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What do they mean?

This idea was enthusiastically taken up here at St Jude's, as we assumed it would be something akin to brain surgery, only with compasses. The head put us right on this, but we still took some time getting the woodwork teacher to put down his hacksaw, and even then his manic grin took several hours to fade.

On the face of it, mind mapping is a gentle pastime and, as it involves drawing on unlined paper and using lots of coloured pencils, one ideally suited to our pupils. It's simple, we explained to them. You have to write an essay on, say, brain surgery. You write Brain Surgery in a circle in the middle of the paper, and then draw lots of other circles and boxes off it with all the ideas it leads you to, which you can colour in. Then you join them all together and: there's your essay! (I simplify, but this is St Jude's we're talking about.) Unfortunately, as our pupils immediately spotted, you can apply this to just about anything. In no time, mind mapping was the only game in school. During the breaks, over lunch, children lurked in corners, furiously mapping, looking round, mapping, looking round... and they never smiled. Two of our cleaners found some of the maps. The survivor was last seen seeking asylum in Mali. Ominous patterns began to emerge. Rival gangs started producing their own maps, with branches and arrows leading to places even Stephen King doesn't know about. Maps were found on the walls in the basement, coloured red. There was talk of chicken feathers. Even then there were those who saw all this as creativity and self-discovery. During an inspection the children were superhumanly well-behaved, and it was not till much later that we found an inspector's briefcase in the cemetery with a stake through it (although this could have been done by a member of staff). Only when the riots started, and the flames from burning buildings threw a hellish glow into the night sky, did we realise that these were minds not meant to be mapped.

There were dragons everywhere, and we had released them. Still, at least they'll hit the ground running when we do Lord of the Flies next term.

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