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Friday, 10 June 2011

Well, there's a thing

I had my usual class of Year 10s last thing yesterday.  Nothing really unusual except that I was being observed.

Being observed while doing your job is a normal part of our teaching life, and I actually quite enjoy it, it gives me some feedback into my techniques and practices and I also have another adult in the classroom, just in case the little sods go berserk.

Sometimes the rationale behind the observation is simply to check your teaching technique is up to standard,  that you're using the most recent methodologies approved by the professional educators (read academics living in ivory bloody towers). 

This observation was a bit different; it was being undertaken as part of an initiative to increase Maori achievement.  We're always doing something to improve Maori achievement.  We're always being blamed for not improving Maori achievement.  Schools and teachers are expected to fix a national and cultural problem.

The problem isn't the kids.  Many of my best and most achieving students are Maori, so it's not solely a cultural or race-based problem.  The problem is in kids from families who just don't see the need for education as part of their child's progress, and it's these poor kids who suffer.  They end up with a minimal education, some are barely literate, and they end up in low-paid jobs, and then teach their kids that education is a waste of time.

HTML is great

However, back to the observation.  It went really well. We were creating web pages using s simple text editor and HTML code. Everything went by the book.
The success criteria and learning intentions were on the board, and regularly re-visited, there was great interaction between me and the kids, the whole classroom was buzzing with productivity, and some real learning was taking place.  The lovely lady who was observing had to leave for the last 15 minutes, as she had to get her own class to complete their own project (they were being supervised by one of my relievers) and after she went, things began to go a bit weird. As I was handing out the sweets to some of the students who had won the "make a web page about ME" competition, I noticed one of my brighter girls hunched over.  I had seen her sitting this way a couple of times during the lesson, and I was pretty sure she was texting on her mobile phone. Then I noticed she was weeping, the tears running down her cheeks.
I gently inquired as to:

Why was she using a forbidden phone in class?
Why was she crying?
Could I do anything to help?

She mumbled something and carried on weeping, so I got her out into the corridor and tried to get some sense of what was happening.  She indicated that it was a family/personal thing.  It wasn't anything to do with school or what was happening in school.  The tears were still running down her cheeks.  She told me that the school councillors and her Dean knew about the "problem" and that there was nothing they could do at the moment.  So I told her to stay in the corridor.  I gave her a chair in the corner, and told her to stay there, texting if she needed to, and I would see her at the end of the day, and then I went back into my rapidly disintegrating class, and tried to get the lesson going again, while keeping an eye on the girl silently crying in the corridor.

The final bell went, and as the happy bunch of youngsters streamed out the door, heading for home, and telling everyone in sight (at the top of their voices) that their web page was better than anyone else's, the crying girl came back in.  She had stopped actually crying by now, but her eyes were red, and her mascara had run in two black tracks down her face. She went to her seat and got her bag.  I didn’t say anything, just smiled gently at her, trying to project "It'll be OK".  As she went out the door, her eyes on the floor, she said, very quietly, "Thank you Mistah".

Sometimes their (to us) childish tantrums and adolescent romances break their hearts, and some of them have a home life we can barely comprehend.

I just hope I helped.



  1. It's sad when you think that school is actually the best place in some kids' lives. Good on you. She certainly needed the time and space.

  2. Well done TSB.

    It's the same the world over. School is one of the few places which gives kids structure and the chance and means to safely question what's going on elsewhere. That guidance whether by rigid tutorial or simply by example such as your measured response here is really important.

  3. Froggie: So true. Most of the kids are really pleasant individuals, and it makes our job much more satisfying when we can help. Sometimes we can't.

    Alistair: Yep, kids need a safe environment. We do our best.

  4. Richard (of RBB) is currently having trouble posting on his site, so I'm letting him post on mine. Well, it seemed like the bloody Christian thing to do.


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