This a cheap framed photograph that I bought years ago and have hanging in my classroom. It makes a statement about teamwork which is one of the dynamics of a classroom.
Many years ago when I was quite young I remember seeing a variety TV programme. One of the acts was a man who spun plates on the top of tall thin poles. He would spin one plate and then start another. By the time he got to about the 8th plate he was having to run back to the first plate which was getting a bit wobbly and threatening to crash to the floor. By the time he got to number 12 it seemed almost an impossibility - he was running about like a blue arsed fly as the saying goes, trying as hard as he could to keep the whole show on the road. As a young child in a large family of about 6 children (soon to be 8) I couldn't for the life of me figure out why the man just didn't ask someone to help him spin the plates - that would be a good idea I thought, and make it so much easier. Of course the variety show is about skill not about logic.
In a few days time I will have a new class of children. They will be bright eyed and bushy tailed as the saying goes and ready to learn. It is a good school where I work with relatively few social problems and the children generally bring good will and a desire to learn to school each day in their schoolbags.
So - We will talk about this photograph of the sky divers and I will explain to them all about the plates (leaving out the bit about the blue arsed fly) and talk about teamwork, and helping and monitors and helpers and volunteering etc. I will try and ice this cake of strategies during the year with positive reinforcement, reward systems, stamps and stickers and certificates and all the other systems and ideas that teachers use to make things run smoothly. Of course moi is not a perfect human being and neither are children so from time to time every thing will break down and there will be problems but generally the target is teamwork and the creation of a learning environment within the classroom.
Classrooms are microcosms of the larger world and contain within them what is known as the hidden curriculum. Many parents think that schools are or should be solely about the delivery of the official curriculum but the reality is that a huge amount of social and interpersonal learning goes on as well. The variables in this learning are egos, personal needs, individual behavioural expectations, personal spaces, personal boundaries, rights and responsibilities etc, etc, etc, etc... It is the interpersonal relationship of two writ large in a class of 25 or more. Sometimes everything works like a a well oiled machine, sometimes it explodes like a can of paint that has been hit with a sledge hammer, but most of the time it is somewhere in between these two extremes.
And as for myself as the teacher and leader in the room who will be struggling from time to time with my own set of 25 to 30 plates whirling endlessly on the tops of tall thin poles - I will remember that it is not a one dimensional act of skill like the old variety show on the black and white TV. My work is necessarily about skill just like the plate spinner. But it is bigger than that. It is also about logic, knowledge, humanity, behavioural management, inspiration, creativity, social work and much more. In fact it is a real balancing act - a year long variety show in four one term acts.