Being a teacher in itself, is filled with challenges each and every day but for each challenge that we face there is, in its place a child; who, in spite of tremendous adversity, is still trying desperately to engage with the education system and that is what makes each and every exhausting minute of our vocation (it’s much more than a job!) worthwhile. I’m sure most of us have been in the position either recently or over the years, in which we have a pupil who for one reason or another, is unable to attend the regular timetabled day and for the teacher this poses a number of problems including:
- How do I provide engaging activities which are both applicable to the examined criteria and engaging for the pupil?
- How will my pupils (they are still ours) interact with the resources and achieve the required standard without a subject specialist?
These are two of the main concerns which I have recently had with pupils who, despite being on role, I had never met until recently. I have provided a scheme of work, relevant and engaging resources and clear examples of the requirements at all levels for the qualification required; still I couldn’t help worrying…
The day to day role of a teacher is so full; balance this with marking, planning and exploring new methods in which to engage our pupils in imaginative ways and by Friday we’re ready to catch up on our sleep. Yet on Monday morning, we get an email to say that ‘Little Jonnie’ won’t be coming to school anymore and we need to provide him with work as he’s still on role. At this point we have choices: provide the agency tasked with teaching him our standardised resources, written for subject specialists, spend a little extra time to provide resources which will help him to progress and achieve, or simply send a booklet. It is not that choice which this blog seeks to question; it is more of an anecdote to the readers which is embedded in my own personal experience…
Having provided booklets, created specifically for pupils in this position and handily used as evidence for my MA; I admittedly, have taken something of a back-seat in recent weeks with the pupils in question. Although I have been in regular contact and offered feedback, they have taken something of a secondary position in comparison to my timetabled classes and this has troubled me. Today, I had the opportunity to see the pupils involved again and this was of course a positive, but it made a massive impact for two main reasons: I had the opportunity to see their most recent work which, by the specification standards and as a result of primarily, their hard work and enthusiasm, was A-grade. It not only met the higher grade (A grade equivalent) criteria but, having spoken to them, enthused them; they were really excited about what they had produced and rightly so. Their radio and TV adverts were all based around their own personal experience of being involved in the external provision process and it was, in all honesty, quite powerful.
Not only had these pupils managed to produce the evidence required and ‘tick the boxes’, they were actually excited by the products of their work and there was a very clear emotional link with the fantastic standard of evidence that they had produced. They have told their story.
In addition, I had the opportunity to discuss at length the tasks that I had set and how the pupils concerned had interacted with the briefs and produced the evidence, but this, to all involved was much more than a ‘debrief’. From their point of view, it was their way of being part of the school that they were ‘on role’ for, their school, and a large step to integration before seeing many of the children they have known but not seen for a long time, at college, in the coming months (still a terrifying prospect for them).
We’re all told, and have been for many years that ‘every child matters’ but to me, days like this reinforce that idea and really remind us of why we do the job we do. The pupils that I spoke to today were enthused with my subject; not only by the resources provided but the most important part of this is that they were still enthused by actually studying and proud of the (personalised) work that they produced, in spite of the external pressures that they faced.
We have talked about their involvement in subject projects; not ‘within school’ as this is still too great a step for them but in more subtle ways such as linking their work with a wider subject based product and showcasing their production pieces with the rest of the cohort in upcoming projects, which they are very enthusiastic about.
For us, this situation, although not ideal, is working well; but it relies heavily on communication and careful consideration of personalised resources which pupils then engage with and shape to their own experience. I am proud to say that I will have had a part, albeit a small part, in their gaining of an additional qualification which without this provision they would not have had the opportunity to work towards.
This continuing experience has forced me to carefully consider the true meaning of ‘personalisation’. Although it begins with the subject teacher, it ultimately involves the pupils in question on a huge scale and their input in shaping the resources is vital. Reflecting upon its significance within my role, it reinforces to me that our impact extends far beyond the classroom, it is a ‘team-process’ involving both teacher and pupil and ultimately has reaffirmed to me (and should to us all) the fact that regardless of their attendance or personal circumstances, ‘every child matters’.