Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Image: Facebook/Foundation For A Better Life 

‘It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.'
~ Roy E. Disney

We do not come into the world with a set of values, we learn them in childhood from those around us.

These values are handed down from generation to generation, guiding their  development along the journey into adulthood.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet either of my grandfathers, but their memories were kept alive with the many stories Mum and Dad shared with us, throughout our lives.

One of my favourite stories of Mum’s father, Grandpa Edward, lodges in my memory, as a perfect example of love in action.

The story goes:

One very cold Irish morning, Grandpa cleaned and polished 8 pairs of shoes (yes, that’s right cleaned and polished EIGHT pairs of shoes – his, and those of his 7 children), then set off for work, resplendent in the new jacket my grandmother, Elizabeth, had recently bought for him.

He bravely returned home that evening - MINUS the new jacket!

When questioned by Nanna, my grandfather explained that he had given it away to someone who needed it more than he, saying, ‘Sure it was freezing cold, and the gentleman had no jacket at all to his name, and I had another one waiting for me in the wardrobe at home.’

Image: Facebook/You they and me 

It warms my heart to be a granddaughter of this man who was able to see beyond himself, to empathize with a fellow human being, in such a respectful and loving way. 

Edward met a fellow traveller on the road, cold, and down on his luck, and was able to do something about it, so he did  – simple as that.

The values by which Edward lived his life certainly contributed to influencing the values and behaviour of his 7 children. My mum and her six brothers were kindness itself, as they lived their lives, serving the needs of their families and those around them.

Their legacy continues, as I witness those same values in my own siblings, our children, and their cousins.

Albert Schweitzer was correct in saying, ‘Leading by example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing’, and we cannot ever afford to underestimate the influence we have on the young people around us. Our guidance and support are paramount in helping them to develop strong moral compasses and firm foundations, for becoming strong global citizens of the future.

Image: Facebook / Character Counts – Official page 

Schools often treat values as a separate, add-on subject, but, as Jean Paul Satre once stated, ‘Childhood decides’, so it is imperative for positive values to be not only modelled and affirmed in schools, but to be also integrated into daily classroom practice and timetables.

When it comes to specific lessons on values, song can be a very practical, non-threatening resource for kickstarting discussion, and a most invaluable tool for integrating learning across other subject areas.

My colleague, Kathryn Radloff and I, recently released an international version of our popular values song, ‘LIVING VALUES’ which does just that.

‘LIVING VALUES’ is a whole school, anthem-style song, encapsulating the values set out by the Australian government’s nine 'Values For Australian Schooling' document.

Below, you’ll find a sample of our song lyrics, the values targeted, and some simple suggestions for integrating this, or any values song you may have at your disposal.

The Australian government’s nine 'Values For Australian Schooling': 

·      Care & Compassion
·      Doing your best
·      Responsibility
·      Freedom
·      Integrity
·      Respect
·      Fair Go
·      Honesty & Trustworthiness
·      Understanding, Tolerance & Inclusion

 Image: Facebook/Healing with Art 


Before playing or singing song, unpack/discuss lyrics, line by line, e.g.
  • Line 1, Verse 1: How do we demonstrate care for ourselves and others – at school/home/on the sports field/socially, etc?.
  • Line 5, Verse 1: What does it mean ‘building character is our destiny’? 
  • Line 3, Verse 3: Name someone who comes to mind when you hear the word ‘integrity’
  • Line 3, Verse 4: In what context is ‘sister’ brother’ used?
  • Line 8, Verse 3: What are some of the qualities/values demonstrated by a team?
  • Q: How can we work together as a class team?
  • Q: How can we demonstrate these and other positive values in our dealings with classmates, teachers, parents, siblings, social groups, etc.

(Depending on age of students)
  • Discuss each value in the song and invite students to share examples from their own experiences
  • Write definitions for each of these values
  • Use values words in sentences

Image: Facebook / Michael Josephson

Study the lives of inspirational people such as Mother Teresa and martin Luther King, Jr,.. and discuss/ write about…values they demonstrated in their lives. 


Students paint each value word from the song, and attach to a ruler to form a placard (to be used in  a simple, assembly performance piece).


