Category Archives: School Life

A breath of still air

I note that film director, David Lynch, hopes to introduce Transcendental Meditation (TM) to UK schools – details here in Guardian and Telegraph. His belief (described more fully in his own words here) is that it would help attention and behavioural problems. This seems believable. Whether boisterous adolescents would warm to the idea is another question.

TM* is not the style with which I’m most familiar, nor the one I came to know through a course laid on by East Lothian Council’s Healthy Working Lives** team, last term. Those with little experience of meditation tend to focus primarily on the mental/psychological benefits. However, the physiological benefits should not be overlooked and such a perception may move the activity from the possibly presupposed subject area of RME into PE.

With well-being joining literacy and numeracy atop CfE’s global aims, inclusion of some kind of meditation should be, at least, considered.

* one further problem could be one of the apparent unfairness of subscribing and paying into a worldwide foundation/corporation – perhaps a less affiliated style would be preferable.

** while searching for links, I stumbled upon the fact that East Lothian’s Housing Department won a silver award for Healthy Working Lives. Perhaps they could let us in on their secret?

False Friends

Yesterday I took part in an interesting CfE exercise at MGS where class each class teacher teamed up with another from a different department to investigate common ground and curricular connections. As an instructor, I was not really programmed into this but was very pleased to be included, having put out some gate-crashing feelers. The power of Maths decreed that many would be paired up with teachers of the subject and I was pleased to see that one member of the Music Department was Maths-bound.

As all expected, there were many overlaps. However, there were also a few false friends – words, the interpretation of which in either subject, is so different that we ought now to be on the lookout for understandable confusion. Examples?

Scale: referring in Maths to order of magnitude but in Music to the various spellings of stepwise movement in a melodic line

Time: time is relative in Music and absolute in Maths

Happily, the connections outweigh the differences by miles – is that a mixed metaphor? I’ll ask the English Department when we pair up with them 🙂

Vox Project

Always a source of fascination, Radio 4 is launching Vox Project – researching the oldest instrument on Earth – the human voice. Listeners/readers are invited to send recordings of their voice, engaged in one of various comparative tasks, to the researchers at UCL. The one which particularly interested me (and possibly many of you) is the difference in one’s voice when teaching as opposed, say, to chatting to friends. Schools are full of digital recorders now so why not get involved.

You can send recordings via Audioboo (if you have a iPhone or Android Phone) – otherwise you can upload to Youtube and email a link to

The site also features:

I’ve said it before but I’m often struck by how important our voices are in teaching and how little we really know about them. Or is it just me?

Can you take the pressure?

As Ronnie Summers (Head Teacher of Musselburgh Grammar School) said in his vote of thanks at the end of this year’s Christmas Concert, there is something admirable about the pupil soloist, willing to get up there and face the crowds alone (albeit often with an accompanist). People unfamiliar with school concerts might not appreciate that the same person may have taken part in several ensemble pieces the same evening – confident individual and effective contributor in one high-pressure evening 🙂 Here is a clip of Callum in S6 performing the 2nd movement of Vivaldi’s Lute Concerto in D: vivaldi-lute-concerto-2nd-movement-callum

One of the other pieces in which Callum was involved was this a guitar ensemble item entitled I’m Dreaming of a Pink Christmas: im-dreaming-of-a-pink-christmas-2009-12-17

Showcase Rehearsal No. 2


Setting dates for Showcase rehearsals always seems straightforward at the beginning of the session. Refreshed from seven weeks holidays, the biological reality of, say, a Friday afternoon rehearsal at the end of the week after the October break, when the clocks have recently gone back … cannot readily be conjured up. The day duly arrived – a few excuses had been made, one bus was late and I readied myself to embrace a rehearsal where, if we distributed the new music, mastered a few bars and managed to stay in a good mood and avoided frightening the new, younger pupils, it could be considered a success. To my amazement, the ensemble pretty much knocked this off in one go:

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The moral of the story: never prematurely pre-install pessimism on behalf of others. Thanks, everyone!

How sound affects us


Julian Treasure, of The Sound Agency, discusses how sound effects us physiologically, psychologically, cognitively and behaviourally in this short video. The stress-inducing bell/buzzer at 0:44 is neither as loud nor as long as one of the bells in my working week – affecting hormones (cortisol), heart rate and brain waves. His recommendation is five minutes (or more) of birdsong per day.