My ‘Why’

It’s been a while since I’ve sat and written anything here, because I have been very busy just being a teacher. I’m not yet at that “Teacher and also a real life person” stage yet, I don’t think. I’m getting there – I leave school at 5 whenever I can, and I try to have at least 1 day at the weekend that is for me. Sometimes I still feel guilty for that. But I am trying to make myself stop. A tired teacher is not a good teacher etc.

I do feel like I’m getting into the swing of it a little more recently. It’s a little unnerving because I am so used to having 5000 things to do and feel like they need doing RIGHT NOW. It’s also really nice to feel a little in control – knowing what can wait and what can’t. It does seem to come in peaks and troughs though – next week I’ll probably feel out of my depth again, just as I’ve got used to being so content. (For ‘probably’, read ‘definitely’ – I’m running my first trip next week!) So maybe I’ll pick the blog up a little more as that becomes a more regular thing…

Anyway, today I thought I’d write about something good that’s happened recently. The lovely @NQTBlogger101 wrote a post this week on her ‘Why’ moment . It was an absolute joy to read. I had a similar feeling this week and I wanted to bottle it up and remember it. So this is me doing just that…

I teach an Option Maths class in Year 10. That means a class of Year 10 kids that aren’t performing well enough to get a pass in Year 11, so they do extra maths in place of an option. Since Christmas, we’ve been doing something different with them to make sure they get all the GCSEs they deserve – we started teaching them foundation Statistics. As you can probably imagine, this set isn’t the easiest to teach. There are a number of behavioural issues, and there is a vast range of abilities in there. Every lesson is a challenge, and not always in a good way.

We started preparing them for the statistics coursework over the last week or so. We gave them a ‘mock’ scenario and we went through how to write a plan and carry out an analysis before beginning the real thing. It was a struggle. There are attendance issues that mean a lot of the class have huge gaps, so even asking them if the data was primary or secondary in some cases was a struggle.

For one boy, let’s call him R, this coursework seemed monumental. Even when he’s in the class he is distracted and immediately puts walls up, insisting that he ‘Can’t do it’ and ‘doesn’t understand anything’. We have a lot of behaviour issues as a result. I know this isn’t true – when I help him 1:1 he can answer my questions, but he struggles getting it on the page. The coursework element of this qualification is not ideal for him. I was expecting a fight this week. I was expecting him to insist he had no idea all week, and write about 10 words when confronted with the real scenario and asked to write a plan.

For the first part of the week, I was right. We gave them the task and asked them to prepare as we had for the ‘mock’ coursework. R had ‘never seen any of this in his life’ (he had). For 2 days this carried on.Then we played ‘Revision Pong’ to get them in the zone the day before writing their plans for real (this was an excellent activity, and a blog for another time!). He led the group, insisting that they weren’t just to play the game but ‘HAD TO’ answer the questions. It was a huge turnaround.

On Thursday, they started writing up plans. R was away with it. Tapping away at the keyboard, writing about primary and secondary data and how he was going to conduct his investigation. I was astounded at the change in attitude. At one point he said “I know you can’t really say much to us, Miss, but does this look OK?” I had to respond with “I’m sorry, I really can’t read it yet. But if you’re following the booklet that’s all you need to be doing.” Really, I wanted to say “YOU ARE DOING AMAZINGLY WELL – KEEP IT UP!”

He got some extra time to complete his plan on Friday (he was late on Thursday so had less time than some of the others). He then had a detention on Friday night (as I said, behaviour issues all around in that class) and came to ask me if my colleague had passed on his plan because he’d worked “really hard on it this afternoon”. I had seen it, and he had worked REALLY hard. I have a full A4 page plan, from a boy who has insisted he “knows nothing” for a whole term. I am so proud of him. So I told him so – that I’m proud of his change in attitude this week, and that I think he’s produced a good piece of work as a result. He beamed at me and said “I hope so, I really want to do well.”

He is my “Why” – the kid I have battles with daily, but pulls his socks up when it counts. The kid who acts like he doesn’t care and that it’s too hard for him, who pulls it together to produce a good piece of work. The kid that proves to himself, and to me, that he CAN do it.

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