp and sharp. There is a terrific human element, a clear narrative and – of course – a cracking soundtrack!

Doing The Best You Can

Whilst it is disappointing to know that this footage will now not be aired, I can personally take comfort in the fact that I was happy with my part in it. As with all things creative, it is the process itself that is the real reward.

Like most artists, I have serious doubts about whether my output is ‘any good’. However, I have learned – as previously discussed – to please myself. To do the best work I can with the tools and skills available.

Inspire & Encourage

When we set children a creative task, there is no money at stake. Nobody will judge whether or not their work has met a brief or ticked the right boxes for funding. The purpose of providing them with artistic challenges is to challenge them.

Obviously, what some pupils produce may be subjectively ‘better’ than others. Indeed, we like to model examples of good work. However, this is in order to inspire and encourage the whole class, not to pit one against the other.

Please Yourself

This kind of positive cooperation is an invaluable life skill. And if individuals learn the strength to say ‘this is what I have done and I’m happy with it’, they will develop resilience for future collaborations. Pride in one’s achievements should not rely on the opinions of others. Whilst we all like to be appreciated and receive praise the true worth of our creativity is what it means to us personally.

Perhaps, in assessing children’s creative work, we could bear this in mind. Rather than saying ‘that’s good’ or ‘you’ve done well’, we could ask ‘are you happy with that?’ or ‘what do you like about it?’ It’s always good to provide alternatives and suggestions for improvement. But, perhaps, if a child is unyielding because they are happy with their work, our only response, surely, must be ‘please yourself’.

 

Juggling for Beginners

Keeping It Real

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

Juggling for Beginners

As a freelance creative, commissions can be like buses. You wait ages for one to come along – then three turn up at once. And so it is I found myself, last week, juggling three very different composing jobs.

Juggling Contradictory Demands

So, how do you contend with meeting potentially contradictory creative demands? And ensure each is delivered on time, to the required specification? The answer, as with so many things, lies in good preparation.

In the specific case of fulfilling these briefs, that entails a thorough analysis of the source material. All three are video-based and two came with a ‘guide track’ (example of the style of music desired, to which the video has been edited). A lot of information can be derived from both these sources.

The guide track provides: a genre; sound-pallet (set of instruments/tones); tempo; rhythmic structure; harmonic structure and so forth. Similarly, the video has its own pacing, tone, mood, etc. From these, it is possible to construct a template, complete with sound sources, structural markings, tempo maps and so on.

Early Preparation

But, the bulk of preparation took place before any of this was considered. That comprised years of listening, studying and performing. Immersion in countless musical styles and genres, both as audience and performer. This is not said by way of an idle boast, it is just what I do and have always done.

The point is that if you – or your pupils – have an innate interest in a creative form, you will automatically be preparing for the possibility of expressive output of your own. Not only that but a specific creative interest provides fuel for other artistic pursuits too. Better still, none of this feels like ‘work’.

Experiencing art invariably feeds the act of creative expression. So, the whole process is self-perpetuating. And a library of knowledge will amass over time, virtually of its own volition. When somebody then asks ‘Can you create this?’, you can reply – with a degree of certainty – ‘Yes, I can’.

Normalise Meeting Challenges

The beauty of working with young pupils is that they have not yet learned to question whether or not they are ‘good enough’ to tackle creative tasks. And you can give them the opportunity now to normalise meeting such challenges. That way, you are helping to offset any potential reticence as they mature.

Children that grow to develop an interest in a particular creative area will feel ‘qualified’ to pursue this later in life. Not only that but they will have a residual self-belief that may spill-over into other areas of their adult lives. What a gift, when asked to juggle three contrasting creative tasks, to be able to say ‘Yes, I can do that’.

Good News

So far, I have delivered on two of the three commissions. The good news is that they were well received. The other is in hand and I’m pleased to say that I’m happy with it so far. Which, quite frankly, is what matters – and could  well provide the topic for a future blog post.

One word of warning, though: if you are introducing younger children to  juggling – of any kind – it’s probably best to avoid fire!

 

I Don’t Know How You Do it

What Is Your Personal Truth?

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

 

Keeping it Real

It’s easy to be dazzled by what we can achieve with technology. However, there’s a lot to be said for keeping it real, especially when working in the digital realm.

