I accidentally locked Jacey in the classroom this lunchtime. For 15 minutes, while I used the loo, located 10 working torches for a shadows experiment, queued to copy 30 activity sheets (for the aforementioned shadows experiment) and ate a cheese and pickle sandwich, I was in breach of safeguarding rules. To make matters worse, her mum is coming to tonight’s parent-teacher meeting.
Because I’m not sure how she will react to me falsely imprisoning her daughter, I decide to get the elephant (unlike Jacey) out of the room from the start. Fortunately, not long into my confession, it becomes apparent that Jacey’s mum finds the whole thing highly amusing and has absolutely no intention of suing me for gross negligence.
Parent-teacher consultations are always easier when there are positives to discuss and Jacey’s learning provides us with plenty of those. She is working at or above the expected level in most subjects, is making especially good progress in maths and science and is always well-behaved. In fact I can think of nothing negative to say about her.
Twist in the tale
It’s only at the end, when I ask Jacey’s mum if she has any concerns or worries that our discussion takes an unexpected twist. Recently Jacey told her mum that her favourite subject at school is art, which she thinks is odd because in the past Jacey always disliked art. In fact, not once in any of her school reports has the subject been singled out for praise.
If Jacey really likes art, why have very few examples of her work appeared on classroom walls? Why, to the best of her mum’s knowledge, has it never materialised on a corridor pin board? Why has Jacey never shown any interest in creative activities at home? Why did she donate (unopened) the rock painting kit her Auntie Zena bought her last Christmas to the School Summer Fayre in July?
Art is highly subjective and one person’s masterpiece is another person’s waste of canvas. Who is to decide whether Edvard Munch’s The Scream is a representation of a soul in existential crisis or a spaniel in a V-neck sweater? Jacey might not be good at "art" in the conventional sense, but she does have several 3D shapes and a beautifully drawn bar chart (representing the score probability when throwing two dice) on show in the maths corner.
Unveiling a masterpiece
On the subject of probability, I reckon Jacey’s new found love of "art" is most likely the result of me appointing her to the role of chief executive officer for the art cupboard. The reason I accidentally locked her in the classroom was because I forgot she was tidying it during lunchtime. When we eventually gaze upon her efforts a masterpiece is revealed.
The arrangement of paint tubs is structurally perfect. The formal layout of brushes (ranked according to size and bristle type) is a visual delight. The composition of palettes, balanced against juxtaposed columns of water pots, is a triumph of the aesthetic. "If that isn’t a work of art, I don’t know what is," I say.
"Mmm," says Jacey’s mum. "I might accidentally lock her in her bedroom this weekend."
Steve Eddison is a teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield