Lesson 74 Teaching the World to Sing

Lesson 74 on Poems, songs and solos.

Miss Maverick’s favourite subjects were English, drama and music. It was very convenient that she worked across the activity area from Mr TopJuniors as it meant that they could pool their strengths, and sort out any issue outside their own sphere by popping across or sending a messenger to seek clarification.

There was a difficulty the year I worked with them, because the introduction of the Literacy Hour and the looming approach of Ofsted impinged on Miss Maverick’s usual way of planning and implementing her class’s literary endeavours.  In particular, it got in the way of poetry.

In all her subjects Miss Maverick chose approaches that helped the group to work together.  The children needed support to function cooperatively.  Outside school they were used to falling back on fighting and name calling as soon as any disagreement arose.  So Miss Maverick provided a range of activities that required everybody to join in.

One of these was poetry. Miss Maverick had a great selection of poems that cried out to be declaimed. I suppose you could have said she specialised in choral recitation. By the time I came to work next to her area the class knew all their favourites off by heart, as did the other groups she had taught before. Unfortunately the restrictions of the new imposed curriculum did not allow much time for this joint activity.

The solution was to take advantage of wet playtimes.  Unlike the other classes who hated wet playtimes, Miss Maverick’s and Mr TopJuniors loved them.  Everybody piled into the activity area and sat on the floor while Miss Maverick sat in the front orchestrating the performance. They would wait for her begin, start off quietly together, then work their way up to a joyful final chorus.

There was such shared enthusiasm and sheer delight in the words and rhythms, that it was no surprise to find the children were not shy to perform in other situations.  The school choir was one.  Miss Maverick organised this and they rehearsed at lunchtime. You didn’t have to show any musical talent to join.  You just had to be prepared to give up football in the school field one lunchtime a week.

Assemblies were wonderful.  Sometimes the head would say after a particularly enthusiastic rendering of a favourite song.

“My, that was great!  Shall we sing it again? And would anybody like to do a solo?”

She always had volunteers.  I used to wonder at the children who were happy to stand up in front of a crowded hall and sing alone.  These children had come into the infants barely able to put a few words together, but by the time they left they could confidently speak up in public and sing to an audience.

Before Christmas the carol rendering was a joy. Miss Maverick’s training had resulted in a school which could sing together with a moving sensitivity to the words and music. For the teachers and helpers and parents, the Nine Lessons and Carols from Cambridge couldn’t touch it.

One pre-Christmas morning, when the head asked for a repeat, her voice was choking.

“But, before we begin, one of you run and fetch Mrs Secretary from the office.  And tell her to bring her hanky!