A Little Bit if Grit

Music production has benefited, for several decades, from the ability to sample natural sounds. The waveform of anything that can be recorded may be manipulated and used to produce everything from percussion loops to soaring melodies. And the little bit of ‘grit’ this provides can greatly enhance what may otherwise be a rather mechanical sound.

The other day, my daughter showed me a YouTube clip of a contemporary music producer, who works with big-name pop stars. He was demonstrating how some of the sounds within what has become a chart-topping hit come from surprising everyday sources. Few would spot these within the mix but once they have been pointed out, it’s hard not to then listen to the track and say ‘oh yes!’.

A Different Approach

I had just been invited to create some music for a video project when I saw this. And it led to me taking a different approach to my composition. The video features people being interviewed in a variety of settings. Each clip ‘suffers’ from quite a lot of ambient sound spilling-through on the recording. So, rather than see this as a problem, I decided to work with it.

Listening to the background noise, I was able to identify and isolate sounds that suggested rhythms and phrases. I sampled these and blended them with instruments with similar tone and pitch. Each element was then introduced as the source sound appeared within the video. This is still a work in progress but I’m quite happy with the results.

Good Advantage

Potentially distracting noises-off have, therefore, become part of the soundtrack. What may have been seen as a problem has been turned to good advantage. Not only does this mask a technical flaw, it actually means there is a deeper connection between the spoken words and accompanying music.

As we have previously discussed, every creative project is defined by a set of limitations. This may be a physical space, a time limit, a colour pallet, a theme or – very often – a combination of factors. When additional constraints are imposed, these can actually be helpful, from the point of view of defining a creative composition.

Real-World Sources

Working digitally can create the illusion that anything is possible. And, perversely, this overwhelming freedom can be stifling. So, introducing a little reality into the equation can help narrow your options. Any art form is, arguably, a reflection of the real world. By taking real-world sources as a starting point, we can immediately root our creative work in that reality.

Consequently, our output will then be more likely to resonate with others. They will recognise, consciously or otherwise, the ‘realness’ of what they are witnessing. And its effect will be enhanced.

Messy Reality

Working creatively with children, we want them to be expressive. We also want them to be up to speed with the latest digital technologies. The latter can be a great vehicle for the former. But we need to be careful not to make everything too ‘clean’. A little bit of messy reality can make all the difference, breathing life into what otherwise may be safe and stale.

So, encourage your pupils to get their hands dirty. Allow them all the freedom that digitial creativity provides. But also instill in them an awareness of the benefits of keeping it real.

 

What is Your Personal truth?

See, Hear, Experience

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

Curb Your Enthusiasm

What happens when enthusiasm spills over into domination? Well-meaning input quickly becomes unwanted interference. And creativity suffers.

Public Meeting

I was having a meeting, the other evening, to discuss ideas for an upcoming fringe-theatre event. This was being held in a public place, indeed a public house. So, it should have been no surprise when our conversation was interrupted.

The person doing the interrupting was a very dear friend. One who loves to help and, once he gets the bit between his teeth, is unable to curb his enthusiasm. Which is terrific, except for when it becomes overbearing. And my friend, in this instance had clearly been enjoying the venue’s hospitality to the full.

Uninvited Collaborator

In fairness, he was trying to contribute positively to the discussion. He was keen to push me beyond the limitations of what I thought possible for this project. Again, this is unquestionably a good thing. And I was genuinely grateful for the input and enthusiasm for this project.

However, my uninvited collaborator had latched onto the last thing that had been said as he joined the conversation. He hadn’t taken the trouble to ask about the broader vision for the show. And, more crucially, he had then dominated the conversation to the exclusion of the two original participants.

Stifling the Flow

The net effect of this intervention was to stifle the flow of ideas. Aside from the fact it hadn’t been asked for, it used up much of what was a limited window of opportunity. Had this been an equal conversation, the new perspective would have been useful. We could have batted things back and forth and helped to move the project forward. But, instead, we were treated to a lengthy monologue.

Listen &Understand

As previously discussed, when we are working creatively with young people, we must be particularly careful not to dominate. Most will automatically defer to our ideas and opinions. And, if they do, they will – of course – then be stifling their own creative impulses.

As with my tipsy friend, it is clear that our intention is to help and push things forward. However, we should see this as being a collaboration. Children’s ideas and opinions must be treated as at least as valuable as our own. So, the key thing for us to do is listen and understand.

Disengaged & Demotivated

An excellent example of how not to do this has been provided by my son’s drama teacher. She is directing their school’s show and faces a tough job. However, she is controlling the performers’ every move, word and gesture. Which means the children are disengaged and demotivated.

