Inspiring literacy confidence through workshops for all ages!

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By Alan Barrett, Apr 22 2013 12:51PM

Dorothy Clive Garden Poetree
Dorothy Clive Garden Poetree
Status Grow storytelling yurt
Status Grow storytelling yurt

I can't believe how quickly this year is flying by. Perhaps it's an age thing, (don't tell the wife!).

So far this year I've been in the Lake District, Cheshire north, south, east and west, all over Staffordshire, Derbyshire once, Manchester, The Wirrall, Liverpool, Buxton and of course, my beloved Stoke-on-Trent.

One of the great joys of this job is meeting new people, another is renewing acquaintances with old friends, especially those who have moved schools and rebooked me for their new workplace. It gives a sense of purpose and thanksgiving that I've made a good enough impression that they want my skills in a new environment.

Talking of environment, I had the great privilege of working with a good friends of mine recently in outdoor settings. (See what I did there? Pretty smart, eh?)

I'm chair of "Status Grow - (cropping all over the world)", which is a community group aiming to use derelict ground for community allotments. We've been given a plot of land behind a local church/community centre and we've raised some funds to get in a willow weaver, who has worked with our volunteers, including me, to build us a storytelling yurt completely out of willow. It will root and grow and be part of the grounds for as long as they want it.

Just last week I was at the Dorothy Clive Garden, near Woore, working with a group of mixed age children. Using the garden as a sensory inspiration, we held a treasure hunt of the senses in the morning, followed by 2 different poetry sessions (splitting KS1 and KS2) in the afternoon. Simple diamond poetry and haiku were the order of the day, because we then used the poems as "leaves", written on fabric and tied to the "poetree" in the middle of the garden.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, and classrooms don't always have to be indoors, nor pupils sat at desks. I'm blessed that I have such opportunities, perhaps you could use this idea yourselves.

Take care and God bless,


By Alan Barrett, Feb 6 2013 01:37PM

As well as being in Chester and a few other places since I last posted, I've had the pleasure of working in several libraries lately.

I think perhaps we take some of our institutions for granted at times, and libraries certainly come into this category. The staff are well informed, friendly, customer aware and incredibly diligent.

The modern library also boasts IT facilities, technically competent staff and even occasionally a café! Here in North Staffs, despite the cuts all round, we still have several excellent public libraries, including 2 in schools, sharing facilities and 2 that share the local government office for help with council taxes and so on.

All in all, we should be grateful for what we have, and libraries are one of those institutions we should all use more often. Try to get to yours today.

Take care and God bless


By Alan Barrett, Jan 11 2013 11:35AM

Yes, I know it's a little late, but I mean it all the same.

So, a new year dawns and begins to wake. What does it have in store? Hopefully, even more exciting places to visit and kids to enthrall!

Since my last blog, far too long ago, I've been to assorted places around the Midlands, but also got involved with a few interesting projects which won't see fruition till later this year. I've been the man in red several times, as part of my character actor fun and had a couple of "keeping it in perspective" moments at the Donna Lousie Children's Hospice and the Peter Pan Special Needs Nursery.

Make no bones about it, I love my job and I'm very blessed to be able to bring joy and laughter whilst teaching drama, poetry and other literacy leanings!

This is a short blog for now, but I will be making more effort on this during the year now I'm a little more techno competent. One day, I may even be average!

Take care and God bless


By Alan Barrett, Oct 19 2012 01:26PM

... but I'm here again.

Work has been hectic, although not always paid - artists of all genres all over are suffering - but at least I'm working and keeping busy.

There's been some pleasantly surprising news regarding work for 2013, especially at teachers' conferences and the wider educational network. It's quite flattering to be asked to be a keynote speaker or workshop leader to a large audience; and when most of them are also potential clients, that's a bonus you don't get every day!

I must thank the Burslem School of Art, Stoke-on-Trent ( ) for their recent generosity. They let me have a room for two days, free of charge, so I could run a series of hour long showcase workshops for potential clients. It's altruism like this that we should all be looking to emulate, and is all too rare.

I've travelled further afield of course, working in Shropshire, Rutland, Cheshire and Derbyshire as well as locally, and two of next year's events are in Lancashire and the Lake District.

Yesterday saw the culmination of a six day residency at Thomas Alleynes High School in Uttoxeter where, after running drama and poetry workshops, they held a Poetry Café which I compèred and performed at. This included a Play in a Day with a difference. They entire play was performed in rhyme! Not an inconsiderable feat for year 9s in a single day!

I've recently taken on a new role, albeit ad hoc because of work commitments, with Knot FM ( ). It's called SECOND OPINIONS and I've done two so far. It's grandly called a current affairs programme. Basically it's me, ranting about political and social events, both national and local, interspersed with some relevant poetry, (mostly mine), and music; all hopefuly done in a satirical and humourous manner. Thankfully, it's pre-recorded so all my mistakes are edited out. Technology and I have a strained relationship.

Finally for today, a huge thanks go to 6towns Radio ( ) for promoting a local project I'm involved with called Status Grow (cropping all over the world), which aims to use derelict land for local communities to grow their own produce, helping to combat food poverty. They saw a presentation we gave at a TEDx event, ( ) and asked us to come down and explain it in detail to a wider audience.

Please feel free to share this blog, comment on any of the previous posts as well as this one.

Take care and God bless


By Alan Barrett, Sep 5 2012 01:58PM

Well, that went quick!

All those holidays teachers get .... should be grateful .... 13 weeks of doing nowt ... 5 hour days ... never work weekends ... don't know they're born!

OK, so a teacher doesn't drive heavy machinery, or work in confined spaces. Generally speaking, it's a safe profession, away from genuine danger. However, they're responsible for young and impressionable minds.

My mentors have all taught me something, and four of those have been teachers from my school days.

Miss Lewis when I was about 8 and tried to get away with handing in a book I hadn't read properly, because I wanted the next level book, which was an adventure story. "Alan, there are times when we have to do things we don't like to get to the things we do like. Read it again." She taught me much more, I know ... but those words have stayed with me for all these years.

Mr. Mellor when I was 11 and about to leave junior school for high school. I'd passed my 11+ and was one of a very few to get into grammar school. "When you're on top of the pile, there will always be those who are happy for you, but your real friends will be found when the top is far away". I pretended to understand, but it was years later when it truly sank in.

John Hill, Maths teacher at high school. "Boys, in a few months, you'll be taking your 'O' levels. I want you to work hard, study, revise, test yourselves. However, this weekend, you'd better be at Wembley". We laughed, but it was Stoke City's first ever Wembley appearance in 1972. He emphasised that no matter how serious life had to be at times, we should all take time out for leisure and fun.

Phil Boothby, English teacher and form tutor. Phil introduced us to Tolkein, Shakespeare and the wonders of the written and spoken word. He never allowed second best and could be a ruthless marker, but he also had a sense of the absurd and ensured we learned how to appreciate our beautiful language in all its forms. I still see him today and I'm grateful that his love of language encouraged mine.

Perhaps the critics of teachers would care to spend a day teaching the non-stop chattering year 2s, or the know-it-all year 6s, or maybe the hormonal, gobby, opionated year 8s and 9s. Maybe then, they'd realise just what efforts go into ensuring their child leaves school without the narrow-minded attitude towards teaching their parents currently possess, and maybe, just maybe, appreciate that a 5 hour day takes 5 further hours to prepare for, that 13 weeks holiday is rarely "holiday" because they work, prepare and plan during that time too, and that teaching is not a job for the faint-hearted.

Take care and God bless



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