Tales of a Travelling Teacher: The child who built an entire castle out of banana boxes

10th January 2018 at 16:46
One 'travelling teacher' remembers the little boy, wise beyond his years, who took his learning and built something majestic

To The fog clears and here we are.

It’s Year 4 and we have been doing castles. The children know loads and by the time I’ve rocked up, they have plenty to tell me. They really know their stuff. In terms of castles, this lot are the queens and kings. There’s a bit of pressure on as the topic needs to conclude today because Christmas is in the air and castles need to be left behind in favour of nativity festivity.

It’s been a good day and we are getting to the end of the session. The castle has been saved and the supermarket, thanks to our protests, is now being built elsewhere in the town. The ghost who resides in the castle is immensely relieved, and he told us so. The familiar end-sounds that signal the close of any primary day echo through the room whilst the teacher, Lisa, rounds off the day with a story. I wait for the children to be released back to their families, and me back on to the M62.

As I gaze into nowhere, I realise one of Lisa’s children is proper staring at me, almost analysing me. I snap to attention and smile at him. He’s Jasper. Jasper is what I’d class as a Grandad-Kid: an old man trapped in a child’s body. He’s made me laugh all day. A very serious young man with an enquiring spirit.

Then the children are finally released and Lisa approaches for a chat. As we speak, little old Jasper approaches and waits for us to finish. He clearly has something he wants to say.

“You OK, Jasps?” asks Lisa, kindly.

He nods, as if a weighty decision has been made: an important river crossed.

It’s like he’s got a tab end behind his ear and a flat cap on his head. He really doesn’t sound like a "Jasper", whatever they might like sound like.

He raises a finger, as if to poke out his words, emphasising them.

“This weekend, I’m making a castle with mi fatha!” he proclaims.

Turning on his heel, he is gone into the weekend.

What a character, I thought.

And thought no more.

An Englishman's home is...

After a weekend of trimming up, I open my email on Monday. There sits an email from Lisa, Jasper’s teacher. Apparently, that Monday morning, true to his word, Jasper arrived at class dragging in a large tower of gaffer-taped banana boxes. It was around 7ft long. Lisa asked him what it was.

“It’s a turret.” Jasper replied, deadpan.

He cocked his head over his shoulder.

“Mi fatha’s got the rest in his van.”

True to his word, a gaffer-castle of banana boxes made it into its new home in the Year 4 classroom. Massive. Really massive.

Lisa’s email was quality: the castle took up a third of the room, and she didn’t have the heart to have it sent away. If a child has spent all weekend building something based on the previous week’s learning and inquiry, it needs to be valued. But it’s massive.

Solution?

Well, at Christmas, every school needs a grotto. And Santa needs somewhere to reside.

Beyond that?

A reading space, for quiet perusals of literature.

Good old Jasper. And his fatha, of course.

And the fog descends.

As I write this, I see a boy and his Dad. Precious times.

Hywel Roberts is a travelling teacher and curriculum imaginer. He tweets as @hywel_roberts

To read more of Hywel's blogs, click here.

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