Archive of: March, 2020

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introTextAn important skill to acquire
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Listening to music – is that even a skill?  Surely everyone can listen? Surely it’s natural to enjoy music? Or maybe it’s just something that musical people do?

The more I teach and observe young children interacting with recorded or live music, the more I realise that there is a lot more to it than that. I am no psychologist, so this may not be the correct terminology, but it seems to me that listening to music is a cultural behaviour that quite definitely does need teaching. Yes, there are definitely those who from a very young age seem particularly transfixed by musical performances, but not being one of those people doesn’t seem to relate to a lack of musical ability at a later age – just a different personality type.

In the classroom I try to instil good listening behaviours and attitudes in the firm belief that doing so opens a whole new paradigm of human experience, joy and discovery that is there for everyone, not an elite ‘musical’ few.  From nursery onwards, I ask the children to sit still and let their ears do the work. I also ask them to hold their thoughts about the music in their heads until the end, when we will share them.  Whilst reacting physically to the music (for example jiggling around to the beat) seems like a natural childlike behaviour, my observation is that it is a behaviour found mainly in the more gregarious personality types, and that their response to the music is distracting to the quieter types. Indeed their communication about what they feel about the music will tend to override what another child feels, as they start to join in the lead-child’s behaviour rather than reacting to the music itself. I ask myself whether a physical response is in some cases learned (we praise children obliquely ‘look how s/he’s enjoying the music’) and I have also noticed that the type of movement is rarely modified to the type of music.  Yes, movement to music is a useful skill and there is a place to practice and encourage it, but in a world where we very rarely give ourselves up to the pleasure of auditory input alone, I think there is a definite case for showing children how keeping still and just being with the music brings a very real pleasure.

Obviously as children grow, their ability to listen to longer pieces of music intently also grows, but another thing I have learnt during my time at Cargilfield is how easy it would be to underestimate children.  Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, one concerto at a time, for example, work well for P1 in the Summer term, and they enjoy responding through art work whilst listening a second and third time. P1 recently amazed me with their enjoyment of a 20-minute version of the Carnival of the Animals and were able to tell me all about their favourite bits by the end.  There was a bit of fidgeting and yawning in the slower sections (for example the Tortoises), but then some of the fidgeters told me that these were their favourite animals. The lesson taught me, once again, to trust the music – there’s a reason why the famous classics are famous classics – they just are really good and we don’t need to mediate between the music and the children or apologise for asking for their attention.

rightColBody

In the older classes, where good listening behaviours have generally been learnt, attitudes to music play an important part.  Here I see my role as one of showing the children what is out there and why it is interesting; I always stress that it is up to them to like or dislike the music, but they should be able to say why, so we practice discussing the music, gradually introducing more technical language, since it is often the vocabulary that can make music seem a closed book to those not initiated into its mysteries. By Form 6, children have developed musical likes and dislikes that, like clothing styles, reflect their developing sense of self.  My job is to stop these from becoming restricting.  Just because you really like dogs, doesn’t mean that, when you go to the zoo, you go around sulking because there are no dogs there; you can like dogs best but still find elephants and giraffes and iguanas interesting.  In the same way, there is no limit to the music that you can listen to, but it does help to know a bit about the background of the piece so that you can understand why it is the way it is. (I’m not that keen on ants, but finding out more about them certainly makes you admire them!)

Changes to the technology of how we consume music in the last 20 years have opened up so many opportunities. I do have a small regret that the opportunity to ‘gift’ music, in the way that I was given tapes and CDs, seems to have gone.  Those first 5 tapes I was given when I got my own tape player aged 9 had a completely transformative effect on my life, and I would have enjoyed giving my nieces and nephews music ‘packaged’ in that way. However, set against this the availability of quality live performances on demand both in the classroom and at home, where Youtube, Spotify and other platforms open up such an enormous library to everyone.  Here is a wonderful opportunity for children to go on a personal voyage of discovery, indeed, the that fact that such programmes will suggest music based on what you have been listening to can make it difficult to stop at times!  

May I wish you happy listening over the Easter holidays?

