John Rice, poet, performer and storyteller, is pictured with Bears Don't Like Bananas, Guzzling Jelly with Giant Gorbelly, and Dreaming of Dinosaurs - three of his most popular poetry books.
They say the customer is always right. Clearly they’ve never been to the supermarket in my town.

But that aside, maybe it would help to read what some of John’s schoolteachers, headmasters, and headmistresses, say about his visits!

“Many thanks for being such a wonderful guest author and storyteller for us all today on your visit to Teesside High School. How can you gauge your effectiveness during the day? Well, children aged 9 – 11 are a demanding audience at the best of times and if you can hold their rapt attention for two and a half hours in the morning and then another two hours in the afternoon, you can’t do better than that! You brought home what a tremendous ‘art’ storytelling is at its very best. Your own stories were wonderfully enchanting and perfectly modelled how a story should be told.

The children had tremendous fun with every activity . . . even if their own creations drifted towards the bizarre! I saw many children grow in confidence as the day progressed and you can be certain you have touched the lives of some young people who will never forget the day they met John Rice.”

~ Graham Twist, Headmaster, Teesside High Prep School, Stockton-on-Tees

“If you want to inspire your children to write and perform poetry, then I would highly recommend a day’s workshop with John Rice! He was just the right person to kickstart our poetry week. All of his ideas and activities encourage the children to explore language but have fun at the same time! My staff loved his poetry reading assembly- a real tonic”

~ Michelle Banks, Leading Literacy Teacher & Deputy Head, South Walney Junior School, Cumbria

“The children are now so enthusiastic about storytelling and poetry and were desperate to buy the poetry books today. They really enjoyed meeting you and of course believed every word you said! (made all the more convincing, of course, in a Scottish accent!) I was so pleased with the way Aaron responded to the tasks and also William who often is off-task especially in the afternoons. The whole group rose to the challenges you offered them, thank you.”

~ Phillipa Summers, Head Teacher, Dent Primary School, Cumbria

“The girls and I really enjoyed the experience (reading & workshop at the Badenoch & Strathspey Festival). You communicated your interest in them and what they were trying to achieve in such a positive manner. Hopefully they will come back for more next year and I’ll be able to persuade even more Secondary pupils to join in. The school librarian is going to get some of your books and I’ve incorporated your poem They Hunted the Gypsies into our unit based around WW2/The Holocaust/The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. I’m sure that we’ll include some of your other poems in projects we do with the students.”

~ Iain Mackintosh, Head of English, Kingussie High School, Highland Region, Scotland

“John’s work in school has always been of the highest quality. Students and staff enjoy his workshops which are entertaining and informative and much excellent creative work has been produced as a result. His manner is relaxed but professional and his warm, genuine personality shines through, making it easy to speak to him and build up a rapport with him.

John always adapts his workshops or performances to suit his audience and, consequently, all ages can appreciate and enjoy them. For example, he has delivered very stimulating poetry workshops to ‘A’ Level students and has told amusing stories to Year 7 groups. I know that he also works successfully with primary children and can deal with more difficult topics in a more accessible way. It is for all these reasons that he was selected to be Glasgow’s poet in residence and I am planning a day next summer when he will do a session at Highworth on the theme of ‘Glasgow’ in connection with the Commonwealth Games.

At his public performances, John really connects with his audience, revealing some personal insights which can be quite thought provoking while still retaining that lovely element of humour to which everyone responds. I know that he is still producing his own poetry and that is important when running workshops. He also, however, celebrates the work of other poets and that is something quite special, too.”

~ Lesley Donald, Deputy Head Teacher, Highworth School for Girls, Ashford, Kent

“I cannot praise you highly enough for the impact you had on these kids! We have all this INSET and training and meetings about our pupils and then you come and disprove them all. We could have given the whole morning over to Year 8 because despite all the views of ‘experts’, the students focused entirely on your workshop. I don’t know why I patronised you about their ‘needs’ because you had them totally sussed, changing channels frequently, consistently putting the fun element in but also challenging them.

I do so much on storytelling and creative writing and am well aware of how skilled they are but even I was taken aback at their imaginative responses. I was so proud of them. They have been buzzing all day today with what they learned and with future ideas for their Writing Journals (they asked if they could begin with a photograph of themselves in a chosen hat and then to write out their story of the hat and then film their ‘story’). So THANK YOU very much – I knew we were in for a treat but hadn’t imagined how magical it was going to be. We have probably spent too long now focusing on what these kids CAN’T do and you opened our eyes to that.”

