It’s the first week of the Christmas Holidays and I have successfully completed my first term at school. What an adventure – there have been good days and bad days, headaches, laughter, tears and new friends. One of the most surprising (and yet most rewarding) aspects of teaching is the continual learning. Everyday I learn the wit and charm of children, the ease with which words can hurt, the powerful incentive which is football, the complexities of friendships when you’re eight and the daily joy which teaching brings.
One of the biggest learning curves this term has brought has been on the playground. When I was at school we had a large grass playground with a jungle gym and a hill and plenty of space to sit or run around or play catch. We spent hours every week being outside, enjoying the sunshine, embracing nature and entertaining ourselves. At my current school the playground is not much larger than half a football pitch and is covered in a soft tarmac type substance – no grass. There is one very large tree with a multitude of balls stuck in its branches and a couple of benches. There is a chalk board and a mini football pitch (complete with goal post) and every break time we cart out a big box of balls, yo-yos, hula hoops, pompoms, beanbags and the like. There is a daily tussle over who gets the correct ball for champ or patball or catch… A pre-arranged schedule prevents the same happening with the spongy blue football. There are battles over whether girls and boys can play together or need separate balls, clashes between different year groups not wanting to share and a constant stream of children being sent to “the wall” (the playground version of time out).
The playground changes each darling (heh) child into a professional athlete, not willing to take an ‘out’ without a stomp and a kick and a shout and, occasionally, a swing at whoever is closest. The bottom line is that most of these games require a supervising adult to act as referee – this is particularly difficult if, like me, the adult is not familiar with the rules of the game. Whilst in the classroom I am the unquestioned authority on every topic from maths to science to literacy; but, on the playground I am not an authority and I am not unquestioned.
It’s difficult learning the rules whilst pretending to know what you are doing and I’m often called out on some questionable decisions. However, sometimes the best way to learn is to do and I have enjoyed the countless hours of football, champ, patball and catch with the kids even when I out looking like the fool!
May 2013 bring even more lessons my way and yours.