Creativity for control freaks

16th June 2006 at 01:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Every picture tells a story

I have written in the past about the value a digital camera can bring to the classroom. If I was stranded somewhere with a class to teach, it would be great to have one. If that was possible for just one day however, I would use it on the final day. I hate to have a class move on without a photo of us all together.

If that is true for me then the class photo will I hope, over time, become of value to the pupils as well. Being a control freak of course, I am not satisfied at leaving this completely to chance. I would have no intention of dictating what their feelings should be, but I do feel it's important for them to learn to appreciate significant moments before it's too late and the class photo provides an excellent context for this.

Set the scene by reflecting on some milestones of your own. I've got one of those long school photos that was taken in a semi-circle and needs to be unrolled. It shows about 600 boys, looking almost identical and the class try to guess which one is me. They also like to guess which teachers were OK and which ones were terrors. It's amazing how many they get right!

On to this spark of enthusiasm, I then like to throw the tinder that is photographs of me at different stages of my life: as a cub scout heading off to camp, a young long-haired version during my student days, scrubbed up in a suit on my wedding day. Throw in a few baby photos and you're sorted. I put them in chronological order and tell a story about each one.

Then I turn to them. If you look around the office or talk to other staff members, you'll be able to find plenty of photos of your class earlier on in the school. Pass them round and listen as the stories flow. Before long, you can hear the cogs in their little heads beginning to turn, and they're off.

Make space and time over the next few days for them to bring in their photo milestones. Let them tell, write or draw a significant story to go with each and as they do, they'll trace their lives up to the point of the new class photo. Put the photo up and ask them to do the same. Without sharing this time, get them to pick an event from the year that they are sure they will never forget. Once drawn, painted or recounted, this then makes a great display and begins to establish the year as significant to them, something that only hindsight will finish off.

It won't be long before all the lessons, wet plays, playground arguments, productions and endless days are condensed into a few choice memories. The photo will anchor these as they cast their eyes over the different faces that, right now, are so significant to them. And in years to come, a new generation can look at my face and decide OK or terror? I'll let history decide.

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School in Leicester Email:

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