At school assembly, students file onto stage, hold up placard, state value and definition, the form a circle and move in circle singing song.

Image: KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs
(Kathryn Radloff (sitting) & Nuala O'Hanlon with students)

©Nuala O’Hanlon, lyrics/Kathryn Radloff, music

Sample lyrics:

In our school, we have values
That show how much we care,

About giving all a fair go,

In this great land that we share.

Verse 1

Caring for ourselves and others,

Always aiming to do our best,

Treating everybody fairly,

With understanding and respect.

Building character is our destiny,

We are working for the good of all,

With sincerity and honesty,

Moving forward, walking tall.
©Nuala O’Hanlon, lyrics/Kathryn Radloff, music

FYI: 'LIVING VALUES' is available as a digital mp3 download.

Yours in Singing  to Learn,

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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

What Makes a GREAT Teacher?

IMAGE: Facebook/Thoughts For Teachers

World Teacher Day was celebrated in Australia on Friday (October 26th).
This got me thinking about the true value of teachers and about the attributes that distinguish a good teacher from a really GREAT teacher.
Professor Robert Lee Madison, Institute Founder of Western Carolina University believes that, ‘The true value of a teacher is determined not by what he knows, nor his ability to impart what he knows, but by his ability to stimulate in others a desire to know.’
This is true of all good teachers. However, I believe that what makes teachers GREAT, is not only about what they DO, it's about who they ARE.
GREAT teachers are BORN to teach. They have an innate passion and ability for drawing out the strengths and talents of their students and inspiring them to WANT to learn.
Great teachers are dedicated to enabling their students to be the best that they can be, and have a way of making each student feel valued and that someone BELIEVES in them.
Astronaut, Sally Ride, shares this story, ‘ When I was a girl, I had a teacher who encouraged my interest in science. She challenged me to be curious, to ask questions, and to think about things for myself. She helped build my self-confidence. All of these things helped me to become a scientist and an astronaut.’
What a wonderful tribute to an inspirational teacher!
If I were to name ONE truly inspirational teacher who influenced the course of my own life, I would say, without a moment’s hesitation, that I would look no further than my own father, Francis Joseph O'Hanlon.
As with all great teachers, he taught by example.
Dad was kind, patient and loving. A humble academic, in possession of a fine mind and rapier-sharp wit, he instilled in me a life-long love for singing, writing, and the beauty of the English language.
A man of simple means, he shared everything he had - his time, his knowledge, and his love of learning. As with all great teachers, he inspired his students to settle for nothing less than his/her best.


Image: Facebook/Thought For Teachers

Great teachers CARE, and it shows. The impact and influence of their caring extends far beyond the classroom.
Each year, when the School Leaving Certificates rolled around, our house would become a veritable drop-in classroom for Dad's high school students (for whom he provided – gratis- last minute coaching lessons).

The love and gratitude of his students was evidenced by the smiling, triumphant faces that would roll up to our door on exam results day, excitedly waving their bits of paper – proof that their extra work had, indeed, paid off.
The student guard of honour at his Irish funeral, to celebrate his 64 year life, was a very moving and fitting tribute to a truly great teacher.
He loved his work and his students, and, even though he cautioned his 5 children against entering the teaching profession (3 of us did), he was the first one at school every morning, and the last one to leave in the afternoon!
Image: Facebook/Marie Suk Body Mind Spirit Integration and Healing

My daughter, TNT (The New Teacher) has now taken up the mantle. A born teacher, she wants to make a difference. Having recently returned from volunteer work in a South American orphanage, something tells me she already is. 

Here's to all teachers, everywhere! Ours is a privileged profession, and let's never forget that (to borrow a  quote from 'The Education Of Henry Adams', U.S. author, autobiographer, & historian, Henry Adams (1838-1918):  

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.’  

Insert image: Facebook/Ripple Kindness Cards

Yours in Teaching,

Q: What do you consider to be traits of a GREAT teacher?


HEART OF A TEACHER by Paula Fox:  A short, inspirational movie from Simple Truths:

An Inspirational Teacher Quote Presentation: 

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Sunday, 14 October 2012

'Bullying is NOT OK - NO WAY!'

