Wednesday, 7 March 2012

An extrordinary school day.

The look on their faces as they stepped through my classroom door on Monday morning reminded me of why I trained to be a teacher. The group I was working with were quite familiar with my room - but Monday was no ordinary day. As the children reached my door (flanked by two potted rosemary bushes and along a star lined corridor) they began to slow down and seemed to move in slow motion. I was aiming for a multi-sensory experience and air was perfumed with lavender and my hyacinth bulbs that had just come into bloom. This mix made a sweet, slightly unfamiliar  perfume and the air was filled with bird song (from  a CD of the dawn chorus). The usually busy notice boards had been covered in white sheets and the busy shelving had also been draped with plants and unusual fabric. Each work table had a dish of tea lights which were battery operated ( the children soon associated this with turning on and off their creative light) and the blinds were half down. That two minutes of stunned amazement was brilliant!
The children knew it was no ordinary day as the whole school was going to be writing ......all day! This was the first time my present school had tackled a 'creative writing day'. Our stimulus for this day was the book 'Once Upon An Ordinary School Day' by Colin McNaughton and Satoshi Kitamura 
It is a wonderfully creative book which allowed us to explore what 'ordinary' and 'extraordinary' might mean. One day the ordinary boy who had a very ordinary life, was encouraged to draw pictures as an unusual new teacher played music to his class. But our children didn't know that, we only read to the point where 'something out of the ordinary happened'.  That was where their imagination was allowed to take off. Each year group explored the story in their own way. Even some of the teaching staff started the day in dark clothing and gradually became more and more extraordinary as the day progressed, either by adding brighter colours bit by bit or turning into a pirate! I started with one red and one black shoe which puzzled the children when they noticed! Brighter colours came later.
When writing was finished, the children heard the rest of the story and one class danced to the music, having dipped their feet in paint. (full marks to a courageous member of staff). This class now has a wonderful backdrop for their notice board.
Stories were written and pictures created. There was definitely a buzz about the place. I love this sort of teaching and having had some inspiring primary teachers myself, I know it is what drew me into teaching.  Now I do more individual teaching and I do miss these classroom opportunities. The first time for a new venture is always challenging but I hope we do it again. And I was so pleased when the children in my group told me how much they had enjoyed it  - and also a mother who said that their child had come home buzzing. 
This is what education should be about - lighting a few fires!


  1. Hello Harriet:
    Oh that this extraordinary day could become rather more ordinary in its appearance within classrooms across the land. Too often teaching in particular and Life in general seems restricted by set boundaries or conventions. How wonderfully liberating it is to throw caution to the wind and let imaginations fly....even if only for one day!

  2. Hello Jane and Lance,
    How I agree with you - and it was not only liberating but!

  3. A super activity that the children will always remember. That's what learning is all about.

  4. Brilliant, Harriet! What a wonderful boost for creativity!I wish there was more of this attitude in schools.
    This was a most uplifting post - thank you!

  5. I can just imagine how that day will be instilled in the minds of the children [and teachers] for ever! Creativity and learning should be fun.
    Wish I were there!

  6. What a fantastic idea, Harriet! No wonder the children were buzzing. I bet the teachers were too, as it must be so rewarding to see your pupils totally absorbed and being truly creative.

  7. I can't claim credit for the day - it was very much a collaborative effort ( I had run a creative day at a previous school). Our day was the result of a shared conversation and the combined efforts of experienced teachers, an organised English coordinated, a gem of an idea from a course and lots of guts and enthusiasm!