Parting shots

31st March 2006 at 01:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Parting shots

For all those people out there working hard to plough a creative furrow through the mud and mess in which we plant our seeds of knowledge, one of the discouragements can be that feeling that you are on your own. Sometimes this is the case, but most of the time it is not. The isolating nature of being in your own classroom all day, every day can make it feel solitary, but the chances are that all around you will be colleagues all feeling the same.

When a context is found for teachers to share what they are doing, beyond the confines of a staff meeting or a weekly plan, you tend to have the liberating experience of discovering that most people are also trying to plough their own little furrows and often have at least one very nickable idea you hadn't thought of. The fact that this column went beyond week two is testament to the wealth of creative classrooms out there, filled with staff whose ideas it is a privilege to adopt and adapt.

The key, then, to not feeling on your own is engineering opportunities to have these discussions. The pace of each day means that they have to be planned for, giving people a chance to share what they would not normally need to discuss. They also have to be fun, in other words, there is a need for controlled creativity. Over the past few weeks, we've been thinking about how the digital camera can be used to open a window on pupils' ideas and imagination. How about using it to do the same for the adults in your school?

When we began to promote the digital camera in school, we wanted to give teachers and support staff a reason to use it. After rejecting "Whose toilet?" and "Whose fridge?" we came up with a "Whose sofa?" competition. A folder was set up on the school server and each member of staff was asked to take a digital camera home over a number of weeks, take a picture of their sofa and download it. The photos were then displayed in the staffroom alongside a list of contributors for everyone to try to match. The conversations about soft furnishings and hearths had very little to do with teaching and learning, but everything to do with strengthening relationships and just talking about stuff, the absolute bedrock of a happy staffroom.

Now we have a staff photography competition each holiday where people can submit photos, anonymously if they wish, to show their developing skills or have a bit of fun. Like many creative events, it is all about the process, not the product, the journey rather than the arrival. Wherever you may be journeying to this holiday, enjoy your break. Are digital cameras really more precious?

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School, Leicester Email: primary@tes.co.uk

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