May the world laugh along

8th August 2003 at 01:00
A FRIEND, whom the fates have decreed should be his son's year head, told a cautionary tale of a recent year assembly. He was holding forth on important matters, as was his wont. Words such as "vision", "ambition" and "responsibility" could be heard.

Those who have been in this position will have undergone "out of body" experiences in such situations. This is true for the pupils, whose minds are frequently elsewhere, but also for the teacher, who finds himself watching the assembly as if from afar, speaking the words, but able to direct his mind elsewhere.

In such a state, my friend (OK, it was me) heard his son whisper to his mate beside him: "I'm sorry - he's not as pompous as this at home".

It was some reality check and, as a result, the remainder of the assembly owed a lot more to the Ronseal advert than it did to Martin Luther King.

At the year's end, it was a timely reminder that we sometimes take ourselves too seriously and that humour, as Reader's Digest so famously puts it, is the best medicine.

Of course, education is no laughing matter, but sometimes, when the provision is at its most crucial and challenging, humour bursts its way through to the surface, and we shouldn't downplay these elements of farce which can act as a valuable release of pressure.

So it was, when our outdoor education teacher reported back on the overnighter which our creative arts pupils had enjoyed in a Highland bothy recently.

Our creative arts project works with identified pupils with particular needs as part of our approach to inclusion. Basically, it uses areas such as art, music, photography and outdoor education to build self-esteem and develop skills such as working with others and problem-solving.

Membership and specific needs of the project change from year to year, but this year's group members have worked so well and so supportively of each other that an overnight residential was a logical completion to their third-year course.

At the end of an arduous climb, one member of the group relaxed to take in the view. Unfortunately, the fence he nonchalantly leaned against was mildly electrified. He jumped like a startled deer as his hair stood straight up on end.

One of his pals, seeing this cartoon reaction, laughed so hard he had to be carried across the stream and on to the next part of the walk.

As the teacher recalled, the sound of these pupils laughing uproariously and uncontrollably, especially considering the obstacles they had overcome in coping with mainstream education, was the best possible learning outcome.

Let's hope for more children laughing in the year ahead.

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