23 March 2009Add to My Folder
Catch up on the latest staffroom chatter…
Just when NQT, Sarah Denyer, thought her assessment week was going well, a pesky progress report got her hot under the collar…
At the end of a busy day teaching, I sat alone in my empty, but colourful, classroom with a pile of completed maths papers in front of me. The first day of assessment week had gone well.
Marking maths papers was easy; I found myself learning the answers off by heart and actually quite enjoyed skipping through the papers. Once I’d finished, I began to convert the marks into levels and enter them into the fancy spreadsheet for my class. Levels for the end of Year 3 had already been entered, so progress was instantly visible. ‘Mmm, progress…’ I wondered to myself. ‘What might that look like?’ The more levels I entered, the more the panic rose inside me. I felt myself getting hotter and hotter. By the time I had entered all the children’s levels, I began to feel quite sick. Why hadn’t they made any progress? I was left with a page of red staring back at me. I had been rather hoping for a page of green!
I drove silently home with visions of being called into the head’s office dancing around my brain. I felt numb, but my head was spinning; I could think of no rational reason why my children had gained such poor marks. Who should I call? I had to speak to someone about this. I couldn’t wait until the morning, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep!
Finally, I plucked up the courage to text my year partner. He simply replied: ‘Don’t panic, mate. Have you embedded the mental maths scores?’ Ah, I felt my heavy heart lift. I didn’t know you were supposed to combine the two scores! Later that week, I saw some green on my spreadsheet after all.
Sarah Denyer — NQT
Dealing with the disenfranchised child
As primary school teachers, we develop a close bond with the children we teach, and enjoy watching each individual develop and grow – academically, socially and spiritually. However, at some point in your career, no doubt you have taken part in a staffroom conversation revolving around the frustration of dealing with a child who appears to be totally disinterested in the learning process. They don’t pay attention in class, homework is rarely completed, they fail to contribute to whole-class discussions and they remain static in terms of their progress. So, what can be done about it?
If a child does not want to learn, is there actually anything anyone can do to help them become successful?
A former colleague of mine once told me that there was no such thing as a disaffected child, and that they were more than likely to be gifted and talented underachievers. I’m not necessarily convinced by this argument. Granted, there are many diagnostic routes that a teacher can take to try and identify the problem: engaging the child in a variety of learning styles and experiences, giving them more challenging work, or providing more in-class support. But when none of this works, what do you try next?
Discussing your concerns with your SENCO, and then parents, are ideal next steps. Teachers appreciate the importance of school-parent partnerships, but unfortunately parents are not always as willing to support you as you would wish. Failure to attend arranged meetings or parents’ evenings always seems to happen with the parents who you really need to see, and this makes it difficult to know what steps to take next. I even sat down with one child and discussed ideas about what career path they wanted to follow and explored how the skills they were developing now would provide important foundations for the future. Yet, this still didn’t appear to make any difference to the child’s attitude.
So, where does ultimate responsibility lie – with the parent, teacher or child? Surely it has to be a shared duty. Are positive messages about the value of education coming from the home? Is there a point at which, as a teacher, we should give up and say: ‘I can honestly do no more’? If a child does not want to learn, is there actually anything anyone can do to help them become successful? I do not profess to know the answer; however, one thing that I have come to acknowledge is that the teacher cannot be held solely accountable for their children’s progress. It saddens me that there are some children who do not take an interest in their own education and I am frightened for their futures. As teachers, all we can do is our best, and hope that one day everything that we try to instil in our children somewhere, somehow, makes sense.
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Mel Campbell — 2008 Junior Ed PLUS Guest Editor and Year 6 teacher