Global creativity for control freaks

7th October 2005 at 01:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Embassies

There are a few things in my daily life that prompt the same reaction as they did when I was a kid. The artificially perfumed taste of Parma Violets, the need to laugh when the squeezy paint bottle makes a rude noise, the hatred of having a sticking-out label tucked in by a grown-up.

The other exception is the unexpected postal delivery.

Do you remember those days when you didn't get loads of junk mail every day, and brown envelopes meant mystery, rather than debt? Most weeks, one of the kids in my class will turn up with a letter they have received through the post. Most of the time, it's rubbish - the free bookmark sent to every child in the country, or a letter thanking them for sending 1,000 tokens from their cereal packet - but it doesn't matter. It's been sent to THEM, and that's enough to make it special. So, they read that free magazine like nothing else, they wear those stickers with pride. I was the same when I finally received my Tufty Club badge at the age of seven.

As I try to push international awareness up the agenda, I want to find ways to get things dropping through their doors. If a distant place suddenly appears on their doormat, then surely it will feel personal and special. I remembered back to my childhood and a project on China. I wrote to the Chinese Embassy for some information on the Great Wall and received a great book. As I looked through it, though, I realised that some pages had been removed, and others had been deliberately glued together. Even then I thought it was suspicious to stop someone reading certain things about your country and I started asking questions, the answers to which played a big part in my view of the world.

So all my pupils have written to the embassy of the country they are studying. I have warned them that replies can take a while, but I am confident they will come. I also know that someone will hit the jackpot. A kiddie will arrive at school with loads of goodies, making every other kid wish they had chosen that country, rather than the one that just sent them a letter referring them to the embassy's website. What a favour that generous nation will be doing itself. It will sow the seeds of excitement, interest and maybe even travel in that pupil, who will never forget the excitement of receiving that parcel.

So let's compile a Top Ten of child-friendly embassies. If you have pupils who receive the response they deserve, let us know. And if any embassies do not extend the hand of friendship, we could name and shame them into glossy brochures and novelty pens. And if anyone can remember what the Tufty Club was about and why I might have been in it, I'd love to find out!

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School, Leicester Email:

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