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perch_introTextAn important skill to acquire
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Listening to music – is that even a skill?  Surely everyone can listen? Surely it’s natural to enjoy music? Or maybe it’s just something that musical people do?

The more I teach and observe young children interacting with recorded or live music, the more I realise that there is a lot more to it than that. I am no psychologist, so this may not be the correct terminology, but it seems to me that listening to music is a cultural behaviour that quite definitely does need teaching. Yes, there are definitely those who from a very young age seem particularly transfixed by musical performances, but not being one of those people doesn’t seem to relate to a lack of musical ability at a later age – just a different personality type.

In the classroom I try to instil good listening behaviours and attitudes in the firm belief that doing so opens a whole new paradigm of human experience, joy and discovery that is there for everyone, not an elite ‘musical’ few.  From nursery onwards, I ask the children to sit still and let their ears do the work. I also ask them to hold their thoughts about the music in their heads until the end, when we will share them.  Whilst reacting physically to the music (for example jiggling around to the beat) seems like a natural childlike behaviour, my observation is that it is a behaviour found mainly in the more gregarious personality types, and that their response to the music is distracting to the quieter types. Indeed their communication about what they feel about the music will tend to override what another child feels, as they start to join in the lead-child’s behaviour rather than reacting to the music itself. I ask myself whether a physical response is in some cases learned (we praise children obliquely ‘look how s/he’s enjoying the music’) and I have also noticed that the type of movement is rarely modified to the type of music.  Yes, movement to music is a useful skill and there is a place to practice and encourage it, but in a world where we very rarely give ourselves up to the pleasure of auditory input alone, I think there is a definite case for showing children how keeping still and just being with the music brings a very real pleasure.

Obviously as children grow, their ability to listen to longer pieces of music intently also grows, but another thing I have learnt during my time at Cargilfield is how easy it would be to underestimate children.  Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, one concerto at a time, for example, work well for P1 in the Summer term, and they enjoy responding through art work whilst listening a second and third time. P1 recently amazed me with their enjoyment of a 20-minute version of the Carnival of the Animals and were able to tell me all about their favourite bits by the end.  There was a bit of fidgeting and yawning in the slower sections (for example the Tortoises), but then some of the fidgeters told me that these were their favourite animals. The lesson taught me, once again, to trust the music – there’s a reason why the famous classics are famous classics – they just are really good and we don’t need to mediate between the music and the children or apologise for asking for their attention.

perch_rightColBody

In the older classes, where good listening behaviours have generally been learnt, attitudes to music play an important part.  Here I see my role as one of showing the children what is out there and why it is interesting; I always stress that it is up to them to like or dislike the music, but they should be able to say why, so we practice discussing the music, gradually introducing more technical language, since it is often the vocabulary that can make music seem a closed book to those not initiated into its mysteries. By Form 6, children have developed musical likes and dislikes that, like clothing styles, reflect their developing sense of self.  My job is to stop these from becoming restricting.  Just because you really like dogs, doesn’t mean that, when you go to the zoo, you go around sulking because there are no dogs there; you can like dogs best but still find elephants and giraffes and iguanas interesting.  In the same way, there is no limit to the music that you can listen to, but it does help to know a bit about the background of the piece so that you can understand why it is the way it is. (I’m not that keen on ants, but finding out more about them certainly makes you admire them!)

Changes to the technology of how we consume music in the last 20 years have opened up so many opportunities. I do have a small regret that the opportunity to ‘gift’ music, in the way that I was given tapes and CDs, seems to have gone.  Those first 5 tapes I was given when I got my own tape player aged 9 had a completely transformative effect on my life, and I would have enjoyed giving my nieces and nephews music ‘packaged’ in that way. However, set against this the availability of quality live performances on demand both in the classroom and at home, where Youtube, Spotify and other platforms open up such an enormous library to everyone.  Here is a wonderful opportunity for children to go on a personal voyage of discovery, indeed, the that fact that such programmes will suggest music based on what you have been listening to can make it difficult to stop at times!  

May I wish you happy listening over the Easter holidays?

