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Global creativity for control freaks

Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Kids with a lot on their plate.

You know the one about the kid who wouldn't eat her school dinner? The lunchtime supervisor comes up and points at the untouched food and says, "You're not leaving that are you? There are hungry children all over the world who would love to have a plate of food like that."

"Great," says the kid, "Give it to them. Then I won't have to eat it."

Bound up in this timeless comedy classic are two truths as old as the joke.

Truth 1: our pupils are exceptionally privileged by world standards. Truth 2: they will never appreciate it just because adults go on about it.

When I was at primary school, we sang a grace every day before lunch. I don't think it made me particularly grateful for the food I ate, but it did give me an understanding that food was something to be thankful for. I would not be reflecting the planet accurately if I wasn't giving my pupils an opportunity to understand that around the world are plenty of kids the same age as they are, with the same brains, the same needs, perhaps even parents in the same sorts of jobs, and yet those kids do not have a lunch to leave today.

A helpful way to explain this in an un-naggy way came in the form of the book, If the World Were a Village by David J Smith (A and C Black). It condenses the world into a village of 100 people, so we find out that if the world were a village, 61 people would be from Asia, 13 from Africa and only 12 would be from Europe. Each page addresses a different standard of living measure, so 76 would have electricity but there would be only 24 television sets. We also discover that of the 38 children who would be in the village, only 31 would go to school and 20 of them would be hungry at least some of the time. I used it with my class as part of a geography topic on leisure. The pupils quickly worked out what a tiny part of this village would be familiar to them. This led to the conclusion that the experience of the majority of the world's children was not like theirs.

So before we go out to lunch each day, we have some "village time". It's a time of quiet where we think about what all the other children in the village might be up to this lunchtime. It's not a negative time. We know that millions of children will be eating rice, or just getting up and having breakfast. We know that there are hundreds of different types of bread in this village, and most of it isn't white with the crusts cut off.

Equally though, there is that understanding that there are those in this village who will not have a lunch today. Hopefully, this will give food for thought.

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School, Leicester Email:

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