Our first day with students every year is called 'Target Setting Day'. It's an opportunity for form tutors to meet with students and parents about their current situation and to talk about their needs for the coming year and set some basic targets for them to work towards. To review this, we then have 'Progress Review Day' where we meet again and look for positives and share some more targets. Yesterday was one of those days.
I've spent a decent proportion of my time lately considering successes, after reading blogs, listening to a podcast or reading it in a book (I forget which) and totally redesigning our half-termly assessment procedures to suit that.
On Monday, year 9 students had an assembly on social responsibility. At break time I had a duty in the dining hall - 400 students and me, it seemed like! After most had made their way to their next lesson, one student (M) had stayed behind to put other people's rubbish away, put the chairs that students had moved back and show a bit of social responsibility. I thanked him, profusely, and went on to my next lesson too, thinking little more of it.
The next day, I went to see a colleague after a lesson to hear him speaking to M about how he needs to change his ways if he's going to be a success at our school or he should find another - a far cry from the student I saw approximately 23 hours and 40 minutes ago.
I made a point of going to his form tutor the next morning, sharing Monday with him and passing on a golden ticket (our reward for doing something above and beyond). I was told he needed this, as there's not a lot going for him at the moment. I ran into him period 1 and M thanked me for his golden ticket, so I patted him on the shoulder, said 'no bother' and made my way to do some work.
Yesterday, I was between appointments and took a walk around the sports hall where we were meeting with parents and students. As I walked towards a colleague for a chat, M headed towards me with his dad. Proud as punch, he turned to his dad and said 'Dad, this is Mr Taylor. He's the one who gave me a golden ticket'. I shook his hand, explained the circumstance, told him he deserved it and made my excuses as I saw another of my form with their parents ready for an appointment.
'He's the one who...'. One. Had M only had one golden ticket this year? Ever? I give out 30 or so a week.
It seems that this small act on my part made a huge impact on this 13-14 year old boy, and I hope it might spark a fire.
There's another kid in not so recent times I'll share too. S, her name was. Never in her class due to behaviour and arguments, our HOD decided to move her to my group so that she'd at least be in a classroom for the last few months of year 11. 'Just babysit her - she won't do anything for you'. That was right, for 3 lessons. Then she did some work. A lesson later she asked for help with something. Within a week or two she was at after school revision and leading class discussions. At her leavers assembly she sought me out, hugged me and through floods of tears thanked me for what I'd done for her. Her March mock was an F, then she came to me. Her GCSE result was a C. I class that as one of my greatest victories.
In staff training last week we had to write a piece promoting the importance of maintaining a positive mindset in our subjects. The crux of mine was that positivity breeds success, which in turn fuels positivity... And repeat.
Imagine not having that positivity. You struggled at primary school, or you're new to the country from some war-torn country. You know a few tables, can add, but struggle with the concept of division or subtracting double digits. You're anxious about your new school and you need a success, but your first assessment is hard and you get 7/60. The positivity isn't there and you can't fuel a success. Before you know it, you've done three assessments, scored 30/180 and you're underachieving. Imagine trying to break that pattern. I've never had to. I imagine it's true that neither have you. Ultimately, this is a significant proportion of our students and I think that with the new GCSE, now more than ever, it's so important that we find the successes for students to fuel their positivity and more successes as we work through our 5 year journey.
I get a little scared thinking about those 7/60 students and what this must do to them. I get a little scared, so I'm trying to do something about it.