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Cargilfield

Learning to Listen

An important skill to acquire

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Hello everyone, some of you may not know who I am so my name is Heather Thomson and I have been a matron for 30 years in various schools up and down the country. Here at Cargilfield I look after a wing full of lovely girls between the ages of 7 and 13. Believe it or not a lot of people who have not worked in a boarding school don’t have a clue what a matron is and what their specific role is…Well now I am going to give you a sneaky insight into what I do.

My day starts at 6:20am, that’s the time I wake up, it’s lovely in the summer with the glorious sunrise over my flat however in the winter it is a little trickier. I go around my boarding wing at about 7:10am and wake the girls up, the radio blares and often the girls are woken up to me singing!  The younger ones jump straight out of bed but the older ones need a prod. We all attend breakfast at 7:30am and join the boys.

At about 8:00am I will go around my boarding wing and make sure that the girls have done the regular things of making their beds, brushing their teeth etc. At 8.20 I am in the laundry room sorting the boys and girls laundry and ironing shirts.

The rest of my day varies. I spend some time sorting the boys (for whom I am also responsible for along side the Housemaster) and girls’ dormitories. I am also responsible for checking the registers and following up on children who are not in school, sorting out any flexi boarders and booking children in for weekends. Plus the inevitable emails that need responding too.

I usually have a bit of time to myself over lunch and I enjoy making cakes for the staff to enjoy or at the end of term for the boarders.

rightColBody

The afternoons are spent in the changing rooms and catching up on anything I didn’t have time to do in the morning. On Wednesdays from 2:00pm until 4:00pm on match days, my day is spent on the games field, summer is fabulous, winter…cold.  I also get called to help with medical issues if the nurse is off duty.

My favourite part of the day is the evenings. After supper and clubs the girls come up to the boarding wing we have a good old chat about the day, there are lots of laughs and giggles but  it’s also a great time to also hear if they are worried or concerned about anything.  I read a story to the younger girls before lights out and the older ones just to want to chat. Lights out start at 8.40pm for the young ones and finish at 9.10pm for the seniors. It’s amazing that just as you are about to switch the lights out the girls will ask you questions (yep a little extra time of the light being on). Once all the lights are out and the girls settled, the gap student takes over which is about 9.20pm, I get to go to my flat, by this time I am a little tired. I do now have a bit down time, until 10.00pm, often catching up on a bit of Netflix watching, but you are always on your toes in case the bell goes off overnight for anyone who is unwell or upset, thankfully this doesn’t happen too often (famous last words!)

There you have it, the mysterious job of a Matron…Of course this isn’t all of it. There isn’t a day that goes by where there isn’t an entertaining moment but you will have to wait a little to read those. This job is unique and unsual but very rewarding and most of the time I love it! until next time, this matron has lots of jobs to do.

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Hello everyone, some of you may not know who I am so my name is Heather Thomson and I have been a matron for 30 years in various schools up and down the country. Here at Cargilfield I look after a wing full of lovely girls between the ages of 7 and 13. Believe it or not a lot of people who have not worked in a boarding school don’t have a clue what a matron is and what their specific role is…Well now I am going to give you a sneaky insight into what I do.

My day starts at 6:20am, that’s the time I wake up, it’s lovely in the summer with the glorious sunrise over my flat however in the winter it is a little trickier. I go around my boarding wing at about 7:10am and wake the girls up, the radio blares and often the girls are woken up to me singing!  The younger ones jump straight out of bed but the older ones need a prod. We all attend breakfast at 7:30am and join the boys.

At about 8:00am I will go around my boarding wing and make sure that the girls have done the regular things of making their beds, brushing their teeth etc. At 8.20 I am in the laundry room sorting the boys and girls laundry and ironing shirts.

The rest of my day varies. I spend some time sorting the boys (for whom I am also responsible for along side the Housemaster) and girls’ dormitories. I am also responsible for checking the registers and following up on children who are not in school, sorting out any flexi boarders and booking children in for weekends. Plus the inevitable emails that need responding too.

I usually have a bit of time to myself over lunch and I enjoy making cakes for the staff to enjoy or at the end of term for the boarders.

perch_rightColBody

The afternoons are spent in the changing rooms and catching up on anything I didn’t have time to do in the morning. On Wednesdays from 2:00pm until 4:00pm on match days, my day is spent on the games field, summer is fabulous, winter…cold.  I also get called to help with medical issues if the nurse is off duty.

