If you teach in primary then you have to sing. There is no getting out of it. Singing is part of primary school life.
But not all primary teachers enjoy singing. In fact, most will do anything to get out of it.
Singing assemblies are the best because they expose those teachers who hate singing and they really aren’t that difficult to spot.
As soon as Mrs Carpenter starts playing the piano and everyone stands then for some it’s time for some serious miming.
Teachers who mime are a strange breed because it requires more effort than actually singing. As they mouth the words, they nervously glance at those around them and they know they’ve been rumbled. Miming is so obviously not singing. It’s just pretending and all the children and staff know what you are up to.
Then of course you get some teachers that do sing but in such a half-hearted fashion that they might as well not bother. They looked uncomfortable, cheesed off with a face like a wet weekend and they just want it all to be over as soon as possible.
Except it isn’t. Mrs Carpenter has about 5 songs she wants to get through.
This is why Singing Assemblies have been re-badged in some school as Choir Practice (even if the school is choir-less) and staff don’t attend. Now this sounds great to many teachers because they can get on with some marking or preparation or grab a quick coffee. I’m all for wellbeing and preserving sanity but this isn’t the way to do it.
Singing together does wonders for the wellbeing of the school but only if everyone is present. Children need to see and hear their teachers in Singing Assemblies. They don’t want to see them miming or looking embarrassed or frightened, they want to see them joining in.
Assemblies are the same. It’s probably a time-management give-away when just one person does an assembly while everyone else escapes but assemblies are supposed to be whole-school. Some are but many aren’t and again, children see this and pick up some sort of message.
In terms of singing, if staff aren’t there then children see this time as the job of just one teacher – poor Mrs Carpenter. If staff are there in body but not in spirit then some children will copy and paste your behaviour.
You need evidence? Look at footballers. It’s cringeworthy stuff when the camera moves down the line as the national anthems are playing. The odd one or two will burst blood vessels and sing with passion and pride but the rest – well, it’s shambolic.
Some gently mouth the words they know then give up. Others just refuse to sing and stare straight ahead hoping the camera won’t stay on them for too long. Most just don’t know the words and get in a right old pickle and look awkward. For most footballers, this is the worst part of the game. Footballers aren’t good singing role models with the exception of a few. But a few isn’t enough. Football is supposed to be a team effort and so everyone needs to take the lead. Where did footballers learn this behaviour? Yep, primary school.
At school, children need singing role models and they can’t just get this from the front of house teacher, they need this from the side and the teachers on the perimeter of the hall.
Teachers aren’t just there for crowd control to fire teacher stares in the direction of those who aren’t singing or miming. If we are doing that then we can’t blame the children – they are just doing what some of their teachers are doing – opting out or just going through the motions.
We have to be role models in Singing Assemblies and give it some welly. We need to take a full and active part and belt out the words so that children are inspired to do the same.
If you are a primary teacher who doesn’t sing then go and teach secondary. Primary children need singers not swervers, mime artists or escapologists.
For a hilarious take of Singing Assemblies then see Mr P’s blog – he acts out ten teacher types.