In honour of this conference, I’ve done something really mad
I’ve written a keynote poem, and I warn you, it could be bad.
I like to take a risk or two, I’m quite experimental
I sang a song at WomenEd, but poetry? Well that’s fundamental.
I like to be creative, I like to take a chance
I do not like my singing voice, but I really love to dance
If you want your kids to feel the same, to take a chance or two
The answer doesn’t lie in them, the answer lies in you.
Have you ever stopped to wonder what the word ‘inspire’ means?
What happens when you unpack it and look behind the scenes?
Or where inspiration comes from, and how you can pass it on
So the children will remember you, long after you have gone?
That’s what this conference is all about, so why not dig down deep
Into the joy of teaching and the memories children keep
Remember your favourite teacher. What was it about that one?
Was it how they made you feel special? Or how they made learning fun?
Maybe the very best teachers are not those with all the right tips
But the ones who put the focus on some great relationships
And if you tell me there’s one way to teach, I’m going to look for the other
Because I was a very contrary child. And now I’m a contrary mother.
Well anyway, that’s enough of me, time to talk about the kids
The children who we do it for, or at least I always did
Let’s put the child at the centre, because that’s where they should be
It’s always, always, always about them; it’s never, ever about me.
I’ve tried to use learning styles in my speech, I hope you won’t think me pathetic
There are pictures for the visual, and movement for the kinaesthetic
I’ve got sweet peas for the olfactory, please take this bunch and sniff
And peas for the gustatory, to give you all a lift.
I hope to get a laugh or two, you might find me quite glib
But whatever I do it can’t be as bad as SATs and as Nick Gibb
So join in with my keynote and I hope it will inspire
I don’t want to fill a bucket, I want to light a fire.
Once upon a story time, to get the fire burning
We took our children out of school and on the road for learning
We went across China and Europe, in planes and an ancient car
We got to see some magical things, both near and very far.
Our children’s eyes were opened wide, curiosity travelled along
If you want to teach children resilience, with travel, you can’t go wrong
It’s not so great for your sex life, but that’s just part of the deal
And at least the hands on learning is fundamentally real.
Stare into a crocodile tank, wonder at the past
Make a bunch of memories that will always, always last
Walk along an ancient wall, in the steps of men
Wonder how long it will have to be, before you come here again.
Ask a million questions, dream a million dreams
Have a long hard think about what you want your world to mean
Look outside your culture, understand the rest
That means so much more than any DfE or Ofsted test.
Let’s talk for a bit about interests, which get a very bad press
The idea that they’d all read “Twilight” caused Gove so much distress
But if you actually take the time to ask a child the question
They might just make a totally amazing really great suggestion.
Sometimes kids love Wimpy Kid; at times 19th Century fiction
But I will never accept the thought that Gove has jurisdiction
I don’t have a massive problem with Eliot’s Middlemarch
But compared to diverse literature, it all feels a little parched.
So often it’s a real life person who sets your heart alight
Who makes you want to read your book in the dark hours of the night
You find out about Leonardo da Vinci, the words roll round your tongue
“Please can I see the Last Supper?” is what you ask your mum.
So your parents take you to Vinci, where Leonardo was born
You see models of the amazing machines that years ago were drawn
You visit the Mona Lisa, who hides behind a screen
And you think you might be an artist, you get the chance to dream.
Not only some children should have the chance to look outside themselves
We cannot just replace the real with books on a classroom shelf
The world is wide and wonderful, all kids should get a go
To experience life hands on, to find out what they want to know.
And now I’d like to tell you about some really weird stuff
I’m going to share some lesson plans that I’ve used when things get tough
There’s one that involves this crime scene tape, another some rigged dog food
It’s really not too serious, I hope you won’t think me rude.
Imagine a class of students who won’t do a thing you say
You walk into the classroom and your children look away
They chat amongst themselves and they all act like you’re not there
And when you threaten detentions, they shrug, ‘cos they don’t care.
You understand quite quickly that you need to ask some questions
To show them the point of learning, not make sanction shaped suggestions
So you set up a crazy scenario, you show them that you’re brave
And for all the lessons that don’t work, there are some that make them rave.
You pretend to do something crazy, to get the kids’ attention
You eat from a can of dog food, create a CSI invention
If they see you make a fool of yourself, they know that they can too
And that’s how you inspire, by being a crazy version of you.
The students are given a bag of flour, they must treat it as their baby
And you look at them and you size them up and you think “what the hell, just maybe”
One kid puts his in his locker, he claims it is self raising
At least, you think, for a moment, he forgot about misbehaving.
I’ve one last story to tell you, before your attention dips
It’s the story of a school and how they collected paperclips
If you’ll listen a little longer, I’d like to try and tell
What happened to some children in a small town called Whitwell.
It’s a story from America, from a town in Tennessee
One a teacher told me long ago, that has always stuck with me
This story is a metaphor, for how our children learn
And how ideas are understood, and passed on, in their turn.
The teachers felt the kids should know what tolerance really means
And how a better world was not just something in your dreams
But how do you show your children what it means to feel grief?
And how do you explain what happened when it’s far beyond belief?
The teachers told their children of a war not so long past
The horror that had happened, the long shadow that was cast
The teachers told their children of the people who were lost
But the children didn’t understand the enormity of the cost.
So the children asked their teacher, how do we understand this?
And the teacher listened quietly, and chose not to dismiss
The question that her children asked, which is one I’d like to share
How do we know what six million is? How do we show we care?
So she set the children to study, and they went off on their own
They couldn’t really understand, how on earth could they have known?
But they went online, and found out about a symbol that was worn
And they took it to their classroom, and a new idea was born.
A simple loop of metal that was a symbol of resistance
To show in even the hardest of times, the power of persistence
They took a tiny object and it made them think real long
What does six million look like? And why do people do wrong?
So the children and their teachers set about a massive task
Six million paperclips to collect, such a crazy thing to ask
But soon the word got out, and the paperclips arrived
To date they have 30 million, each a thought of a person’s life.
And the very strangest thing happened, the community began to unite
Like the BAME network, or WomenEd, the bonds got really tight
In a place where over many years the community had shattered
The people came together over something they felt mattered.
But yet again, we’re in a time when hatred walks about
When people’s voices are not heard, no matter how loud they shout
So teachers have to stand between the hatred and the hope
To show our children what to do when it feels too hard to cope.
There’s a paperclip on your table, please take it when you go
And have a long hard think about what children really know
How to take the ideas that we give them, and inspire them to be wise
So they move on from their teachers, to live inspirational lives.