Monday, April 21, 2008

Let Kulture Kommence!

The Red Dragon has certainly been leading the way in my classroom today. My hapless pupils have started a week of helpless subjugation to my Culture Week Whims.

Their first taste of my chosen country was a sight of one of the two posters kindly sent by the Welsh Tourist Board at the instigation of Dianne. Bedecked with tricolour garlands the second poster on the door meant that the kids were already impressed when they were lining up to come into the classroom. Inside they were visibly shaken by the display of photos (mainly untimely ripped from a publicity magazine sent by the Tourist Board) and the piece de resistance of the giant flag sent by Dianne pinned behind my desk on the sun blind! Wales has certainly arrived in one small corner of Sitges!

The kids’ first cultural experience after the shock of the changed appearance of the classroom was to be launched unceremoniously into the maws of a dragon, even if it was only to be made of clay. I had determined on the production of clay dragons because ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time.’ My enthusiastic instructions about how to produce such a creature were far more confident sounding than my complete lack of experience in things clay would (or indeed should) suggest. Based on the na├»ve assumption that a clay dragon was little more than a central blob with four leg blobs, a stumpy neck blob supporting a blob of a head with two ear shapes stuck on the body blob I proceeded with carefree abandon.

Let no one tell you that modelling in clay is easy: they lie! It was however good fun and, apart from the near hysteria that characterised rampant creativity in a (normal) timetable free week, we managed to create a number of stumpy creatures of varying convincingness. My own efforts look like a good effort from a reasonably intelligent seven year old, so I am more than pleased!

The traditional colouring in of the national flag was given an added twist by a previous colleagues work with younger kids who encouraged them to produce some hallucinogenic colour combinations for erstwhile boring fruit. I have followed his lead and allowed the kids full use of a recently discovered box of felt colours to make their versions of the Welsh flag as bright and unexpected as possible. I propose by the end of the week to have some 60 or 70 versions of the flag all sellotaped together in a sort of tapestry. Already we have had to deal with kids who find it virtually impossible to follow the simplest of rules and when asked to cut around the black line which outlines the flat to be coloured they find this too complex to follow and cut at random and are amazed when I question their understanding! In spite of this the ‘tapestry’ continues to develop. I think, at a distance, it will look quite impressive. At a distance!

The kids have also drawn pictures of Castell Coch from a series of photographs that I gave them.

I have always assumed that a group of teachers was the worst possible manifestation of The Questioning Syndrome. Anything, absolutely anything which is put to a group of teachers will immediately elicit a barrage of questions. It makes no difference if the group of teachers actually knows anything of the subject being discussed, the questions keep coming. Teachers, of course, never listen when they are being told something. Spending their lives telling others things they sometimes (always?) find it difficult to listen. Who was it said that the definition of an actor is a person who, if you are not talking about him, he is not listening. It doesn’t quite fit teachers, but some version of it would be apposite.

This simple drawing task ensured that every member of the class came up to me and asked about something. I have never made so many instant artistic judgments and made compelling suggestions which ensured that the pupils continue working on their mini masterpieces until the end of their allotted time!

Probably the most satisfying part of the day was given over to ‘Traditional Games.’ Whose traditions we were following was never made clear but when presented with a variety of low cost (remember what sort of school I am in) games, I instantly pounced on apple bobbing as the one which I would like to supervise.

The apples could be provided by the school and this, in itself was a clear inducement to drain at least some money from the grasping hands of The Owner.

The enthusiasm of the kids was wonderful to see as they realised that gentle nuzzling of the apples would produce no result whatsoever and they would have to commit themselves to a proper dunking to get the fruit.

Apart from a few intelligent spoilsports the rest of the kids entered into the spirit of the thing with gusto and were soon soaking wet. If the bobbing (which took place outside) had been in Wales then all the kids would probably have been decimated by pneumonia in short time, but here in the gentler climate of Catalonia a few minutes of frenetic skipping around soon restored acceptable dryness.

No day would be normal in our school without the necessary bitter chaos which is the normal currency of our daily life.

The Owner was furious to discover that normal timetable had been suspended for the ‘cultural’ activities of her imposed ‘cultural’ week. In spite of the fact that this had been discussed, minuted and passed to the ‘higher authorities’ (i.e. The Owner) the actuality was, of course, a shock and was roundly condemned, in spite of the fact that she (her) The Owner had already said that it was a good idea. Yet again normal logic falls before the magic realism of our school!

The weekly meeting after school also produced the usual spiteful unhelpfulness that characterises any attempt by the teaching staff to do their jobs. So nothing new there then!

The attitude of the teaching staff was semi humorously summed up by one of my colleagues who after the meeting responded to a question from me by saying, “I’m sorry but my brain has been disengaged for the meeting, I’m only just back on line: Good evening!”

Yet again, as it does so often at present, Goya’s wonderful engraving, ‘The sleep of reason produces monsters’ comes to mind.

Tomorrow, love spoons.

And normality of course!
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