Educating the East End Episode 3

I loved this episode. I was struck by a couple of things and that is how this one seemed to show much better behaved, driven, involved and inspired kids who realised the importance of education and the added extras. I felt this was far more representative of young people in the main, or at least the young people I’m used to.

I loved the elections, the campaigning, the obvious camaraderie and support throughout the school, the barrier relaxing between students and teachers, all of it was inspirational. As a teacher who has shifted from FE to Secondary I was able to relate so much easier to this and I think it is true that they began the series with the difficult year 9 which consensus has it is the toughest year as mentioned in my first post on this series.

I was also interested to see how it was noticed that things going on outside of school were affecting the outgoing head girl’s performance and how it was nipped in the bud and ultimately did not affect her achievements at GCSE. I felt it was interesting to see the focus on developing her self belief and I felt educated myself by the head teacher’s comments on exam performance being largely due to a mental attitude. I’ve seen people filled with fear and negativity prior to an exam and have wondered how they can do that to themselves, believing that negative mind set can’t be productive but for some people positivity and self belief doesn’t come easy and that’s something to bear in mind now as a teacher. I don’t think I’m bigging myself up too much to say that I’m pretty good at encouraging students to have faith in themselves but I saw it more in action on the programme and feel that I understand the importance even more now of building that positivity. Some people do not have it instilled in them by parents or anyone else in their life, even society may have a low expectation or give out signs that trying is pointless and we as teachers do have to fight against that.

We were shocked that nobody seemed to know who the eventual election victor was. I guess that’s because he was under the radar, probably well behaved, always on time, good attendance and a high achiever. Nobody’s noticed him because he hasn’t given anyone reason to and in some ways I think that’s very sad. Imagine if he had never stood for election, he would possibly have passed right through secondary school with nobody ever noticing him.

I see how easy it is for deserving students to be bypassed on awards events and for opportunities to represent the school and for treats and rewards and while I get it now as a teacher that the challenging students take up the lion’s share of your time and focus, it’s really not fair. It’s made me want to make an even more concerted effort to make sure I notice the other students, not just the high achievers but the middling, average students who come in, sit down, get on with their work, achieve comfortably and leave. I know who they are in my current classes and I know who they were in my placement classes and I have to hold my hands up and admit that in my placement classes they were the ones I took longest to remember the names of, the ones I engaged with the least and the ones I should have recognised more.

As a student teacher you will soon realise that it really is the challenging students who you remember first and you will be shocked when you reflect and consider the amount of time you spent talking directly to them (another reason why reflection is important). You have to be careful of that, some ‘disruptive’ students just crave attention and they are very skilled at commanding it.  In one of my observations my university tutor advised me to ignore any behaviours which were not threatening or affecting anyone else. As an example in the observed class one of my students decided to make a paper plane and I asked why he had done that and I should have just ignored it, nobody else had noticed he had made it, it wasn’t detracting from the overall flow of the lesson and I brought everyone’s focus to the paper plane and thereby I caused the class to become distracted from the lesson and of course myself. Later on he wrapped toilet paper around himself and again I mentioned it and created the conflict situation the student wanted when again I could have just ignored it.

So lesson learned, less time on the attention seekers and more of acknowledgement of the under the radar, safe kids, they might not crave attention but everyone likes to be noticed for something they’re doing well and to have some attention now and again, I’d hate to think a student of mine would put himself up for an election and I wouldn’t know who he was but am aware of how easily it could happen.

Looking forward to the  next episode.

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