Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Celebrating Success

A colleague mentioned at our S Club meeting that she celebrates every little achievement that the students achieve.

I loved this. Because I used to too.

We were discussing the need to create a new exam for the students especially in the S classes because having had such positive growth minded students last year who just pushed themselves so so hard and did the best they could possibly do in their end of year exam... and fail miserably was heartbreaking - for me and for them.

I don't like the idea of streaming but it's a necessary evil in some ways. The point I was trying to make then at the meeting as I am now is that we needed to ensure our students didn't feel like that again. Because as you know- it has a flow on effect to their motivation and self-belief year after year. And if we're making them think they already suck at Y9 and 10... then how is that supposed to encourage them? My main issue is that the exam seems more weighted towards the higher end of the streamed classes so that we as a department can skim the top level for the Cambridge classes in Y11.

I just don't think it's fair nor is it equitable for a small amount of kids to be actually succeeding and for a majority to feel like they're failing. When a 40% mark is the highest mark your students can get in your class... there must be something wrong.

Because my students knew their stuff. They busted their little bottoms off to get the knowledge they needed and push themselves. But it still wasn't enough.

I don't want to set my students up for failure again and have been doing everything I possibly can to ensure they won't feel like failures - that they'll know some answers and can explain in their own way their connection and response to text.

At that point in the meeting my colleague says that we shouldn't be just gearing them up for the exam - and while she's completely right - the systems we have in place within education ensure that that is our main focus.

And so she continued explaining how she celebrates every little success. And it was just what I needed to remind myself to continue doing what I once did. Why have I changed? I don't know. But I miss that super positive person who believed in every student and wasn't so jaded by reality and burnt out by trying to motivate those that just refuse to motivate themselves.

It's a bit sucky because my juniors miss out on my best teaching because I have three senior classes - a y11L, y12L and y12A.   The L classes are the 'normal' courses and the A is the 'alternative' course where they do one less external...

Because of the amount of motivation and continual pressure I put on my students to try and get them through internal after internal to keep hunting those credits - we often end up losing the true importance of education - actually learning.

And this is what I've been trying to do more of within my junior classes - learn. And they've actually been my saving grace to be honest. In the junior classes I can laugh and relax and be me and teach the way I love teaching - to the students in front of me and ensuring they all have a co-constructed input towards what we're doing.

In senior classes it just really is not that easy. I feel constantly at battle with lack of motivation, the need to always refocus and monitor my students work output, to ensure they are always handing me in their work or showing me how they're going nearly every day so I can keep pushing them along to the achievement line of external exams. This is draining and it makes my head hurt and my heart ache. Because I know it's not meant to be like this.

We've gone so far away from authentic learning that we have mere glimpses of teachable moments and constant credit tracking to reach the targets.

So..  I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I miss celebrating the small successes - because every single time my students learns something new and that lightbulb FINALLY goes off in their eyes - it makes me joyful - if only for a moment.

I will laugh more with my seniors. They hardly ever hear me laugh. I will be myself and allow the pressure and time limits to wash over me and teach what I must to ensure they're ready... but teach the skills first and foremost and the content too with a possible endgame of credits as a sweetner - but by no means the point of learning.

I will relax with my juniors because if I get them ready enough I won't have to worry about them next year.

I will try to be more onto it and focussed and take time for myself.

Lastly - I will remind myself to celebrate each and every success my students have - small or big - because to them and me - success is success and it should be celebrated.