‘Olympics’ was my topic in a recent school workshop, and very Olympic it was, too! It bounced its way round the classrooms with Olympic resilience – well, it had to: it was a day of hurdles.
I’d throw the theme at a class of kids, they’d catch it, and between us we’d spin it about, send it up the walls and round the ceiling, keeping it high and dry while all sorts went on below. With a mix of muscle and magic, we’d leave it up there, too, hovering, for the next lesson, for next week, for next year…
Would the spark peter out, I wondered now and then. I feared for it as I feared for the Olympic flame (justifiably, as yesterday’s mishap in Devon proved!). No breeze in the classroom, but a tornado’s worth of other hazards…
There were the interruptions by youngsters from other classes, bearing messages, supermarket vouchers, my picture display from next door’s whiteboard, enquiries about a lost lunch box. Then there were the usual physical hurdles – the low-hanging art display, the fallen garments between tables, the tipping, leg-catching chairs, the wobbly towers of flotsam and jetsam on top of which my 32 poetry frame sheets were balanced – or once or twice, unbalanced. And behind all these, a continuous low murmur, like that of the sea, generated by the hushed talk of busy teachers at the back of the room.
Poetry, after all, is just one of 101 components of a school’s ticking heart – an invisible one… Although, actually, the kids could see it, and follow it too through thick and thin, and between us, we’d keep it afloat. Visible or not, it’s more durable than an Olympic flame!