~ Linda Telfer, Laleham Gap Special Educational Needs School, Margate, Kent

“John came to Notre Dame High to work with the Advanced Higher English group and a first year class for four weeks. John visited once a week and worked with both groups. With the Advanced Higher John did a creative writing workshop to facilitate the writing of poetry for the Creative Writing folio. His work was stimulating and enabled the class to produce excellent poems. He had a lovely manner with the class and this enabled him to get the best out of the pupils. I also enjoyed the classes and thought it was one of the best creative writing workshops I have taken part in.

With S1 pupils John worked on oral storytelling and performing which the class rated very highly. It also affected their confidence which was much improved, so much so that they have agreed to enter the Poetry Slam, which includes performing their poetry on stage to a big audience, as part of the ‘Aye Write Festival’. John has left a vibrant legacy from his short time with us. I wish he could have worked with us for longer. We really missed him when he stopped working with us. I also recommended John highly to the Quality Improvement Officer in English, David Byrne who had suggested that we take part in workshops with him.

Thank you for the foresight in employing John which I think is a fantastic idea with so many benefits and it shows how highly you value creativity. We were all enriched by John.”

~ Frances McGinley, English Principal Teacher, Notre Dame Girls High School, Glasgow

“I liked how John goes about his workshops. He’s very personable and keeps participants close to the task. He is happy to give of his own experience and again participants respond to and are inspired by that. He brings them out of their imaginative safety zone, and makes it new.”

~ Gerry McLean, Head of English, Castlemilk High School, Glasgow

“We all had a great time – the children loved it. You really challenged them and helped them to explore their writing skills. They went home full of enthusiasm and planned to continue writing their stories at home. Many thanks for such a wonderful day; I hope we can repeat it.”

~ Alison Daniel, Deputy Head Teacher, St Mary’s CE Primary School, Sale, Cheshire

“Thank you so much for visiting our school yesterday. Both sets of students clearly enjoyed themselves and benefited enormously from the work they did with you. It was lovely for us to see form groups of mixed abilities working together as we teach in ability sets. Jordan’s laughter when you read your poems in the morning session was a delight, as was Liam’s line “smile wide”. Dean was a revelation in the afternoon session! I have contacted Rachel at the Poetry Society to tell her how much we enjoyed and appreciated your visit. I have no doubt I will be contacting you again to see if we can arrange another visit.”

~ Diana Everall, English Dept., Durham-Johnson Secondary School, Durham

“The kids loved their day with you and have asked if they can do some of the things you did again. The mixed up definitions, in particular, were popular. Anyway, you’ll be hearing from the kids themselves in due course. You gave me lots of ideas to try in writing workshops and I was really impressed with the way in which you engaged a large group all afternoon.”

~ Cathy Lawrence, St Edmund’s School, Canterbury, Kent

“The John Betjeman Poetry Competition workshop led by John Rice (the school won the workshop as a prize for their consistently high achievement) was a great way to reward students for their hard work and encourage them to learn more about the art of poetry. One of our students, Kieran Wyatt, year 12, attended the workshop and said: “I am really interested in writing in general and found the workshop very inspiring. The tips and suggestions we were given to improve our writing were really useful.

As a result of the workshop Kieran plans to set up a Creative Writing Club in January so that other pupils can share and develop their interest in writing. Kieran said: “I saw how much the other pupils were enjoying the workshop and thought I would act on John Rice’s idea to set up our own writers’ workshop.” The club will probably take place once a week, during a lunch time and will start early next term.”

~ Christina Fry, Carr Hill High School, Kirkham, near Blackpool

“I had a meeting with a parent last week and we were talking about how his writing had really progressed and his enthusiasm had grown for the subject. She said that her son was still talking about your visit and how he really enjoyed the day when you visited. I just wanted you to know that I think it’s important for you to be aware of the positive and lasting impact your teaching has.”

~ Karen Maier, Horsmonden Primary School, Kent

“Wow! What a lovely day John. I have had so much positive feedback from staff and children alike following your visit today. You gave so much to the children today, confidence and self-belief and fun!”

~ Jane Smith, King’s Mill Special School, Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We are not the robots! *