Back to Basics

We are nearly at the half way mark of the year and I am taking time to reflect on my 9B4 group.

I returned after Christmas with renewed optimism and hopefulness that this term would be brilliant. They had achieved and moved forward so much in the last half of the Christmas term and I was buoyed by the better relationships I was building with this group.

I actually looked forward to seeing them again! (How naive was I).

The group that arrived on that first lesson were smaller, the EAL lad had moved schools as his parents had moved out of the area. The major non-attender had apparently been accepted into alternative provision, and the one who was often the instigator but never got caught, had moved ‘up North’ to live with his dad (or so the gossip mongers in the class were happy to tell me.)  Finally, the ‘if I sit here and don’t make any noise nobody will notice that I haven’t done anything girl’ had also moved schools due to parent relocating. So down to 12! Brilliant size for individual attention and learning support for each student.

Great I thought, a smaller group who I could really get to focus with and move forward with, building on all that great work from last year.  I can see you all with your heads in your hands as those of you more experienced can see what is coming.

As we have a mid year exam coming up and I had to make sure I had covered all the exam content, (don’t shout at me) I thought I would set a quiz that would give me a base line for what they did or did not know about the last couple of topics I had to cover to ensure they were prepared for this test.

So with a happy heart, off I went. Only to be confronted by the same recalcitrant, belligerent,  obnoxious  group of students I had met the first week of the school year. Where had they gone?  Even the amazing young man who had been my shining star was back to the loud and disruptive person he was before.

Crisis, what do I do? So ‘Back to Basics’ it became.  New seating plan, enforcing the school code, pupils sent out, pupils on report and general disarray again, with a ‘them’ and ‘me’ attitude. With one pupil every lesson entering with “I ain’t doing nuffing, and you can’t make me”. ” I ain’t movin’, I hate you and science”.

What to do?!

I have no choice. I have to cover the material, otherwise I will be allowing them go into an exam and not be prepared. This will lead to even more sense of failure, and crucify any further hope of getting them onside as they will undoubtedly blame me for not teaching them the content.

So the topic of ‘Space’ –  here we go…….lift off……but using ICT, (lessons to bunk off in?!) Not on my watch. They were given clear criteria to meet in their investigations, and what was needed in their presentations.

Experiments were conducted on ‘mass vs weight’, ‘gravity around the world’, etc. Talks ensued about why Satellites don’t fall out of the sky, and about the first animal in space and they were quizzing me as to whether or not this was right?!.  Phew they are working. The sillier ones are still struggling with focus and disrupting the group. The hole in the ear ‘I ain’t doing nuffing’, is still in her zone of self-destruction, but I am applying sanctions and letting the powers that be deal with her. As frustrating as it is, it results in her being removed and getting her own way. But I can’t let her keep disrupting the others. I praise the ones that are focused and asking questions.

The presentations (if you could call them that) were this Friday, and overall, they were interesting, focused and met the criteria. But how difficult is it for children to realise that copy and paste, followed by reading the PowerPoint is not making a presentation? In my ‘Back to Basics’ methods I have evaluated this and begun to think about showing and sharing how to create and make different types of ‘presentations’ as this is a skill they also need to learn and develop.

The exam is next week and I have covered all the topics needed. It such a shame to think that the sole purpose of my teaching is to prepare pupils for an exam so that some data analyst can assess the success of this group against some arbitrary level that was set over three years ago. Is this what teaching is all about? – I don’t think so!

Isn’t learning about and exploring new information, discovering interesting facts, using that information some way to enhance and deepen your understanding of the world in which we live in the biggest lesson? Surely not just passing some exam!

Where do I go from here? Well I have to go ‘Back to Basics’ and start again, try to find another way to teach the rest of this terms topics so they find their interest and relevance, but balance this with the need for them to pass the end of year exam with some credibility so we can make decisions based on data about their groups and sets for Key stage 4. As an evaluative teacher always reflecting on my own practice, I am capable of doing this. Without an exam mark the students will feel as if they have failed (which isn’t a good motivational tool of any sort) and they will blame me and hence the feeling of ‘just not quite making it’, will be a blow for us all.

Inspiration, patience, strength, passion, belief, determination, all the key words I would use with my students I now choose to use on my own teaching.  Quietly I say to myself, ‘Don’t fail me now guys, as we have a long road ahead of us, but we will travel it and we WILL get there.

I won’t stop believing in them and hope that they start believing in me.