As a naïve PGCE student I was led into an ageing headmasters office. Nearing retirement he had clearly been reflecting on the purpose of schools when he started to tell us what he thought it was all about.
With mischief in his eyes he told us not to tell his staff, but what they did in the curriculum wasn’t that important. Every school delivers the curriculum; that’s not what makes school special, it’s not what childhood memories are made of. No-one will remember the worksheets you make or solving algebraic equations on a dreary Wednesday afternoon. What they remember is beating their rivals at rugby or football, playing in concerts, singing in the choir, celebrations, trips and school plays. That’s what makes childhood memories; that’s what makes school special.
Although I think the curriculum is important; I really bought into what he said about the extra that makes school special, that makes it a memorable time with a place in our hearts. I really believe we can add that special into other aspects of school too…
Giving students responsibilities gives them a purposeful part to play in the wider life of the school; our prefects help out at lunch time, attend school events, plan our leavers prom and collaborate in the design of the yearbook, act as ambassadors. Our celebrations are often hosted by our Head Boy and Head Girl, who do a fantastic job. These students leave with memories of playing a major role in their school and a feeling of great pride for their contributions.
There are fantastic opportunities to develop students as teachers and leaders too; get them to share their skills with staff. Projects like Digital Leaders are a wonderful way to enhance staff and create memorable moments. It doesn’t do any harm when they apply for university or jobs either.
Almost every school stops the timetable for students to have special activity days; whether with a specific curriculum focus or staff sharing their interests so that students get to experience new things, these days should be special to our students. I know it can be hard when you’re operating outside of your comfort zone, doing very different things with students to our normal classroom routine, but remember it’s worth it.
Real people coming into school is exciting; I know my students will remember when Andy Mouncey came in to share his Cracking the Spine project. It’s far more exciting to hear a World Record breaker talk about his own adventures than me doing an assembly on it.
Within the last year we’ve had people from the Universities, college students, a replica Lindisfarne Gospel, sporting legends, prison guards, police, local artists and many more. These people offer a different perspective on issues which students value and create memorable experiences.
Link to Blog on Andy’s project: http://www.pedagoo.org/running-based-learning-along-the-pennine-way/
I’m proud to say the young man who ran the whole 268 miles himself was one of ours.
It’s a small thing but those conversations you have with students on break and lunch duties mean a lot to them. When they look back on their school days do you want them to remember that the teachers cared about them and had time to talk to them?
I’m not suggesting your lessons become all style and no substance, that way madness lies. What I am suggesting is that from time to time when you’re planning a lesson, don’t just think about outcomes and activities, think about how you can make it a little special.
In our school we love to go big and creative. We have a Room X which is periodically transformed into a new themed learning environment; it’s currently the set of Lost, complete with sand, netting and a fake campfire. Sadly it doesn’t toast marshmallows.
Before that we were using Room X to investigate the Ripper murders in our Whitechapel set.
Outside we have our award winning replica WWI trench where hundreds of primary students have been guided through an immersive learning experience, complete with smoke, loud bangs and Bluetooth sound effects, by “Captain Henderson” (AKA @MrHumanities).
What big project could your school make happen? What could you be doing to make childhood special? I hear of so many creative projects to make school spaces special in primary; what ideas can we take from them?
I’m not saying forget about the curriculum; a good education changes lives and I assume that’s why many of us become teachers. I’m just suggesting that if we really think that schools should be special places, shouldn’t we be the ones doing stuff to make it that way?
If you’re doing special things in your school and you’re on Twitter please come to #PedagooFriday and share a little of your magic.
Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE