Growing up I disliked school: it felt like cage or a holding cell for children, just so parents could go to work. I struggled with dyslexia and my behaviour, so of course I was branded a “naughty boy”,told “you’ll never amount to anything”, and one of my personal favourites “you’re a scumbag”. I never did like that music teacher. However, I had one teacher who saw me, really took her time to understand me. She was Head of Year 9 and my Drama teacher. Having gone to school with a reputation for acting, I knew that’s all I ever wanted to be, an actor on the West End. I guess I wanted validation that I was enough. She nurtured my talents and took me under her wing. I never gave up on my dreams of being a successful actor but as I grew older my goals changed, I realised whilst at Drama School, I didn’t want to work on the West End. I wanted to work in the community: I wanted to bridge the gap between theatre and communities, making it accessible for all.
Performing and acting is an incredible tool and since facilitating with different members of the community I’ve seen how powerful play is, regardless of age, race, social background, religion, or sexual identity. It breaks down barriers, sparks conversations and allows us to explore and question our world together. It helps us problem solve and allows us to connect with one another on a deeper level. I never thought I’d work in education and rightly so, after my experience of it. Theatre in education for me has always been adults making decisions on what they think children need to know. For example, a school will pay into a company that will come in and perform a forum theatre piece where the children can stop and start the show changing the outcome for the characters – these companies are not only expensive but have never involved the children in the making of their show, making it unrelatable and unrealistic. My take on theatre in education is having the children make the show and collaborate their ideas, making any pieces of theatre that they believe is of importance. This approach has true meaning and is captivating for them because it’s been made with and for them.
Over time my partner slowly eased me into the idea of working in education and said, “just give it try”. Being a headteacher himself I guess he could see my potential for working in a school. I started working in a strict primary school where children walked silently in lines, and it reminded me why I disliked education; in early years their free flow would be taken away towards the end of the school year and they would be made to sit at desks whilst writing sentences they couldn’t read all for the sake of OFSTED and lovely looking books (insert eye roll here).
Coming home, I felt defeated and every time my partner would pick me up and brush me off, knowing that not all schools were like this. That’s when he pointed me in the direction of School 360, and I’ve loved every moment of it. It truly is a breath of fresh air, a school with project-based learning where play is the heartbeat of our school. CPD sessions where not only do I have a voice, but I am heard. Coaching sessions where I’m made to feel I can achieve my goals.
This year I completed my first workshop for parents and ran a team CPD session on play. Living by our values of ‘courage and joy’ I named this workshop “Can we play now?” which is what a child had asked me when I was at my previous school, whilst being made to sit down and write in their book. I have many plans for this workshop and others in the future. In the eyes of most schools, I’m just a teaching assistant but at School 360 I’m a member of the team who can change the way we look at things and question our practice.
I’m extremely passionate about Big Education and how we can change the world we live in. It makes sense -we’ve changed so many other aspects of our communities to move forward with our changing world, so why not change our schools. We’re raising children not just in education but as fully rounded human beings who will carry and nurture the next generation. I see teachers as the protectors of the universe because every parent at school drop off is trusting you with their whole world. Schools are challenging places, not just for teachers, but for children and parents, but never forget that one teacher who believed in you and never forget your inner child: the one who was excited to play in the park, the one who believed in the tooth fairy and loved playing in the mud. The world is still that magical place, but we have been told to “grow up and stop acting silly”. I believe you’re never too old to play.
“Play is often talked about as a relief for serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood”. -Fred Rogers.