So where's the fun in that?

16th February 2001 at 00:00
We all need a little humour in the classroom, says Val Woollven

Our deputy head has left, and we shall miss him. We gave him a good send-off and spent a few happy hours remembering all the good times we had - how he had dressed in a tutu at the school pantomime; how he revitalised the PTA by wearing shorts to meetings; and the time he called me sad for getting excited about target-setting.

His good humour, patience and friendship kept us all sane, and we hope he will be happy in his new job.

All the reminiscing reminded me of a remark made by a colleague at a school self-evaluation course. He told me how saddened he had been by the memories of his Year 6 leavers at the end-of-term assembly in the summer. Gone were the days when the children stood up and told amusing anecdotes about their teachers. His children simply announced they were pleased to have gained their level 5.

And so they should be - level 5 is cause for celebration. But what memories of primary school will this generation take with them? "Do you remember when Sir dressed in a tutu at the staff pantomime?" "And when Miss couldn't get the top off the glue bottle and then she shook itI" Do today's teachers have time to share jokes with children and play games in the classroom? Is story-time at the end of the day frowned upon because every 15 minutes should be dedicated to an objective? Is every fibre of every teacher's being now directed towards a formula-driven lesso? How much fun should children be allowed?

I recently read an article about how a primary school had raised its standards in numeracy by being part of a scheme. In this piece, the head praised the way the teachers had followed the model - he said they were enthusiastic about the prescriptive nature of the process, as it gave them the tools to do their work. I wondered if I was in the wrong job.

The activities children remember are the ones that excite, amuse, amaze and inspire them. As teachers, we have all delivered lessons that have left us drained because the children were so enthusiastic. Of course, these lessons should be planned, assessed against criteria and be led by skills and objectives. But, every now and again, wouldn't it be wonderful to be spontaneous?

I love to hear colleagues enthuse about lessons they have just taught and how the children really understood the concept. The profession is full of talented, creative people - that's why they came into teaching.

A team of inspectors once told a primary school that they must leave time for those "special moments in the day". They gave the example of how everything should stop "if a camel passes the window". Just before the inspectors left, a creative teacher made a cardboard camel on wheels and pulled it slowly past a classroom window. No one noticed. I think our deputy might have.

Val Woollven is head of St Andrew's Church of England primary, Plymouth

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