Bristol Nursery School, midmorning. The visual artist, Maria, has been offered two days work in the school and has persuaded the management of the school to ‘go off timetable’ and to let teachers ‘follow the children’s’ desires’ during her residency there – although the regular ‘tidy times’ and lunch time remain in the timetable. Within an hour, one teachers temper frays about being left on her own in her own area. There are usually six areas each with a designated member of staff and those boundaries are melted down today – apart from the timetable, structure, the space is a lot more fluid / chaotic. Adults are ‘following what the children want to do’ – the adults have been excused from their responsibility here, and have been denied an identity almost. The walls are as noisy as ever but less imposing – all the focus is being drawn to the kids activities.
Some young wag threw a bean bag at me in the playground which reminded me of a visit to Hindley Prison some years ago and temporarily I felt a bit unsafe, a bit dodgy. A bit iffy. The staff room is chockablock with loads of stuff packed on to chairs, tables, feels vaguely disturbing, a bit like a bad dream. Even Maria is spotting the limits with one of the children who is insisting on taking more clay from the bag with a spoon:
Femi ‘More more more!’
Maria ‘ Use what you’ve got Femi! You’ll have someone’s eye out. Be careful.’
A couple of girls are wandering in and out of the bathroom, scissors in hand – this feels a tad dangerous and I’m thinking about the consequences of one of them coming out with scissors sticking out of their head. A few teachers wander around the classroom aimlessly with cameras in hand, tourists in their own land. Following the children’s desires never felt less desireable.