In fairness to this teacher, there is a wide range of ability and motivation among the pupils concerned. But her own enthusiasm is overbearing, particularly for the younger children. They therefore no longer feel that they own their performance. And so, they have become unruly and disruptive. Which, of course, makes the teacher feel she needs to take even more control. And so it goes.

Patience & Understanding

Energy and enthusiasm are key ingredients for any creative collaboration. However, these must be tempered by patience and understanding. If our own innate excitement for a project leads us to take over the conversation, then it is no longer a dialogue. It may, indeed, quickly become a diatribe.

We all have the ability to feel hurt or slighted, especially within a creative setting. And one person’s empathy may be another’s take-over bid. So, get excited by all means. But curb your enthusiasm just enough to allow your pupils and/or collaborators the chance to show theirs as well.

Together, you can then create something of real worth.

 

Let Go The Reins

Go With the Flow

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move


 

Anger is an Energy

Anger is An Energy - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersAnger is an energy that can scare and intimidate. But what if it’s used creatively? 40 years on, does Punk have any relevance for modern-day learning?

The Essence of Punk

Chris Packham, renowned naturalist, recently produced a documentary for the BBC, in which he attempted to uncover the essence of punk. He visited some key figures from the movement to see what they are now doing and how punk has shaped their worldview. Each agreed that it had been an important cultural phenomenon and a key influence in their personal development.

So what is punk? In recent times, the word has been used chiefly to describe loud, fast, guitar-driven music with shouty vocals. However, the original punk movement was far more than a musical style. It was a state of mind. You could even say it was a way of being.

Angry Energy

During Mr Packham’s film, he grapples with finding a definition for this. His conclusion is that Punk is an attitude. It is having something to say about what is happening in the world outside, right now. And it is very much about expressing personal truths, however unpalatable, as directly as possible, through words, actions and – often – angry energy.

Clearly, today, there is plenty to be angry – or at least concerned – about. We spend quite a lot of time and effort convincing our children they should control their tempers. But where does that pent-up rage go? Could suppressed anger be partly to blame for fueling a rise in mental health issues among the young?

Dangerous & Subversive

Punk, in its heyday, was seen as dangerous and subversive. But perhaps it was more like a safety valve. It actually led to very little violence or disruption. By channeling their anger into something creative and expressive, punks actually may have averted serious civil unrest.

At the very heart of the movement was a reaction to wider complacency. The UK had been through a period of political turmoil and weak leadership. And the heartland of punk wasn’t deprived inner-city ghettos. Rather, it was the drab, middle-class suburbs. The very areas that were seen as safe and neutral.

Safe & Comfortable

As parents and teachers, we strive to create a safe and comfortable environment in which our children may grow and develop. But we also need to allow them space for self-expression. Even if this sometimes means venting anger and challenging established norms. Failure to do so can create personal frustration and collective resentment.

Anger is an energy. And, like all energy, it needs an outlet. One of the many benefits of creative expression is to give that energy purpose and direction. The punk ethos means that when someone has something to say, they take the opportunity to say it. The most important thing for the rest of us to then do is listen.

Full Marks for Anger

So, the next time one of your pupils is being angry and makes you think ‘you little punk’, stop and consider. Maybe they are being a little punk. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

What we ask of our children is that they make an effort. Effort is energy. And, since anger is an energy, expressing that anger is making an effort. So – full marks for anger!

 

 

Rough & Tumble (KS2)

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

I Don’t Know How You Do It

I Don't Know How You Do It - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersHow often do we say ‘I don’t know how you do it’, when – really – we do? It’s easy to assume others have hidden talents we don’t. But we all have things we are good at that we just take for granted.

How Do You Do It?

I was having coffee, just earlier today, with a dear friend. I was talking about some composing work that may be coming my way. He said ‘I don’t know how you do it’. To which I replied ‘what?’. ‘Just make something up, out of no-where’ he replied.

The friend in question is an architect. I asked him ‘well, how do you go about designing a house?’. He then proceeded to explain that he would begin with a plot of land (this was represented by the cutlery and condiments on our table). Then, he would see where the access to the property would be (a spoon became the gateway). Next, he would note whether a road ran alongside (a napkin). And, he would consider which way was North, in relation to the property, to see where the natural light would fall.

