Every kid deserves a champion
For every child I teach I have an individual vision. A mission. Every teacher does, perhaps not explicitly, but they often have a specific focus for each pupil. This may be something they want a pupil to achieve in their lessons, a target grade they hope they will reach, a change in behaviour, or a shift in attitude. Teachers may not have sat down and decided to craft a vision statement for their class, but they will no doubt return to school in September thinking about their pupils and how they can flourish. Rita Pierson presents this passion for the children she taught eloquently in the Ted talk below. Pierson recalls communicating her high expectations to her class and giving them a pep talk. Essentially, Pierson is sharing her inspiring vision with the class.
I spent some time at the beginning of last September considering my vision for the upcoming year. I decided to list the problems I faced in lessons. It soon became apparent that the root cause of pupils’ poor behaviour and lack of resilience was caused by an inability to focus. Pupils were often affected by arguments they may have had with friends, showed a lack of confidence around their peers in the room or had problems outside of school on their mind. I wanted the pupils to know that I was committed to their well-being and could provide pastoral support; however I also needed them to know that when they were in English lessons they were there to learn.
Leave your baggage at the door
With this in mind my vision for pupils became simple; ‘Leave your baggage at the door’. I needed to explicitly communicate to pupils that there were no excuses in this classroom, we were all equal and we would all be aiming high. In each class we co-created a list of things that would help us reach our vision. Pupils contributed to the list with lots of ways they could achieve this, examples such as ‘speak to Miss Charles in advance about something that is troubling me’, ‘sit in a place where I feel comfortable and able to work hard’ were discussed . I then asked pupils to create a list of what they expected of me to achieve this vision.Their responses consisted of ‘set high level work to stretch us’, ‘give extra help to those who need it’ and ‘be fair when giving out warnings and detentions’. The pupils were spot on.
Breaking down barriers
As the pupils made clear in their responses in class, it is sometimes difficult for a pupil to leave their baggage at the door. In fact it is my job as their teacher to help them do so. By providing extra scaffolding for tasks I am able to give pupils confidence to achieve. By regularly communicating with other members of staff and keeping up to date with each pupil’s needs I can be sensitive and motivating when pupils need it most. By creating a positive classroom environment where pupils feel safe and respected they can focus on their learning. Finally, by communicating to pupils that they belong in my classroom and have an important role in the class I can boost their self esteem.
New year, new vision
Crafting a specific vision and, more importantly, sharing my vision with the class changed the way I dealt with pupils. It boosted my expectations of them, it made me consider more closely my role outside of the classroom, and how I could break down individual pupils’ barriers to learning.
As I now embark on a new September term I will continue to share my vision with the class in a hope to raise their aspirations. However, new responsibilities and new classes I have set myself a new vision.
‘If it’s not excellent, it’s not finished’
My new vision aims to challenge pupils, foster independence and teach them to take pride in their work. Having attended a session by David Didau @learningspy this summer I was inspired by his approaches to literacy and raising attainment. My next blog post will unpick this vision further and discuss some of the approaches to literacy I have adapted from his work. For now, enjoy this blog post by Didau. A great read.
“Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss, but because they aim too low and hit”