"There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want, and that they can grow up in peace.’ ~ Kofi Annan
 IMAGE: KESTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs PICTURE: Paul Pearson

Have you ever been bullied?

Bullying is nothing new - it has certainly been going on for as long as I can remember.

My first experience of this type of behaviour was back in the ‘olden days’ when, as a 10 year old, I became what is known as an ‘immigrant’.

My family (Mum, Dad, three sisters, brother, and I) had farewelled all of our family, friends and neighbours in Ireland and England, and set sail for our new life in Australia, where Dad was to take up a teaching post as Head of English Department in a country high school.

Migrants were still rather a novelty in country NSW in those days, and certain students in my new school saw my minority status as an open invitation to tease, ridicule, and humiliate the ‘new kid on the block’.

They repeatedly mimicked my accent, made fun of my English clothing and whatever Mum had put in my lunchbox for the day. I began to hate going to school.

It was a very lonely, distressing, and unhappy time (until they got to know me and we became friends) and to this day, I still cringe, whenever I recall the time that the nun on duty at playtime, rang the bell to command the other children to include me in their games!


Bullying then, is nothing new, however, what IS new is the frequency with which we are hearing about this behaviour, and the alarming rate at which it appears to be escalating, in our schools and wider society.

Bullying occurs in many different forms - from verbal, emotional, and racist bullying, to psychological, physical, and  the now, all-too-prevalent, modern day phenomenon, cyber bullying – but one thing is for certain, whatever form it takes, it is NEVER OK!


Mahatma Gandhi once stated that ‘If we want to create lasting peace, we must begin with the children.’

There is great wisdom in this, and education is KEY. 

Parents, schools and wider communities have major roles to play in helping to achieve this. We do it by:
  • Creating and promoting peaceful, safe, and secure environments for children
  • Modelling positive behaviours built on mutual respect, trust, and empathy
  • Setting very clear behaviour expectations and guidelines
  • Helping children to understand and take responsibility for their own behaviour and consequences of their own actions
  • Providing children with coping strategies for dealing with distressing behaviours, if and when they arise.

Looking back with adult eyes, I’m sure the behaviour of that handful of students from my school stemmed more from a lack of understanding than from any conscious malice on their part.

This belief prompted me to tackle the issue of bullying head-on, in  a way that would make it easy for children to understand - the non-threatening medium of song.

Drawing on my childhood and teaching experiences, I set about writing lyrics to address various types of bullying behaviours, including the ever-increasing cyber bullying - with an emphasis on the right of every child to feel safe and protected.

My colleague, Kathryn (Radloff) worked her usual magic with the music, and the result is 'BULLY-FREE ZONE!' - a whole school positive behaviours approach to addressing unacceptable behaviours in primary schools. 

We are very grateful for the support of a wonderful local primary school principal, Mrs Terri Paterson who, together with the parent body, graciously allowed us to work with and record some of their children on the song’s chorus:
Bullying is not OK - NO WAY! It’s never a solution, 

Deal with problems as they rise with conflict resolution. 

Caring isn’t optional, it’s what we all expect; 

Everyone is welcome here, but bullying we reject! 

©Lyrics, Nuala O’Hanlon/Music, Kathryn Radloff. 
All rights reserved.

 IMAGE: Facebook: Live Well Laugh Often Love Always

We are very proud of the students, who have now taken ownership of the message, some even going
as far as writing to a local newspaper to urge other schools to become bully-free zones! 

This is the video we recorded on the day – I hope you enjoy it!

Yours in Singing To Learn,



·      My Radio 2UE interview


·      Bullying In Their Words by
·      It’s My School Too - Empowering Bystanders by Cornerstore Media Oz


·      Details (Including Suggested Activities…)
·      Song sample

‘Bullying is a problem borne of dysfunction whereby the perpetrator and the victim are caught in a negative cycle of fear and control. We, as caretakers and educators have a duty to interrupt this cycle and facilitate change through early education and intervention. This song, 'BULLY-FREE ZONE!' addresses the issues in a positive, child-friendly way. It not only provides strategies to help empower the victim, but also raises awareness and accountability in the perpetrator.’ ~ Eileen Condell, 

Thursday, 13 September 2012

'ALL WEATHER FRIENDS' & Partners in Rhyme

Image: Facebook/You they and me

Where would we be without friends?