Given these parameters, he would decide where best to position the house, so that there may be privacy from the road. Ideally this would allow space for a garden to the South side, to make best use of the sunshine. He would consider, perhaps, having a kitchen somewhere where the evening light may fall upon a window (a pepper-pot) and locate a garage (salt-cellar) near to the entrance, where it would not obscure any views.

The Same Process

‘Well, it’s the same process’, I said. I will ascertain how long a piece of music needs to be; what sections are required. what instrumentation is desirable. Often – if it is a commission – I will be given a ‘guide track’, which will provide a ready-made set of parameters. From this, I can deduce: tempo; style; genre; degrees of texture and ‘layers’; whether there are repetitions and motifs; whether the piece is melodic, atonal or abstract. Once these constraints are in place, it is more or less a question of filling in the spaces.

We both agreed that the difficult bit is then to find some kind of inspiration to do the creative bit. And where that comes from is hard to define. However, once you have essentially created a playground within which to play (whether musically, visually, dramatically or whatever), then it really is just a matter of playing. Ring any bells? Of course it does!

Let Them Loose

As a teacher, you follow this process all the time. You give your pupils a set of parameters within which to operate and essentially let them loose. Obviously, if the underlying subject is mathematics, then the children won’t be allowed to roam too far. But in more creative subjects, they have freedom to explore.

As someone whose connection with education is through creative movement (or – for want of a better term – ‘dance’), it is often apparent to me that many teachers are a little intimidated by this subject. Many ask ‘how do you do that?’ – or, more often, ‘how should I do that?’. To which, the answer is: you don’t have to. Or rather, you don’t have to do anything beyond your already considerable capabilities.

What? Me?

‘What? Me? Considerable capabilities?’. Yes. You. Stop and think for a moment. How many people outside of the teaching profession think to themselves ‘how do they do that?’. I can tell you: a good many. Plenty of people – myself included – would be filled with dread at the thought of having to inspire, lead and nurture young people on a daily basis. What you do is, in short, amazing.

So, any fears you may be harbouring over teaching subject areas that fall outside your natural comfort zone are unfounded. Especially when you pause to consider that you do know how to teach. And, by extension, you can teach anything. Very much like designing a house or composing a piece of music, it really is just a question of defining your playground. Once your pupils understand the parameters within which they are allowed to play, they will naturally get on and do that: play.

You Already Know

And what is primary education at its best, if not structured play? Interestingly, in demonstrating to me how he designs a house, my friend resorted to a form of play. Our table top became the playground and our imaginations did the playing. So, in answer to the question: ‘how do you do that?’, the answer is quite simple: ‘you already know’.

 

Unexpected Inspiration

Do ‘Something’

Unexpected Inspiration

Unexpected Inspiration - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersSometimes, inspiration can come from an unexpected source. So, we need to keep an open mind and avoid pre-judging those around us. You never know where your next source of unexpected inspiration may be lurking. Possibly right under your nose…

Cheeky Young Thing

Over the Christmas break, I met – as is the tradition – with members of my extended family. One of whom, is a cheeky young thing who works as a sports coach in schools. He also runs a local girls’ football team. We’ll call him Dan.

On the surface, this young chap seems like a ‘blokey’ bloke. By his own admit ion, he was never academically gifted. And his language is peppered with youthful jargon. So, when Dan chose a career in sports, nobody was too surprised. But any assumptions that this reflects a lack of sensitivity or emotional maturity on his part are seriously misguided.

Creative Thinking

Over the course of our conversation, my admiration for this young man – which was already considerable – grew. He displays a remarkable degree of creative thinking and a real depth of psychological understanding. It’s quite possible that Dan is, himself, unaware of these talents. Nonetheless, he applies them to great effect.

When Dan began coaching girls at his local football club, take-up was low and expectations even lower. He realised, however, that the important thing was the girls felt this was their club. Moreover, he identified the fact that the parents also needed to be invested in their daughters’ efforts.

Parental Interest

Previously, parents had dutifully ferried their children to and from games and training. They would gather on the touchline and have a chat, whilst their little one got on with whatever it was they were doing. So, without meaning to, they were giving the signal that they were either not interested or did not believe in what their youngsters were achieving.

Dan set about involving parents in subtle ways. They would run the touchline, provide refreshments and organise end-of-season festivities. Over time, it became as much their club as their offspring. Correspondingly, the children felt this was now something about which their parents cared and in which they took an interest.

