Joys of teaching on the hop

11th July 2003 at 01:00
Ellie Sampson says spontaneity has slipped out of the national curriculum

Frogs were the reason I went into teaching. At 15, I had no career plan but found myself in a local primary school for work experience. I worked with a Year 1 class and their magical teacher. It was a Wednesday afternoon: science. We set off on a "materials walk". Halfway round, one of the children spotted a colony of frogs.

All interest in wood, stone and plastic vanished, and 28 pairs of eyes lit up. We watched them for what seemed like ages and, when they had hopped into the undergrowth, went back to the classroom. By the time I had unfastened coats, the teacher had put away the worksheets and had drawn six pop-up frog outlines. The children spent the afternoon colouring, cutting, talking about their experience and bubbling with excitement. Wide-eyed, I watched and thought, this is what I want to do - teach with inspiration, use the moment, keep learning special, make it relevant.

Years later, in my first teaching post, the potential for "frogs" seemed to have disappeared. Every day was set in stone: literacy hour, numeracy hourI "Yes," I would have to say, "the frogs are interesting, but we don't have time to talk about them. We have to move into literacy sets."

I now work in a private school. I didn't want to abandon the state sector, but this environment allows me space to make choices, to be flexible. It allows me to take every frog that jumps into the day and make good use of it. When will state school teachers be allowed the same joy?

Ellie Sampson teaches Year 3 at a private school in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

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