May 262017

How do you release creativity in children? Well one novel way I have witnessed is stone stacking. What is that you ask? Well a gentleman called James Page actually does workshops in schools about this very subject. James is a talented artist who took up stone stacking – years ago and went to Texas this year to compete in the World Stone Stacking Championships.

Stone Stacking brings together the skills of traditional cairn building alongside artistic expression of rock balancing. Stone stacking is an art-form in which rocks are stacked on top of one another to form different shapes without the use of anything other than the rocks and gravity. The workshops involve art and artistic expression and have the ability to improve education and attainment at school for all age groups.

16487063_1194404790679580_4688090607222317836_o       stones

      “Fantastic pictures! the kids look so animated and eager.  

        Brilliant alternative learning”


May 262017

I attended the Best You Expo in London recently. An interesting mix of people there. I took the opportunity to talk to quite a few of them about mindfulness in schools. One gentleman worked in an area of deprivation. He went into schools to work with older children, to raise self esteem and help them see the possibilities open to them in life. He used mindfulness to do this. I found this interesting because in areas of deprivation some children face daily challenges in their lives. I wondered if they were given the right tools for relaxation and mindfulness then would they perhaps have coping mechanisms for later in life?

Does modern education with all the pressures put on teachers to meet targets allow for children, who are not academically gifted, to flourish?

Another gentleman I spoke with had set up a coaching practice and also worked in schools talking about disability, gender issues and being different. He had a wide range of books suitable for children which taught them about differences in people in a very sensitive and interesting way.

There was an area called the inspiration zone which had activities throughout the day. People were encouraged to join in Salsa, circus skills, silent disco, Tia chai, meditation and many more activities. It was interesting to watch children enthusiastically getting involved. I watched an 8 year old walk on broken glass, a 10 year old trying the tight rope and numerous ages joining in the silent disco. Does wearing a set of headphones release your inhibitions? As I saw some terribly funny movers during this session, and yes maybe I was a tiny bit jealous!

Another area had snakes and spiders so you could confront your phobias. Again curious children crowded round to hold these creatures.

All in all it was an interesting two days and I was pleasantly surprised at the number of children who were there. I think anything that encourages people to slow down and saviour life in this day and age is worthwhile.

Jan 132016

Children often form bonds with particular teachers and for some children these become important security avenues.  One of the things I had wanted to set up within the school was a mentor system for the children who needed it.  The nearest we came to this was during Bright Start when children were allowed to visit their teacher of choice in her classroom.

I do think that some children relate to specific teachers, just as some teachers relate to specific children.  If a child is going through a difficult time in their life then why not use those bonds they have already formed. It could make a difference to the child being able to open up about a problem or to them just feeling listened to by someone.

 Posted by at 2:23 pm
Jan 062016

The Curriculum for Excellence was introduced into Scottish schools a number of years ago, and at that time teachers were concerned about how to measure pupils progress.  This resulted in most schools buying in some form of standardised testing.  Now the Scottish Government is talking about re-introducing National Testing into both Primary and Secondary schools.

Parents are voicing concerns about the pressure that testing puts on children.  An article in the Herald Scotland gives the results of an on-line survey of members of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council.

The National Improvement Framework for Scottish Education

What is your view?

 Posted by at 12:49 pm
Dec 112015

As a grandparent do you wonder about how to keep up with your grandchildren and their ability to use technology?

My 21 month old granddaughter was recently shown a paper photograph and immediately tried to scroll it to see the next photo.  She has only been shown photos on mobile phones or tablets.  This made me think about how the younger generation are so used to using technology that they don’t even have to stop to think about it.

Parents and Grandparents might find this article helpful – Family Time with Apps: A Guide to Using Apps with your kids.

Common Sense Media Website has lots of information about apps and games for children.  I liked the following one which describes apps where children can try being a coder, writer, musician, artist or director.

The Modern Kids’ Guide to Crafting, Coding, Composing, and More

and reviews of educational apps and games.

Educational Apps and Games

Most of all it is about spending time with the children whether that is reading a story or getting involved in a game on the tablet.  You can extend their experience by asking questions or getting them to show you how it works.




Dec 092015


Most of the teachers I have known are fearless, willing to try creative ideas to engage children in their learning.  In my time I have walked through the wardrobe in the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe.  I have been frozen in a spell, dressed up as the cat in the hat, worn the school uniform and blacked out my teeth.

In fact I was so successful at disguise that the year I dressed up as an old lady, I had my class believing I was my own grandmother!

What crazy things have you done in the name of education?

 Posted by at 6:50 pm
Dec 092015

Can you remember sitting patiently waiting on your name being called out from the register?  What a waste of good learning time.

We decided to try Bright Start in our school after a teacher had worked in the Nursery and found that the children there came in and self registered before going on to play.  So we trialled it first within her Primary 1 classroom.

When the children came into the classroom they registered on the Smart Board and put up their lunch option.  Then they went to areas within the classroom to do activities.  During this time the teacher could check in with the children.  One of the benefits we found was that when Bright Start ended the children were ready to learn.  For children with difficult home circumstances Bright Start gave them the chance to switch off from home and get ready for the school day.

Bright Start was started in all classes and I feel that it benefited the children to have an active start to their day.  During this time children were allowed to visit their chosen mentor for a check-in.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm
Dec 092015

When my own children were younger we always had a real Christmas tree and would bake cookies to hang on it.  Being the only house in the neighbourhood with a real fire we were the place to come to send our letters to Santa.  Children would visit and post their letters “up the lum” (chimney) to Santa then they would get a cookie from the tree.  I loved this tradition and the excitement on the children’s faces.  Sadly I don’t have a chimney any more but I still like to keep some traditions at Christmas. What do you like to do?

 Posted by at 3:38 pm
Dec 022015

Have you watched the TED talk Listening to shame by Brene Brown? It made me reflect on the effect shaming has on children.  How often do we react to the behaviour and shame the child rather than supporting the child to see that their behaviour is unacceptable whilst supporting them on how to change it? Rebecca Eanes wrote an article on the Creative child website called The Toxic effects of shaming children.  In this she suggests alternatives to shaming.

Linking this to school I would always encourage the person involved to feel calm before tackling an incident.  If you respond when still angry then you are likely to escalate the situation.  I would talk to the child about the consequences of their behaviour and give them time to think about how they could solve the situation.

This gives the child time to calm down and be better placed to see why their behaviour is a problem.  If the child decides they need to apologise for their behaviour make sure the person involved is calm and ready to accept the apology.  I know how hard it can be for some children to accept that their behaviour is a problem and it can be a huge step forward for them to see this and the last thing you want to do is have the person shouting about the incident when the child apologises because they haven’t calmed down yet.


 Posted by at 2:18 pm