Raising Spirits

One girl’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Dan knew he would not be qualified to provide any counselling. He also understood the importance of respecting boundaries. So, he sought a way in which he could raise this girl’s spirits and also relieve any awkwardness among her teammates.

He struck on the idea of telling jokes to the girls on the journeys to and from their various matches and tournaments. The internet, of course, is an endless source of material. With a little judicious searching, it was possible to find age-appropriate (and sometimes awful) puns, jokes and riddles to while away the miles.

So, Dan was able to find a way of diverting a troubled young girl’s attention away from her worries, without singling her out. This helped create an environment of togetherness for all the girls. And it has become embedded within the club’s culture, long after the girl in question’s mother has made a full recovery.

Support & Respect

The team has grown in numbers and strength. Various age-groups are now catered for. And additional coaches have been engaged to help with the club’s growing popularity. All of which has been achieved through an understanding of the team as individuals. They are young people with needs and concerns. And each wants to feel the support and respect of their friends and family.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Dan’s day job is in sports in primary education. He clearly understands the importance of ownership for his young charges. He can teach all he likes but it only becomes meaningful to the youngsters if they feel that the achievement is theirs. Similarly, he recognises the value of inclusion. All are welcome and each is valued.

False Assumption

So, any assumptions I may have made about this beer-drinking, football-loving young geezer were wrong. Dan gives each of his young charges the opportunity to show their worth. And he understands the importance of including those around them. The youngsters, therefore, feel supported and their families share both the responsibilities and rewards.

Unexpected Inspirational Leaders

Whilst these principals may be familiar to all educators and facilitators, we can do well to afford the same courtesy to those about us. We may inadvertently make assumptions about our peers that we would not about our pupils and children. You never know what talents may lie hidden within your colleagues – or, indeed, family members. Nor can we always guess where the next inspirational leader may be lurking!

 

Women’s & Girl’s Football – The FA

PE… or Not PE?

 

Ask The Universe

Ask The Universe - Dance NOtes creativity blog for teachersSometimes it’s good to stop and ask yourself what you really want. It’s a common pastime, this time of year. But how often do you ask yourself – or the universe – “what could I do with, right now”?

New Age Thinking?

This may be, for some, straying uncomfortably close to esoteric thinking. It could be the kind of ‘ask and you will receive’ New Age-ism that makes you want to fetch a bucket. But bear with me: it’s not all crystals and unicorns.

The fact is, whatever the processes and mechanisms, focusing on an aim or aspiration can yield surprising results. And there really is no mystery here. When we apply our thinking to something we would like to happen, it is more likely to occur. (I expect we have all had the experience of bumping into someone we had just thought of for the first time in ages.)

Stacking The Odds

The reason is that we are mentally creating the environment needed for that particular outcome. This may lead us to look something or someone up, go to an appropriate location or take part in a relevant event. That way, the odds begin to stack in favour of what it is we hope to achieve.

Which takes us back to an idea discussed in an earlier post.  The strategy of just doing something when we may feel there is nothing to be done. It also echoes thoughts, expressed in these pages, about not worrying unduly about specific outcomes. The key to moving on, after all, is to move.

Shifting Thought-Processes

And this may not necessarily mean physical action. The ‘moving’ may require a period of stillness:  stopping that which may be the cause of a blockage in the first place. We can then allow our thought-processes to shift. And then ‘actual’ movement may follow.

The hippy element of our community (of which I may or may not be a member) sometimes likes to speak of ‘asking the universe’. You may prefer to think, rather, of focusing on your desires. Or, perhaps, following your dreams. All of which may sound a little dramatic. On a mundane level, however, it can’t hurt to spend a little time considering what you really want: now; this afternoon; in five-years’ time. Give it a go: you may be pleasantly surprised.

Good Creative Teaching

When it comes to our children and pupils, they are generally quite adept (again, particularly at this time of year) at voicing their wants and desires. And how often do we counter with ‘yes, but right now you should be thinking about…’? There is a school of thought that the word ‘should’ is best avoided. If we can replace it with ‘could’, then the focus shifts from requirement to possibility. And this, I would suggest, is the essence of good creative teaching.

So, rather than asking yourself and the children in your care ‘what should we do?’, try asking ‘what would we like?’. As with all things, it may not lead to quite what you expect. But at least you will be heading in a direction of your own choosing.

Happy creative travels!

 


Knowing When To Stop

Do Something

Dance Notes’ Creative Partner: Make a Move