Staff Sketchbook Circle - Katherine Knowles, Our Lady's Catholic College

I have been a member of the TEA sketchbook circle from the start and thoroughly enjoy the challenge it brings in terms of making me make time for my own practice and pushing me out of my comfort zone in terms of responding to other people's work, who may work in a very different way.

I have wondered about starting a staff circle at school for a couple of years but kept putting it off thinking I'd get responses such as 'I don't have time' or 'I can't draw'! Towards the end of the summer term 2015 some comments on a staff well-being survey prompted me to give it a go - thinking it might just be 'different' enough for people to be willing to try.   I e-mailed staff, explaining the concept and offered them the chance to see my TEA books. I was quite overwhelmed when 48 (over half) the staff signed up. The Headteacher agreed to pay for A5 sketchbooks for everyone and I put together welcome packs consisting of instructions of how the circle works, ideas for starting points and a little pack of collage materials etc. I also decided to make the circle anonymous, to eliminate any feelings of being under pressure or intimidated as unlike the TEA circle all the participants know each other. The books are all numbered and staff swop books by placing them in a box in the staffroom in a given week and know which number to take.

The circle is working well. There have been a few 'hiccups'! Three people have dropped out as they found it too stressful - the opposite of what it was meant to be and I have had to increase the time people have books from a month to half a term. There has also been a little chasing on my behalf as books are 'missing' from the box each half term! However each half term when I have a peak in the box I am overwhelmed by the talent and creativity. Some people have also (correctly) guessed their partners which is interesting. I am planning a 'Sketchbook Showcase' towards the end of the summer term at lunchtime in the staffroom with Tea and Cake! I am planning on starting a new circle in September.