Category: Interventions


“The time has come” the Walrus said ….

 

As I head into the weekend thoughts of school now are raging in my head and I’m looking at the time table and realising that the next two weeks will be given over for my year 10s and 11s for revision in preparation for their mocks.

Part of me struggles with the concept of dedicating learning time to revision but then the other part of me says ” if I don’t do this will I be disadvantaging the students in my class?”

In the dark ages when I was a pupil in a very strict all girls Catholic school run by the nuns with steel ruler; it was expected that revision was done in our own time. We were supported with creating revision timetables and suggestions on how best to revise but that was the extent of it.

It was assumed that we were motivated and knew the importance of revision to ensure our success in our ‘O levels’ at the end of the year. When tests or exams were given, there was no two weeks notice, we were given a day or two to prepare, with the expectation that we wouldn’t need that much time as we were continually revising.

As a student I remember my teachers stressing the importance of independent revision, reading around topics and generally expanding our understanding of the topics we were covering. While all the while keeping our eye on the prize of ultimately achieving good grades to take us to the final step of university entry. Often to the exclusion of discussion of other opportunities or avenues to follow after school.

As a teacher now, I hear myself extolling the virtues of independence and intrinsic motivation and the importance of continued revision. I stress that the more you revisit a topic the stronger the synapses become and the more chance you are of transferring that knowledge into your long term memory. However sadly, this advice is falling on deaf ears. With faces looking blankly at me wondering why this will be an issue.

I tested my theory like all good scientists do, with running a trial, after teaching three modules in a unit, the school policy is to test; so the first time I gave them notice of the impending test, spent a lesson doing revision and then delivered the test. No moans or complaints they were ready and happy to take the test. All doing OK as things go.

Did the same for the next three modules with constant reminders to revise and its importance. Lesson given over to revision again eating into vital learning and teaching time. But date of the test not given out. A few days later gave the test without warning, and you’d have thought I’d asked the class to donate their kidneys. Much moaning you didn’t tell us etc, After the complaining had finished I reminded them, of the procedures, they’d been following for the last year and a term and this should be no surprise as we did the revision lesson so that was a clue! Again all being equal not bad. Some better than others though this time.

Finally reached the end of the unit with the inclusion of the last two modules and I told them to revise ready for end of module test which unbeknownst to them I would give on the Wednesday before end of term. This I did…. well the rumpus that was created on delivery of the test was even worse than before. Plus the results weren’t that brilliant with some apologising saying they weren’t prepared, didn’t have enough time etc.

So does this mean all my advice, warnings and routines are falling on deaf ears? Am I not making my self clear in my expectations, or do these kids really expect me to do the revision for them?

So with that in mind knowing that they aren’t revising on a regular basis, and the school worried about the results. I am forced in to the position of giving up teaching time to revision.

Is this to cover my back to make sure that the mocks reflect a true picture of the ability of the pupils? Is it to ensure that my data looks good for the me and the department especially as we are under intense scrutiny? Or is it because we have got so wrapped up in the fear culture of accountability we can’t let the pupils fail?

Hence, the upshot is I am scheduled for a two hour after school session for revision in the lead up to the mocks. This session I know will be attended by the more conscientious students, the ones who have been revising already through their holidays. Plus it will be the ones who feel that by turning up they are revising (not necessarily taking part but can say they were there) and that is enough for them. But, the ones who for no fault of their own, be it home circumstances, lack of quiet space, availability of IT, or the demands of caring for others don’t get to do their revision will miss out .

Therefore I will hand over numerous lessons where I will have to find ever more inventive and exciting ways to encourage students to revisit the material, to make sure I have given every student the same opportunity to revise. Also because everyone in the department is doing this, I feel I have to do it otherwise I’m letting the side down. I’m putting these students at a disadvantage.

This is the rub, I feel that in my lessons, students are all given the opportunity to succeed and thrive, I teach slowly so that they gain depth of understanding, not racing so that I have plenty of revision time. I provide opportunities for them to speak to me if they are struggling with concepts, have specified drop in times at lunch time where they know I will be in my room. But do they come? No.

Therefore when do we step back and say enough guys, it’s your turn now. Take responsibility for your own destiny, achievements, life and just get on with it or is our role to make sure that they never feel that sense of failure.

