I’ve had nearly five years off. During that time, school has provided me with little more than a passive passing interest but now Rose is going to start her own “journey” in September, things may become a little different.
I use the word journey for reason. Obviously from the first day of anyone’s life, the journey begins. In fact it continues from the womb to the real world. It’s one of many words loved by educationalists. I will refrain from listing them here; just watch out for the insertion of inverted commas. The corridors of learning are awash with these generalised euphemisms.
Oh, the number of times my eyes have rolled in staff meetings and training days when the old chestnuts are dusted down and fired through the stale air of rooms full of bored professionals, feigning pained expressions of awe and wonder.
I digress. They are the days I do not miss. Some of these occasions have had some bright moments with bright personalities but most of the time I sat, nailed to my chair trying not to think about where the nearest toilet was and if anyone was going to be offended if I had to break from their riveting narrative to avoid wetting myself. I’m still digressing; it’s only when I start writing about something I realise new levels of scorn and contempt.
Now to the subject of creativity. All members of the teaching profession may well be tempted to incorporate the term “creative curriculum” in any response to thorny questions about how a child may be encouraged as an individual to be imaginative and expressive. Isn’t it such a lovely well meaning alliterative couplet, conjuring up ideas of bright enthused artistic children being inspired through art and music whilst taking in great swathes of pertinent knowledge and experience? And in reality?
The term itself is just a name. Sticking a paint brush or a tambourine in a child’s hand does not automatically make them “expressive”.
A term long focus on a given theme incorporating several subjects into one exercise book is not creative in its own right. “Empowering” pupils by giving them “ownership” of their direction and presentation could easily lead to a state of organised chaos. Below is snippet from statutory framework for the early years foundation stage:
“Being imaginative: children use what they have learnt through media and materials in original ways, thinking about uses and purposes. They represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through design and technology, art, music, dance, role play and stories.”
Hang on, is there nothing creative in maths or phonics? Science? Surely there must be; even in early years. Now I’m not going to get all political about this. National guidelines need to take a generic “best fit” approach otherwise how could it be relevant to all those involved? It would be too easy to sit back and take pot shots at such terminology armed with years of experience and a razor sharp line in quick waspish rhetoric. I could easily begin to demonstrate creative approaches to maths and little teaching ruses for a child to take a step further. But no.
There are two main points I want to get across. The first one is easy. Rose is starting school and suddenly I’m interested again. Secondly, I’ve been thinking a lot about the creative side of education.
On the occasions when I finally manage to meet my daughter’s teacher, I’ll be enquiring about the creative side of teaching. I will be curious to know their own take on it and what opportunities they may take to encourage a child to make decisions and evaluations about what they are learning.
Of course, I’ll expect to be reassured by the teacher’s response and attitude. Teachers work hard by choice. They will do everything to foster a happy, easy going classroom with a rich blend of learning through a multitude of sensory and intellectual experiences.
They also have to cope with Big Brother however.
There are now so many ways of making teachers accountable. They are small, short sighted niggling nasty little ways. Pupils’ progress is measured in tiny little steps. Any steps back lay the teacher bare to much tutting and head shaking from the higher echelons of educational power. It gives the faceless bureaucrats some sense of control I suppose.
The only way to find out if a teacher is doing a good job is to know them, trust them see your child leave school every day with a smile on their face. Remember the child you know at home may be different from the one in school. They could be subtle but significant differences. There will be differences and animosity between individuals within peer groups. You may get your child’s view but it’s not always the whole picture.
These are small children learning about the realities of the world, having to deal with other people, the pressure of expectation and the inevitable pecking order of the school playground. But there are so many opportunities to be creative.
Finally, how would I describe creative teaching? Everything to be learnt in a classroom and beyond comes in a box. A good teacher will encourage children to go outside that box.
Not only that. The box can be carried, passed around, thrown up in the air and opened many times. The contents can then be inspected to see the effects of wider thinking through further learning and experience. I’ve been privileged to have seen and taken part in brilliant teaching. My job satisfaction regularly went through the roof.
Thank-you for reading.