Here is a new video of ‘Mouse and Bear’ featuring the magnificent narration skills of Adam Parkes. I have also made an activity sheet which is available underneath the video.
To order a copy of the book, please visit: https://shopandonart.bigcartel.com/product/mouse-and-bear-book and to find out more about the true story behind it, visit: www.excludeduk.org
Free worksheet. Mouse and Bear worksheet PDF
Here is a free preview of my ‘Mouse and Bear’ book which tells the story of Mouse who loves painting. She sells her paintings for food which then shares with bear who promises to protect her. But when a storm comes, will Mouse be forgotten?
If you enjoy reading this preview, please consider pre-ordering a physcial paperback copy here:
For more information about the inspiration of the story please see my previous blog post and visit: www.excludeduk.org
I am Mouse.
Early on during the pandemic that we find ourselves in, we were told that ‘We are all in this together’ and I, as I am sure many did, believed these words and were comforted by them. Knowing that during the uncertainty we would be helped was some consolation for losing work and opportunities. First off, it was great to hear that employed staff would have their wages paid, albeit at 80% but some good news. If they have a good employer, people may have found that they were able to match that to 100%.
When there was no news about the self-employed, I panicked. There were several worrying days before whispers emerged that self-employed help was on the way. Great. But then, as the self employed help was announced, I quickly realised that a) it was not to the same level as PAYE workers and b) I was not entitled to it. Why? Because when I left teaching in 2018, my PAYE earnings outweighed my self employed earnings. I had fallen through the crack. Despite being fully self employed since September 2018, I was now, in March 2020, entitled to no help.
I waited for the next level of help but the ‘We are all in this together’ message quickly turned into ‘We can’t help everybody’. And, ever since, that has been it. When the issue has been raised in government questions, it has been swerved. It is no longer being spoken about. Media coverage is scarce. Twitter is alive with pleas of help but often met with silence or worse, accused of fraud or ‘Well, you knew what you were getting into’. But the people forgotten, the people left behind, are still there needing help. Many of the thousands upon thousands who have been forgotten are creatives like myself. Dancers, artists, entertainers, those who work in television- the list is endless.
Art and writing has helped me throughout my life when dealing with emotions and, to help me process what had happened, I starting writing a story to reflect the situation. The book is called Mouse and Bear.
The book follows the story of Mouse, who paints for a living. She gives a share of her food to Bear who promises to protect her. But when a storm comes, Bear doesn’t come to help. Mouse is then left to fend for herself until she finds help from a different source.
Sound familiar? That’s because it is. The book is real life. The only difference is, I don’t know how real life is going to end but I’d like it to be how I have written in the book. I have tried my very best to keep the story simple and to not sound bitter, that is not the point of the story. The aim is to highlight that even though Bear is unwilling to help, there are those that will.
The good news is that I have made the first few pages available for free right here!
My aim is to raise money through sales of the book to support to only myself and my family but also my fellow mice who have been forgotten. If I can do this through book sales it is great but unlikely. If I can somehow bring media attention to the issue then great. Although there are so many of us left behind, I want to try and help, particularly my fellow creatives. I plan on releasing the book in June and it is available to pre-order via my shop here: https://shopandonart.bigcartel.com/product/mouse-and-bear-book
Pre-ordering will help in getting funds for the printing costs but also give me an idea of how much support and interest there will be for the title. As mentioned above, the proceeds of sales will be split equally between myself and charities and organisations that are able and willing to support us mice. I have options but if you have any contacts / suggestions please get in touch at email@example.com
Also in June, I plan on releasing the book on Amazon as an ebook and printed book too. I am also looking into ways of creating a ‘pay what you want’ version which will allow you to pay as little or as much as you’d like.
If this book is not for you then all I would urge you to do is to try and support the creative people in your life as much as possible. Buy something from their online shop, support their Patreon, give them a boost on social media. They will most appreciative.
This whole pandemic has been hard for many people in so many ways. I feel guilty in asking for help but if a little mouse can help others in any way then I know it will be worth the embarrassment.
Thanks to all those who joined me for the poetry session over on Facebook.
As promised, here are the two worksheets to help you get started in writing your own poems.
If you’d like to share any of your poems, I’d love to see them! Just click on one of the links below
Thanks to all those who joined me for the live illustration workshop over on Facebook. If you missed it, head on over to my page and you can rewatch the video.
