Being a teacher can be grim at times, what with Gove on your shoulder like a Medieval gargoyle, demanding a return to Victorian teaching, pressure mounting to get kids through GCSE (whilst Ofqual move the goalposts, making it increasingly tough to pass), the British press vilifying you for standing up against the pensions cull and Ofsted telling you you’re crap. It can be a mare of a job. Yet it can also be inspiring.
Ironically, the best, most creative teaching moments I have are often after school, when the pressure is off and, with my Creative Writing club, I can, well, be creative. No exam criteria, no four-part lesson, no assessment for learning, no Ofsted judgement, just kids wanting to be creative, tell stories and be, well, kids.
At the end of a gruelling week, a few nasty incidents with kids kicking off and stacks of assessments to plough through, I hauled myself out of the staff room to the writing club I’d promised a handful of kids I’d set up. They were keen. I wasn’t. They were full of beans. I was shattered. But half an hour later I was infected with enthusiasm.
We picked a random word from a book. Literally closed our eyes and picked out a word. It happened to be the word ‘perhaps’. That was going to be the basis for our next piece of creative writing. So we set to discussing the word ‘perhaps’. Within ten minutes we had a list of possibilities. By letting go of the rules, the kids opened a door to their imaginations. If only I could let go of Ofsted, Ofqual and the other organisations that wrap up teaching in assessment criteria, exams, progress indicators, admin nonsense and haul the whole profession away from creativity, dragging kids through hoops, making us teach them how to pass exams not teaching them how to think, how to unlock their creativity.
This is what a few kids, in ten minutes, dared me to believe:
1. Perhaps giants exist.
2. Perhaps books are reading us, not the other way around.
3. Perhaps our ancestors found modern things, but kept them secret.
4. Perhaps the world is a tiny particle of someone’s head.
5. Perhaps there is a city hidden in the middle of a cloud.
6. Perhaps there is a city at the bottom of the sea.
7. Perhaps we are all the children of Greek gods.
8. Perhaps there is a heart at the centre of the Earth.
9. Perhaps houses move at night.
10. Perhaps filing cabinets eat paper and teachers.
11. Perhaps you can travel outside of the universe.
12. Perhaps we all have hidden powers but have just forgotten how to use them.