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Creativity for control freaks

Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Time flies when you're having fun!

At this time of year, I dig a little bit deeper into the box of delights that is my cupboard, to pull out something I can only show once to each class if I want to preserve the impact. With more than a little wondering at where all the time has gone, I pull out my own primary school books and reports.

It's a strange little collection. For some reason I have almost no secondary school work at all. This is either a comment on how little value I attach to those years, or on how little work I did. I do, however, have all my annual reports. In contrast, I have no official record of my primary years, but plenty of my old books and it is these I like to start with.

Sitting my class in a circle, I show my class the front of my books. My Speeling book, my Ingerlish book and for some bizarre reason, a "naturist studies" book, with its frankly disappointing content. I pass them round and they're treated like relics from the past which, of course, they are.

How the pupils love pointing out all the mistakes. They laugh at how I spelt some words and how I couldn't do my sums properly. They are also impressed though. There are some stories and poems in there that would get on the wall of my classroom today, among some absolute drivel. It is this mixture, the same as in their books, that makes its point without me having to drive it home. I was a learner just like them and it's good to share the same part of my journey that they are currently making.

The reports are also a source of both fun and encouragement. Pupils quickly spot strengths and weaknesses and a discussion follows about how those skills have developed since, or not. I have been telling Luke for months that I found numeracy really challenging, just as I explained to Katie that I used to get really frustrated with art. I'm not sure they believed me, but one glance at my reports and they do.

I look at how the work is marked or, more likely, isn't. I see the narrowness of the curriculum a few decades ago. I read the comments of teachers who couldn't have cared less and made no efforts to conceal the fact. As I read the words of some, I smile. I read some others and think, "How dare you!" It reminds me again of the individuals that made me want to be a teacher and those who defined what kind of teacher I would be. My learning journey continues.

I know that some teachers are less comfortable with sharing such personal items and information with pupils. I can only say that I did it the first time in ignorance of any contrary thoughts and have only ever reaped benefits. So take yourself on a trip down memory lane and take your class with you. You'll all enjoy the journey.

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School in Leicester.


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