Thought it may be helpful to have some template sheets so if you’d like to carry on drawing and need some help then download these pdfs.
If you fancy sharing your work send me a pic or email – I’d love to see them!
Here is a sample version of my ‘Daddy and Me’ boardbook which can be personalised with name, title and your own photos.
If you’re interested in ordering a copy, please head on over here: https://shopandonart.bigcartel.com/product/personalised-board-book
I’ve been working on quite a few Christmas illustrations recently and had the idea that I could create a worksheet quite easily so here it is! You can see the sheet below and my own design. You can either print off the picture or download the pdf here: design a stocking
Here are two designs created by Fynn, 7, and Oscar, 4. Great work!
So when I decided to put up my poster on Exeter High Street I hoped to let people know about my reasons for leaving teaching in the hope of raising awareness of how it truly feels to be both a teacher and child in many schools at present. I felt that I could say my piece and then set off into my new world of writing and illustration with an inner peace knowing that I had spoken from the heart and let children know that all of their talents are valued. I knew that there would be some people who would agree with me and that I would take comfort from knowing that all those times I felt in despair that I was, in fact, never alone at all.
What I hadn’t envisaged, however, was the outpouring of support for my poster and the discussions that have followed. I have been inundated with messages from past pupils, parents, colleagues and strangers who have shared with me their own beliefs, memories, worries, kind comments about my teaching, offers for work, website advice and a whole new world of emojis that I never knew existed. And from it all I have learnt one thing – the world is good.
Education has the potential to be so, so good. All of those people who have liked, shared and commented on my post have shown me, and more importantly, the children that there are so many people who are on their side. We all want the best for you. We all want you to be the best at what you love. It is so exciting to see people in love with what they do even if the subject matter is not your personal preference. When you see a child have that spark in a lesson it is such a joy and you can see what it is that fires them. And this is any subject. I reiterate that every subject is important to someone, who are we to try and dictate what someone feels in their heart? Yet here we are and all this isn’t happening. Why? I do not know. But what I do know now is that my love of teaching and education is stronger than ever and I will forever be involved. At the moment I am not sure how but I am eager to see what is out there.
As mentioned at the start of this post, I never intended on writing this but I felt that to not offer a response would be to start a discussion and then leave the room. The messages that I have been sent from concerned parents have really moved me to the point where I felt I had to respond in a way that I hope will connect with more people. So, I decided to film a video which is posted below.
I have done a lot of personal reflection over the last week or so and I have realised why the stifling of creativity in education was affecting me so much, and that is because of the huge help it has given me throughout my life. A quick search online will show you that the creative subjects in schools are being squeezed or, in some extreme cases, cut from the curriculum. The BBC reported in January that “Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman said academic subjects were the best route to higher-level study.” That is quite a bold statement if it is true.
This video comes with a couple of warnings.
1 – It is 12 minutes long. Some of you will immediately say ‘Nope’ and that is fine. But if you do decide to watch I am very grateful. I’m not on a stage or auditorium like a TedEx but if you close your eyes then you can pretend.
2 – It is, as you will discover, unscripted. I sat down with some notes and then just spoke. I know for a fact that I didn’t say everything I had in my mind but if you watch you’ll see why.
Well, it looks like you made it! If you watched it all then I am truly grateful. If you feel it is worthy of others seeing it then please share. If it helps one person know that they aren’t alone then it has been worth it.
I mentioned a couple of things that my hurried mind had missed and that is the fact that my own problems with nerves and speaking have lead me to miss out on many opportunities. I could never think quick enough so would either say something silly, something shallow and not reflective of my real thoughts or, in some cases, nothing. Phonecalls have always been an issue due to the ‘unknown’ of what is on the other end. As you can hopefully see in the video, I am much better now. My confidence is good and I feel ready to take on the world. What I hope is that this video may help other children (or adults) to know that they are ok, that they are understood and it might help them to find their voice earlier than I did at 36 years old.
So, where next? What next? Who knows, but one thing is for sure, I am in love with world more than ever before.
I must have rehearsed and planned this post 1000 times but, now I’m sat here in front of the computer, I don’t quite know where to start.
