Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: The scrapbook Gurveen turned up this morning with a bag of sweets.
Since we became a healthy eating school, a bag of sweets in the playground has the same pulling power as the latest mobile phone would in different circumstances. I made my way through the melee to find out what was going on. "I've got a new baby sister," Gurveen told me. "I wanted to share it with everyone." I'm so glad she does.
I used to be at a loss on how to mark events in pupils' lives such as this. Birthdays are easy; you sing the traditional song as you hurriedly give out the sweets or chocolate at the end of the day. Other whole-class moments can be harder though. Should you make a big thing of it? I often find myself conducting an awkward sort of interview, followed by a story from my own experience and thanks to whoever it is on behalf of the class. One day though, Rachael, for no good reason, stuck a birthday sweet wrapper into her reading log. "So I can remember," she said.
"Good idea," I thought, and the scrapbook was born.
Scrapbooks are not new, but I realised they would give a place for pupils to record memories and events as they happen, so, for example, everyone stuck Gurveen's sweet wrapper into their own scrapbook, wrote why they had been given the sweet and then had a chance to write or draw anything that it had provoked. Some wrote about their own siblings, others about the wish for one. Some drew pictures of Gurveen, some put their book away this time; we have talked about how not everything can be special to everyone.
The unexpected bonus of this book is that it doesn't only give a place to record gifts, it encourages them. April brought in some shells for everyone from a trip to the beach. Tom brought a conker for everyone after a walk in the woods.
We have had "once in a class-time" gifts such as papyrus bookmarks from Egypt, and mundane contributions, such as paper-clips.
Expense and sophistication are no measure of their impact: one of the best was a1p stamp.
I have found one of the most important ways we can help pupils develop is by empathising with the big moments in other pupils'
lives. The scrapbook provides a chance to reflect on what matters to others. Sally has just gone to Australia for a year. The rest of the class can't wait to see what she'll bring back.
Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School in Leicester.