I am currently reading David Hughes book “Future Proof your school” the section on pupil voice contained a comment that made me think, well most of the book has made me think!
Pupil voice is a key component of my work on learner engagement and building learning relationships which I represented in the acronym “PBCF” meaning Power Belonging Choice and Fun. Easy to remember – “Please be child friendly”! These four ‘needs’ form the drivers for engagement and so pupil voice is a critical component. Power is the representation of ‘voice’, being heard or your views and opinions genuinely recognised.
In his book David gives an account of one of his experiences in making the Schools Council a funded body. The school was suffering from the effects of vandalism which drew resources away from the school and affected the environment in a negative way. His solution was to offer the Schools Council a percentage of the saving the school would make if there was little or no vandalism. They could then spend this money on school projects, such as disco equipment. Attendance at the disco would be by ticket and tickets were linked to learning behaviours and learning progress, engage in learning and you were eligible for a ticket but if you did not then you would not be able to attend. He says:
“.. achievement co-ordinators monitored pupils’ progress with the tutors, issuing weekly reports in assemblies. This was much more positive use of their time and began to set a change in climate of the school: achievement was given a higher priority.”
It is the last part of that quote that made me think, “achievement was given a higher priority”. It made me ask the questions “Priority over what, and in what was achievement in competition with?”
Symptoms or cause?
I know that it is easy to focus on the symptom rather than the cause and these then becoming the priorities in schools. Symptoms of under achievement include lateness and absence, poor learning behaviours, a lack of respect to each other and these are symptoms we need to address by understanding the cause. I think that is what David did successfully and what began to alter the climate in the school, he understood the need for a real voice, for ‘power’ in a structured and tangible way that had a genuine ‘ear’ when it came to setting school priorities. Students became ‘empowered’ and understood the implications of their actions or indifference to what was directly affecting them.
So what are the priorities in your school and how would you characterise them? Do they focus on symptoms rather than cause? We know all schools will say achievement is a priority, perhaps their number one priority but how does this translate in terms of allocation of resources? I would claim that those things that have the biggest immediate negative impact tend to receive the greatest resources. In doing so the finite resources of a school are often focused on the symptoms and not addressing the underlying cause. I believe those students who do not have their four learning needs met will only reluctantly engage in learning and will present symptoms typical of those needs not being met which result in school ‘phoney’ priorities. Perhaps you can suggest a few.
Here are some of the ‘priorities’ I have experienced in the schools in which I have worked. Assessing the resources given to each (teacher time, money, facilities, equipment) we can get an idea of the true priority each is given.
- Classroom behaviour
- Movement around the school
- School rules (equipment – uniform etc)
- Various policies (marking – homework etc)
- Raising standards
One through to four only become a priority because learners are not actively engaged in learning and we hold number five as our single accountability performance indicator. I suggest we become fixated on one to four which only serve to subjugate the symptoms of the causes rather than recognising them. Ask yourself what you do if you don’t like the TV programme you are watching. What do you do if your partner wants to do something together and you don’t. Your actions are moderated by maturity, agency and a sense of responsibility. Perhaps our students don’t possess such moderating factors. If they don’t then it is our responsibility to recognise the four needs and ensure the school maintains these as their true priorities for doing so will result in raising standrads.
For more on PBCF you can download details of my presentation I gave at the 10th Festival of Education this year held at Wellington College.
For David’s book you can find it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Future-proof-Your-School-improvement-developing/dp/1912508443
The Teacher’s Toolbox
Reflecting on your teaching strategies, what works, what has got a little rusty and what you forgot you had is something all teachers should do regularly.
We all get in a rut at some point in our professional lives and teaching is no exception. We use what works but what happens when it no longer works? Have you lost your edge?
The analogy with teaching and having a toolkit is no accident. Some tools get blunt, some get lost because they are rarely if ever used and some get worn out, and then there is the trusty tool that never lets you down. For each task there is a tool, sometimes more than one, that can be used to do the job. Some perform better than others and some need careful maintenance to work at their peak. Managing learners is no different. What works with one group of students may not work with another.
So why the Teacher Toolkit?
The Teacher Toolkit is part of a CPD course that will help you reflect on and improve your student behaviour management practices. It takes the approach of seeing learning through the eyes of the learner and understanding their learning needs. The result is better classroom management, improved student behaviour and greater engagement from your learners.
What is in the teacher’s toolkit?
The simple answer is more than you think, and like our metaphorical toolkit some are blunt and some have been forgotten. So what can you do about it? Well like any tool box it is often dragged into the light when there is a problem, a job that needs doing. As we rummage through it ideas come to mind and possible tools weighed up in an effort to pick the right one for the job.
What if you re discovered the right tool but found it blunt or missing a part, or worse still you forgot how it works?
A little careful maintenance and sorting out now and then is a good thing to do. We rediscover things we have forgotten and recognise new opportunities for old ideas. If we share toolkits we may even borrow the odd tool now and then too. So it is with the teacher’s toolkit.
I recently took my metaphorical toolkit into a school as part of a workshop I ran on managing learner’s needs. Everyone who attended the workshop said that recognising the range of tools available to the teacher and how these can influence the response of learners made a positive impact on their thinking and their relationship with learners.
Reviews of the workshop included comments such as:
“I did not realise how much we all use and what they* are for.. .” *The tools available to teachers to engage learners.
“I thought the toolkit was great, it was interesting to realise that we can make a difference through everyday things.”
In using the toolkit we “can reflect on pupil’s behaviour and how you would react … very interesting course well worth taking part in.”
If you are interested in finding out more about this “hands on” workshop and exploring your own teacher’s toolkit then you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the website at www.ace-d.co.uk.
A few points about the workshop:
- The workshop is primarily “hands on” and avoids the use of presentations.
- The ideal number of participants is between 8 and 12. A good strategy is to send representatives from curriculum and support areas and ask them to take back to their teams the key points from the session.
- The workshop can tailored to run from 90 minutes to a whole morning session.
- Participants will be challenged and face the choices they make in the classroom.
- Innovative ideas for reminding teachers of the tools at their disposal are included in the workshop producing identifiable outcomes around the school.
- Location is important and a comfortable area with refreshments (and of course biscuits!) is ideal. There is no need for projectors or any ICT although a white board or flipchart would be useful (I like to draw!)
- A printed copy of the e-book “Understanding Learning Needs” will be provided for each participant. Further copies or a discount site license is available should you require copies for all staff (recommended).
UPDATE – The toolbox is now part of a CPD course “Promoting Learning Relationships” Details are available at: Good CPD Guide