Archive for September, 2012


Tears of Twelve Year Old!

I was trying to have this blog as an aid to my teaching, however sometimes home life impacts on that and makes you realise that sometimes those skills I get from the home also make me a better teacher.

The first week of term had passed with the excitement and enthusiasm, as the twelve year old entered her second year of senior school, year 8 beckons with the excitement of the new timetable and shiny new pencil case and pens, and new mixed up classes, no more staying with the same tutor group and hopefully a wider circle of friends.

So it was with great surprise that week two started with a lot less keenness and sparkle. Early mornings were taking its toll on us both, as I struggled to get back in to the routine of planning, organising, and juggling a teenage son about to start college, a reluctant twelve year old plus my school stuff.

The week plowed on getting tougher as she got grumpier, but unwilling to talk about anything, with the ‘I’m fine’ followed by door slamming and loud music.

Finally Sunday arrived in a hurry and despite several attempts during the week to encourage the completion of homework it hadn’t been done and now was the time for the foot to come down. TV was turned off, Ipods unplugged and work was commenced.

As we completed the last of three pretty simple tasks, cups of tea were required so into the kitchen she disappeared, followed by number one son! What ensued could only be described as carnage.

Somehow a small disagreement escalated into something the size of the Afgan conflict, with much screaming, yelling and shoving, resulting in one torn pair of shorts, tears from both children and me, well I leave that to the imagination (all those parents out there know what I’m talking about).

Tea wasn’t brewed and two very tearful children decamped to their respective bedrooms to lick their wounds.

Evening meal passed without much conversation and bed time approached. So being calmer and more like a grown up now, I attempted to find out where this burst of anger and temper had come from but once again not much success. I knew like any parent does that this wasn’t normal behavior for what was my usually calm and lovely daughter.

After a further hour of quiet time, she finally came down to say good night, I explained that I loved her and what ever was bugging her she could tell me… at which point the tears started to flow not stopping for about 45 minutes, a little excessive I thought for a spat about a tea cup!

Now here’s the rub, what then transpired was the conversation that I had been trying to have all week. She was feeling she didn’t fit in, wasn’t being liked and was having a hard time of adjusting to year 8.

All this seems trivial to an adult who has seen many ups and downs but to a twelve year old this is BIG STUFF, the wrong shoes, (no high heels), not being allowed to wear make up like some of her friends, not getting her ear pierced for not one but the second time, has led to her feeling not part of the group. This is compounded by the school not having a uniform. Plus the fact that as I am a teacher she feels the other girls don’t like her.

I thought I had done a reasonable job of instilling in both of the children their sense of self and how labels etc don’t make the person, and supporting them in their achievements, celebrating the successes and enabling them to overcome the not so successful times.

However it seems the issue of peer pressure is huge and has a massive impact on these young less worldly girls. The need to fit in and be seen to meet the groups standards is as strong in our schools as ever and this is a cause for concern.

Where does it stop, not being skinny enough, smoking, not doing homework as it’s not cool, giving up on enthusiasm or striving to achieve your best, because your friends (so called) make fun of you, won’t talk to you, don’t invite you round.

I don’t know the answer, but as a parent it makes me look at some of the surly children in my classes that float by with a curt word or nod, or don’t want to be seen working or enjoying learning in a different light. Those that look around at the class, worried what others will think, seeking the groups approval to answer.

Maybe they are just trying to fit in.

The term had started the usual way and we are getting back into the groove, when the emails start with reminders of things we should, could or need to do. One of them was the reminder for our peer observations to be carried out by December so that we can qualify for our day off at the end of term.

I had managed to complete one last term with D&T, this was after my meeting with them where I spilled the beans on SOLO and the HoD thought it sounded like a good idea.

A second D ‘n ‘ T’er observed me at the end of last term as well,  as she was up for giving it a go in her workshop, which went well.

So the email arrived,  it was the Head of DT who was very interested in the concept but was sceptical as to whether the kids would grasp the vocab and understand what they needed to do help their learning.

So I agreed to another observation using SOLO but this time incorporated some KAGAN structures as we had had inset training on this at the beginning of term.

I am working with my middle set year 8’s who several, I had taught last year, so they were SOLOized already. After another introductory lesson using SOLO they were ready to expose themselves to the HoD to show how they could use the language

The lesson was on how we get food that we have digested into our cells. I had done the ‘Gums to Bums’ demo the lesson before and we had gone into some detail on how digestion worked, now we were linking in the circulatory system.

Several tasks were set and they progressed using the KAGAN structures recapping and deepening their understanding as we went.

Then I produced the text books for the Relational task. It was here that the HoD thought that it would all come to a grinding halt, however to his surprise the task wasn’t just answer the questions it was find the information.

However the pupils found this very difficult with cries of ‘which pages miss?’ and ‘what do I write’, etc. Once I had explained that I wasn’t going to tell them they had to do it themselves, the groups started to work collaboratively, helping each other to get the information for the task.

As per normal I had over planned the lesson so never got to use my prepared hexagons, so saved that for the follow up lesson.

The feedback I received was that I had not only proved my case as the pupils were able to explain where they were in their learning, but also how they got there and where they have to go.

He now wanted me to work as part of a CPD triad so that I could lead the development and support the D& T department in embedding this in their scheme of work.  We plan to monitor and evaluate the learning and progression of the groups we are using it with to inform the school of our work in our whole school CPD in the show case in May.

We are using the same year7 students as well, so hopefully we will get some cross correlation as to how well those one do compare to others that aren’t using SOLO.

I have since carried out a paired observation of HoD using SOLO and another member of the team wanting to use it. I was able to comment during the lesson on why and how he used some of the techniques and the reasoning behind it. So now DT number 3 will be having a go in some of her classes. But yet another observation will be required before she is confident to have a go.

This is all a bit overwhelming as what started out as an experiment in my classroom with the support of @LGolton, and inspiration from @Totallywired77, and the many English teachers on Twitter who regularly update about their successes with SOLO, has now expanded into an ongoing cross department project with a whole school CPD session to follow.

Not really sure how I got here but onwards and upwards I shall go, hopefully gaining a few supporters and interested parties along the way. But if not then at least I know I am doing all I can to ensure that progress and deeper, more independent learning is taking place in my little science lab in the corner of the Quad.