School's out - Singing is key to my rejuvenation

29th August 2008 at 01:00

The summer holidays have been a chance for me to get up to date with all the reading I miss so much during term time. Although I scan and check out all the latest newsletters and guidance during my school week, and then study carefully Wilfred Owen's war poetry or The Lord of the Flies for teaching, I miss reading a book for sheer pleasure.

On a train journey recently, I devoured Alan Bennet's brilliant The Uncommon Reader. Without giving away the ending, I need to tell you for the thrust of this piece that the Queen takes to reading and then finds that this becomes too passive for her; she longs to write as well.

The nature of performance for me is of vital importance both in my teaching and in my leadership at work. When things do not go as well as I would like, it is because I have forgotten for a moment that my professionalism is the key to my success. By performing my part well at school, I can inspire students and teachers, or move forward a difficult change in culture, or simply protect children while they are relaxing at break times. This then, empowers me to do better and work more effectively, even when the going gets tough.

This summer then, I have been writing as well as reading; I have been running as well as watching Team GB at the Olympics; I have been checking Community Education Autumn programmes for an amateur dramatic society as well as enjoying the Shakespeare Festival in my home town of Cambridge. I shall also be talking to our head of music next week, in an attempt to persuade him to start a pop, or gospel choir this term. Why? Because the other entertainment which has inspired me over the past few weeks is Last Choir Standing on BBC1.

Amateur choirs perform for the judges each Saturday night, with the final this weekend which will reveal the last choir standing in the competition. Nothing seems to debar entry to the joy of singing, whether it be on stage at television centre; in the end of term assembly at school; in church; in a band at a local pub, or even in your car, bath, or shower.

Competitors on the programme speak to the camera of the friends they have made since joining their respective choirs. Some tell of times of hardship, where singing became their only release from personal trials or emotional trauma. Each choir proves that no matter what your size, colour, race, religion, gender, or sexuality, there is a power in singing which moves both the performer and audience.

In one of my favourite films, As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson's character tells his adored waitress, "You make me want to be a better man."

When I hear a choir like Revelation, from the East End of London, sing "Praise You", I too want to be a better person. I too want to break the shackles from my feet so that I can dance, and I too want to sing praises.

One of the men in Revelation describes how he joined the gospel choir when he was 13. At that time, his weight and adolescence meant that he would have been an unwilling performer, but through singing with the choir, he became confident enough to sing a heart-rending solo on television.

He tells us that singing in the choir, "Shaped who I am."

With the singing and writing and acting which have rejuvenated me this summer holiday, I am convinced my standard of professional performance will improve back at work next term.

Di Beddow is deputy head of Hinchingbrooke School, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

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