Friends, true friends, stand by us, no matter what - through thick and thin / good times and bad times / highs and lows / births and deaths / major house renovation-related nervous breakdowns - well, you get my drift!

Friends are such an integral part of our lives, socially and emotionally.

They come in many guises - parents, siblings, our spouses and  children, people we meet along the way…  Whether they’re there for a reason, a season or a whole lifetime, they all have one thing in common – they leave footprints on our hearts.

 IMAGE: Facebook/Just feelin' Good

As a mother and a teacher, I believe it’s important for children to learn the true meaning of friendship – to learn that it’s not just about HAVING friends, it’s also about BEING a friend.

Song is a highly-effective medium for helping children to understand important concepts, so I wrote the lyrics for what would later become a song, ‘All Weather Friends’, highlighting some of the qualities of friendship - but more about that later…

IMAGE: Facebook/You they and me

You may have noticed that this post is entitled  ‘’ALL WEATHER FRIENDS’ ~ Partners in Rhyme’.

To explain the origin of the second part of this heading, I continue on from my last post  … 

… Following the success of the Yr 5/6’s assembly performance of my environmental rap song, ‘KEEP IT CLEAN!’ I decided to act on an idea, which had been germinating for some time.
I phoned a very talented acquaintance (now friend and colleague), Kathryn Radloff, known for her musicianship and beautiful singing voice.

I shared my belief in song-based learning, and expressed my hope that she would consider writing the music (and possibly lending her voice) to a growing collection of curriculum-based song lyrics I had been writing.

Kathryn, who was on maternity leave from her university job at the time, sounded interested, and, a few days later, turned up on my doorstep, guitar and toddler, Hayden, (now in Grade 3), in hand.

After a few minutes of playing around with some of the lyrics, she exclaimed, ‘Count me in!’

To cut a long story short, we went on to form our company, KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs, where we write and publish song-based teaching resources, targeting curriculum & values (pre-K-6).

IMAGE: KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs (Nuala & Kathryn) 

Once the partnership was formed, there followed very busy days and nights spent writing, editing, recording, and, finally, publishing our work.

There were times when we laughed, and there were times when it was really no laughing matter at all!

Looming deadlines would see us agonizing over the smallest things - full stops, semi-colons and commas – often shrieking hysterically, as paralysis of the sentence structure set in, and we lost all sense of syntax!

Throughout this process, we became friends - how could we not, given the fact that we were sharing the same educational vision, and working together, long and hard, to see it come to fruition.

Meanwhile, life goes on, so we were both also busy with family and other commitments, and experiencing the inevitable highs and lows of everyday life.

It was during this time, that my beautiful mum became very sick, and, after a very long, horrible illness, passed away.

Kathryn (because of the large amounts of time we spent working together at such close quarters – my being so computer illiterate at the time) was privy to this whole journey.

I’m forever grateful for her compassion, support, and friendship during one of the saddest and most stressful times of my life.

The paradox of life is, that when we’re experiencing the darkest times, the truly huge losses, they put in perspective what really matters – family and friends, and doing what we can to help and be there for others.
We ALL need friends, no matter what our stage is in life. ‘ALL WEATHER FRIENDS’ (Video link below) is now, thanks to Kathryn’s very catchy melody, a song about friendship - for children.

It is a child-friendly resource for opening up discussion about the true meaning, value, and importance of friendship:

Sample Lyrics, ‘All Weather Friends’: 


Together, friends weather the storms of life,
And whether clouds gather, or the sun shines bright,
It’s great to have true friends, to call your own.
It’s good to know, that we’re not alone, no, we’re not alone…’
© 2007, Lyrics, Nuala O'Hanlon / Music, Kathryn Radloff
Published by KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs 


IMAGE: Facebook/Your Beautiful Life

 Your friend, in Singing to Learn,
Nuala ♫  



FYI: The ‘All Weather Friends’  song track is available:
* on a CD, accompanying teachers' resource books
* on children’s CD, ‘SING TO LEARN!’ Vol.1 (ages 4-9)
* As a digital mp3 single or album download:


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