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I am aware it has been over a week since I posted, and it’s not like me is it? As I sit here, not sleeping, again, I mull over the reason why. It is because I find myself, again, in one of those unbloggable periods. You know what I mean I’m sure. There are issues of privacy of others, confidentiality and I must confess also an element of tempting fate. The thing that I want to happen won’t happen if I blog about how much I want it to happen. So I don’t write. So instead of all that, which will have to wait for a series of resolutions and confirmations, I shall write about something else.


It’s probably been a while since I wrote about that… Hang on… I’ll check… It was August, I very briefly mentioned a conversation with a student. Can’t be bothered to check back further. But while flicking back, it is obvious the games that are afoot have their roots in the months following the grand unveiling of “nine women”… The sea change again… To these things I will return when I can…

So, teaching…

I did an artist talk today to a group of first year training teachers. I spoke about my non-linear career path. I spoke of my practice, and my attitudes to education, and basically how it was too important to be left to politicians to bugger it up. I did this flowchart type handout thing with connecting arrows and so on, showing which bits of my work had led to others, which people had led to important changes and shifts in thinking. Then we played with some old bras…. And told each other stories…

I think, as I look at it, it is precisely this all-encompassing, non-linear aspect of my “career” (sorry, can’t do it without ” ” because I still don’t see it as that) that has formed my personal philosophy of education. I have taught pretty much every phase and in all sorts of odd settings over the last 35 years… Early years, pre-school, primary, special needs, adults with learning differences, FE, HE, workshops, practical skills, seminars, conferences, symposia, in galleries, shops, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, hospitals, fields, tents, sheds…. And in all that time, I haven’t stopped learning either. I never set out to be a teacher. It sort of happened to me while I was wasting time trying (or not trying) to do something else.

(Despite wanting to shake it off, education lies at the heart of my practice, whether I want it to or not. Those elements of interpersonal influence are really just education…. Maybe?)

What this life (ah, yes, life, rather than “career?”) gives me is actually quite a privileged view of the big picture. If I had school aged children now, in this political haystack of an education system, I would very seriously consider home education. Education throughout shouldn’t be led by a list of stuff to remember, but should be inspirational, full of wonder. I’ve known some pretty amazing, charismatic, inspiring teachers in my time, been taught by them, taught with them, and learned alongside them. These amazing individuals are being hammered mercilessly, and it’s time we told the hammerers to stop.

I now think it doesn’t really matter what you teach children, it’s more a matter of how. Reading can be taught in all sorts of ways, but a desire to read is the important bit. A love of stories and poems and songs can be fostered as soon as a child can hear and see. Same goes for maths, science, art, geography, history, music, languages, drama, dance, and even bloody business studies!

What matters is curiosity.

Getting out into the world and questioning it… Asking why. Everything else falls into place when you ask why. Everything is more understandable if you get your whole body involved. That’s what bodies are for, to collect the stuff to feed our brains. Sitting at a desk is never enough. Experience the world! Learn to get on with people. Especially people you don’t like, or agree with. Learn to grow things, cook things, learn to walk run dance skip jump… Learn how to look at the world and draw it, learn how paint works, how colours mix, how clay behaves. Learn about wood and how to build… Electricity, water… Weather… Learn how to interact with the world and suddenly the maths, English, science, etc has happened all by itself. That gets us up to about age eight maybe? Hahaha!

I find I don’t want to teach in the schools really now. But talking to teachers, even brand new training teachers is great. They aren’t yet jaded and worn down, they are idealistic, and keen and wonderful. These young people should be treated as the precious things they are, not beaten into some sort of political weapon to be used against each other. I hope that I’m not too old to see our government come to its senses (and any of the others left wanting in this area)… Would love to see a sensible shift towards common sense, away from the tail of data-gathering wagging the dog of what is really needed…

Idealistic romantic old bag? Moi?

Well yes, and unapologetic. In my experience, artists and musicians continue to educate themselves for the length of their lives, they continue to work until they die. No retirement. (Ah, yes, again, maybe that’s why I can’t call it a “career”?) This is in complete contrast with teachers, who at the moment seem to want to retire and get out as soon as possible, and to be frank, most of them look older than their years. Artists generally look and behave younger than their years. I wonder why that is then?