If you want to develop new ideas, to be creative, you have to experiment. If you want to experiment, you have to be willing to make mistakes. Certainty is out and failure is in, because failure is what you learn from. It’s interesting that, at a time when we talk about the value of children learning from their mistakes, it is out of fashion to be experimental in the classroom. It feels like in the search for the ‘perfect answer’, mistakes have been banned along the way. Children are meant to make mistakes; teachers aren’t allowed to. On that note, and before I get all serious, here are my top five Grateist Misstaykes:
Coming in at No.5 is all the times I’ve lost my temper or said something a bit mean to a child or group of children. It’s not big, it’s not clever, and I’m not proud of it, but it can happen when you get annoyed. Lessons learned: control your emotions; just be kind.
At No.4 is letting kids loose with scissors and magazines to do a collage, in a large open drama studio space. Snip, snip, snip went the scissors. Tick, tick, tick, went the clock. When the bell went the kids scarpered. Lessons learned: leave more tidy up time than you think; no, you can’t go until the room is tidy.
No.3 was the time that I let the kids loose on ‘updating’ some Shakespeare into a modern dialect. I was green. They were London teenagers. The homework went a bit further than anticipated. Lessons learned: the clue is in the word ‘teenager’; shred the evidence.
Almost but not quite top at No.2 is every time I have laminated stuff and left it outside. Elmer treasure hunt. Set of wildlife signs. Lessons learned: rain always beats laminate; stop putting plastic things in nature.
But No.1 has to go to Flour Babies. It worked the first time round to give out bags of flour and tell the kids to look after them like they were their babies. Yes, one lad put his in his locker for a week and claimed it was ‘self-raising’, but mostly they thought about what it meant to have someone else relying on you. It was fun improvising scenarios around our babies (this was in the days when fun wasn’t banned). Carrying a bag of flour around for a week is a salutary lesson in what ‘having a baby’ means. You can’t look that up in a book. But when I tried it again, in an ‘easier’ school? Flour Baby Massacre. Lessons learned: everything doesn’t work with everyone; keep going back to the drawing board.