My favourite part of the day is the evenings. After supper and clubs the girls come up to the boarding wing we have a good old chat about the day, there are lots of laughs and giggles but  it’s also a great time to also hear if they are worried or concerned about anything.  I read a story to the younger girls before lights out and the older ones just to want to chat. Lights out start at 8.40pm for the young ones and finish at 9.10pm for the seniors. It’s amazing that just as you are about to switch the lights out the girls will ask you questions (yep a little extra time of the light being on). Once all the lights are out and the girls settled, the gap student takes over which is about 9.20pm, I get to go to my flat, by this time I am a little tired. I do now have a bit down time, until 10.00pm, often catching up on a bit of Netflix watching, but you are always on your toes in case the bell goes off overnight for anyone who is unwell or upset, thankfully this doesn’t happen too often (famous last words!)

There you have it, the mysterious job of a Matron…Of course this isn’t all of it. There isn’t a day that goes by where there isn’t an entertaining moment but you will have to wait a little to read those. This job is unique and unsual but very rewarding and most of the time I love it! until next time, this matron has lots of jobs to do.

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Cargilfield

A Matron's life.....

….is a very varied one!

Read More


Posted on

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Having been back in the classroom again after a few years of not being a full time teacher, it has made me reflect on the teaching of children and why the prep school experience is such a fantastic environment for children to grow up in.

A long time ago I went to a talk where a visiting speaker described a child’s brain as containing a series of elastic bands. If each elastic band represents different skills and experiences then some of those elastic bands will be more stretched than others. For example, if a child is good at maths or reading then those particular bands will be stretched more than say the bands representing writing or sport. When a child is good at something, the temptation, as a teacher or a parent, is to keep stretching that particular elastic band by giving more exposure to that skill. Whilst it’s important to do that, the down side is that the other bands will be left unstretched or not used at all.

The beauty of a prep school, particularly as the children get older, is that they have a number of opportunities to try different subjects and to take part in different activities where they are being challenged and more importantly are learning resilience and managing their mistakes. The trick as a teacher is to make sure that a child’s strengths are maintained but that other experiences and subjects are given as much time to enable your child to have as many of those bands stretched as possible. Hopefully, by the time they are ready to leave Cargilfield, a good many of those elastic bands will have been stretched. In the process, many children will discover that they have a strength that they never knew existed!

Sarah Taylor

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perch_introTextBreadth of opportunity at Prep School
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Having been back in the classroom again after a few years of not being a full time teacher, it has made me reflect on the teaching of children and why the prep school experience is such a fantastic environment for children to grow up in.

A long time ago I went to a talk where a visiting speaker described a child’s brain as containing a series of elastic bands. If each elastic band represents different skills and experiences then some of those elastic bands will be more stretched than others. For example, if a child is good at maths or reading then those particular bands will be stretched more than say the bands representing writing or sport. When a child is good at something, the temptation, as a teacher or a parent, is to keep stretching that particular elastic band by giving more exposure to that skill. Whilst it’s important to do that, the down side is that the other bands will be left unstretched or not used at all.

The beauty of a prep school, particularly as the children get older, is that they have a number of opportunities to try different subjects and to take part in different activities where they are being challenged and more importantly are learning resilience and managing their mistakes. The trick as a teacher is to make sure that a child’s strengths are maintained but that other experiences and subjects are given as much time to enable your child to have as many of those bands stretched as possible. Hopefully, by the time they are ready to leave Cargilfield, a good many of those elastic bands will have been stretched. In the process, many children will discover that they have a strength that they never knew existed!

Sarah Taylor

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Cargilfield

Stretch those elastic bands!

Breadth of opportunity at Prep School

Read More


Posted on

Cargilfield where everyday is an adventure

Welcome to Cargilfield! We hope this short film gives you a glimpse of what life is like for the girls and boys at our school. We would love to welcome you in person to tour Cargilfield and explain more fully exactly what makes a Cargilfield education so special and so different. Please get in touch with Fiona Craig, our Registrar if you would like to find out more; her email address is [email protected] or you can telephone her on 0131 336 2207.

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