I remember with fondness Calvin and Hobbes, my Mum has always been a Daily Express reader and this was the cartoon I would read in the morning when I was at home doing my A levels, I liked the idea of a little boy and his imaginary friend, who he would get into exciting adventures with. Although these often turned out to be scrapes and he ended up in trouble.
Yet looking at the images now from an adult perspective, Calvin is a lonely chap, who has no friends and relies on his imaginary playmate to keep him company as the adults in his world seem oblivious to his incredible imagination.
Rachel @rlj1981 challenged me to this #blimage and I had to think about this for a week or so; While I commenced operation house deep clean this image floated around. Two options sprang to mind.
The Blank Page. Version 1
I think the prospect of a blank white piece of A4 is scary for many of us as adults, I am a sporadic blogger, with a small number of readers. I worry about my grammar, punctuation, whether what I have to say is relevant, waffle or just the ramblings of a crazy woman, will people read, do I want people to read?
Those first few words are hard to get down, I need a prompt, a stimulus, a nudge, encouragement, someone to show me the way. But then as so often once I start, the words flow, momentum starts and my confidence grows and I fill the page and more often than not, sometimes its ramblings and I need editing, especially when it’s educationally based and I’m trying to make a point.
So if this is how I feel, how do my students feel? when faced with that blank, white sheet of A4, and told to answer that 6 mark question, pull, together all your knowledge on a topic, use your connectives, account for all the marks, make it make sense, check your spelling and punctuation, show the examiner that you understand, it all counts.
NO PRESSURE, plus you only have about 10 minutes to do this.
Oh and by the way no allowance for the fact that your dyslexic and that you can’t access the vocabulary because there is so much to read, and you’re not that quick a reader, so that means that you don’t understand what the question is asking you in the first place.
All they see is the blank page.
Is it any wonder so many of the students leave this question searching for those they can answer on the exam and come back to it in the last minutes of the exam and scribble something down at the end hoping that it will do.
It’s times like this when I watch these pupils struggling. Questioning what is the point of this? That I want to be Hobbes, throw my arms around them, cuddle them, tell them to ‘snap out of it,’ and allow them to walk away, because in the real world they won’t have to do it from memory and face a blank page, they will have resources to help, people to guide them, exemplars, work colleagues they can turn to when the report is due and their not sure what to do next, spell checkers, grammar checkers, editors. They won’t be faced with the blank piece of A4 ALL ALONE.
What do I say to them to make it better, how do we help them?
The Blank Page Version 2
This version is a slightly more upbeat version, this is where I was looking at the new year about to begin, I am going to be a Year 7 tutor with an interesting tutor group, with a mix of new students about to start their journey through secondary school and now they are blank pages waiting for us to cover them in knowledge that we feel they need to know.
Or are they?
They all will come with knowledge and baggage and I look at Hobbes, their imaginary friend as their baggage.
They’ve already been in the school community for 6 years, some have been in nursery before that, they’ve worked out that there is a group of kids who are smarter!! than them, cooler, sportier, sing better, get the lead roles in the plays, get picked first for everything, are the loud ones, the naughty ones, the bullies, the shy ones, the funny ones, the jokers, the computer nerds, the slightly odd ones, the pretty girls, the jocks, the list is endless. This isn’t the groupings that we give them, this is the grouping they give themselves, we haven’t even started with our groupings, the X band the Y band, A1 or B5, Higher or Foundation, GCSE or Btec, Triple or Double, those on the SEND register and the Higher Achievers, the middle ability boys, the pupils premium, the looked after pupils, the lists are endless.
How do we make sure that this year 7 is a blank page a clean start, a fresh go? Now is a time to redefine themselves, if they were the naughty boy, it’s time to ‘snap out of it’ reinvent themselves. Try something exciting, be different. If they really want that lead role, go for it, get up there, ignore the fear, sing like you’ve never sung before, who knows what will happen.
This is my chance to help these blank sheets of pupils find their Calvin Superhero – Stupendous Man
I want them to take their blank page and rewrite their own story, leaving behind the baggage of primary school, not leaving behind their imaginary friend but changing him into their new improved self. To support them on their incredible adventure towards adulthood, without the labels, that they and we are so quick to give them, they are all unique and special in each and every way and I as their tutor need to remind them every day of this so that they remember.
That this is their chance to clean the slate, start afresh where nobody need know what went before and there is only forward not just on their first day, but every day they come to school.
So there you have it, Look for the #Blimage see the image and write yours.