My brilliant idea - General

7th November 2008 at 00:00

All ages

I used to find break duty in the canteen uncomfortable. The occasional person took the opportunity to have a personal chat, but groups of older pupils viewed my presence (and mobile phone detection antennae) with animosity. Asking anyone to pick up rubbish invariably elicited an outraged: "It ain't mine though."

One day, I started collecting wrappers in a carrier bag: pupils readily gave me their litter, rather than take it to the bin at the end of the room. Groups of older pupils greeted my offer to collect rubbish neutrally, and I was even invited to return by those still mid-bun.

I always have a carrier bag in hand on break duty now, and model the "I'm-picking-it-up-even-though-I-didn't-drop-it" ethos with good effect.

It's a bit like walking a dog - the rubbish bag has a transforming effect on the potential for relationships. It gives you the pretext to talk to anyone in an unthreatening way - and the canteen looks great at the end of break.

Ursula Jeakins teaches at Barnwood Park Arts College in Gloucester.

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