On July 24th 2018, I will be leaving teaching after 17 years. I am not the first to leave before retirement and I won’t be the last. I have read posts from teachers leaving the profession before. These feature reality checks for those who truly do not understand what it is like to be a teacher and the constant pressure we are placed under. Such posts always draw divisive comments between sympathisers and those who stick to the tired script of ‘You leave at 3:30’ and ‘I wouldn’t be whinging if I had 13 weeks holiday’. With people of this opinion, I have a feeling that if they were to walk a day in our shoes that they would fall over at the first step. Whilst these posts are truly necessary and reflect the thoughts and feelings of many teachers (myself included), when I decided to leave teaching I felt that I really wanted to try a different approach.
The best way that I feel I can sum it up is by saying that I’m leaving teaching so I can teach.
I still absolutely adore teaching; my love of learning and working with children remains as high as it was when I first stepped into the classroom. Every day is indeed different, thrilling, challenging, exciting and fun. And, although I find it difficult to blow my own trumpet, I was actually pretty good at it. Sometimes I was ‘outstanding’. But then again, sometimes I was ‘inadequate’. Ofsted once said that one of my lessons was ‘inspirational’ whilst another in the very same inspection was ‘requiring improvement’. And it has taken me a long while to realise that I’m actually happy with that. Learning is about making mistakes. So when lessons don’t go well, I reflect, learn and improve. If we aren’t taking risks as teachers then what, in turn, are we teaching our children? Playing it safe might tick the boxes but imagine the opportunities you’ve missed.
For all the personal reasons I have for leaving teaching, ultimately it has been the focus on data and the stifling of creativity which has lead me to leaving. As I said before, I know that I am a good teacher but, if data is to be believed, I have been a failure every year of my career. Not all children have reached expected progress in each subject and I’ve sat through performance management meetings trying to justify the seas of red. I am not saying there does not need to be a form of accountability but the children, and I for that matter, are more than data. Throughout my career and with the endlessly-shifting goalposts, I have tried to keep the ethos that children, all children, are capable of great things if they follow their passions and talents. Of course all children need to know how to read, write and to calculate to a certain level of competency but what about their ability to throw, paint and compose? These children we teach will be our new mathematicians, writers and scientists but they will also be our designers, artists, historians, musicians, producers, athletes, poets, animators and photographers.
I will be leaving teaching to focus on writing and illustration. And I’m terrified. I’m leaving a stable, employed job to work in the wild and scary world of freelance. I’m very prepared for the comments that art is not a real job and it is one of my aims to prove to children that it can be done. Whilst there seems to be such a focus on the ‘important’ subjects it is very easy to forget that every subject is ‘important’ to someone. It has been very nice to discover that my poetry is being well-received and, as an illustrator, I’ve been working on some wonderful projects with some wonderful clients.
Here are a couple of examples, please check my portfolio for more:
Alongside that, I still want to go into as many schools as possible and work with children on these passions of my own, to try and inspire and engage a new set of learners. I want to teach. I want to share my love of words with children. Education reforms have stripped writing to a set of objectives which can be highlighted but removed the joy of writing and engaging the reader. There is a real focus on reading for pleasure but why not writing for pleasure too? I can see that there are many incredible schools out there filled with enthusiastic and inspiring teachers and leaders who share my ethos and I want to be part of them. I’m delighted that I am already booked in to visit some schools in the new school year and I can’t wait.
So as a final goodbye to teaching I decided to hire an advertising space on a phone box on Exeter High Street (I’d wanted a billboard but it was too expensive). This is the illustration I have created:
If you agree with the idea behind the illustration then please share away, I want it to reach as many children as possible. If you would like an A4 version of the poster to use then you get one here. If you happen to be on Exeter High Street and outside Burtons, you can see the illustration in full. If you are and have time for a selfie, I would love to see it. You can tweet me your pic on twitter using @hugsfromdad. Tell me why you are not data, why your children are not data and I can share it.
I now move on to a new chapter and, though terrified, I’m so excited. I’m ready to see what’s out there. I will walk out of school with the Year 6 children on the last day of term and, like them, I will be sad to say goodbye but ready for the next step. As a poem I have written agrees, adventure now awaits.
If you are interested in working with me in any way then you can do so in the following ways:
For school visits, I am working with the good folk at Authors Abroad.
For illustrations, get in touch with my agents, Advocate Art:
If you are a publisher interested in hearing more about my stories or if you just want to send me a message then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you and love learning; the world’s an incredible place