I worry that without they will never understand the feeling of true success of never giving up, trying again, and that feeling that you did all you could do no matter what the grade.

So the time has come… Revision it is……

Last term we held an intervention evening for the year 11 students, who we thought as a school were in the ‘danger zone’.

 

You know the ones, the quiet kids, who are below their target grade because they don’t know how or are too scared to ask for help.

The noisy bumptious ones who can’t sit still and be quiet so never complete the lesson work, forget their homework, but  are good to have in a class because they aren’t afraid to speak up, share an idea, ask a question.

Then there are ‘those’ kids, the ones whose name is always mentioned at staff briefing and have been since year 7, always  get the blue slips to see the pastoral team, or the white slips for the lunch time detentions. They are late every lesson and walk in like its a badge of honor with the retort ‘I was with miss!’ No apology, no explanation.

We sent out letters for the parents to book appointments with the teachers who have concerns, and we all mustered at our various tables,evidence of infractions, books identified,  battle plans prepared for what needs to be done to improve, war was to commence.

The parents arrived one by one, looking worried, concerned, each 5 minute appointment became 15. Some parents I’d not seen at a parents evening before but had spoken to them on the phone numerous times before.

Some were ready for the war, to lay all the blame at the schools door, ‘you haven’t done enough to support my child with their English’, ‘I’ve asked for help but no one has come back to me.’  ‘What are you going to do between now and the exam to make sure my child achieves?’  These are the parents whose child doesn’t speak up, sits quietly, wishing they’d stop talking, as they know that we are doing every we can to help them, but actually they need to ask more, do more in lessons.

Next are the parents who come in knowing that no matter what their child has done, if only we understood them more, had more time, gave them more resources they’d do better. They are waiting for the school to do all the work.

Finally there are the parents who have spent more time in school since they left school, then they ever did when they were supposed to be there. They sit there apologizing to me for the behavior, attitude, but ‘there are issues!’ They are pleading with their child to realize their mistakes before it’s too late, willing them to do better, not repeat their mistakes or those of others they knew.

Explaining that they are at war with their children. They don’t listen to them, don’t respect them, are drinking, possibly doing drugs, on their gadgets for endless hours and when they aren’t they are out late when they should be revising. Their child sits there, slumped in the chair, sullen, refusing to make eye contact, not caring whether they are causing their parents pain, worry. Not wanting to be in school because ‘it’s boring’.

They are looking to me to provide the answer, not to give up on their child, because they need to believe that I care and that somehow I can get through to them. Make them see that education is the key to a bright future. It isn’t about the grades at this stage. It’s about relationships, understanding and making it through to the end. Surviving the dog fights, to prove that they are capable and worth something more.

I help by giving them the strategies to help with revision, the apps that might engage them, the revision sites that tell them everything they need to know to make it to the end. Parents thank me, leave with their heads low and furrowed brows, waiting for the next battle when they get home.

As the teacher I sat through this evening listening, understanding, reassuring  these parents. But, I was struggling with my own situation.

For some of  you, you are aware that I have a son ‘with issues’ and this year,  more so than others these issues have caused us not only to enter the ‘danger zone’ but be living in it continually.

I look at my now 18 year old son, who, for reasons to many to share has disengaged with education, family and society to some part. Which has led me to be ‘That’ parent, looking to the college to provide answers, support, guidance on what I can do to help, change or prevent total melt down.

But we are only human, both as parents and teachers, sometimes there is nothing more we can do, we have provided the framework of a good home, manners, respect, responsibility, we have scaffolded the learning so that each year they built on their knowledge, expertise. We have modeled the behavior that society expects. We fed, clothed, helped with homework, put plasters on knees, lent them the car when theirs was in the shop, loved them.

But there comes a time when we have to step away. We have to let them be who they are. Allow them to stand in their own skin.

Ultimately its’s their decision.

So as a parent and a teacher I won’t give up. But I won’t take on their issues, the excuses anymore. Now is the time to be counted. Interventions are part of what we do as professional teachers, but as parents sometimes we have to stop, walk away. Hope that all we have done is enough and that somewhere inside the right decisions are made in time. That they reengage.