Just a quick post to capture some reflections on one of the classes I had this year.
On returning to work this year I found that I had been given a yr13 “employment skills for job seekers 303 class” Term one was interesting. I was new to the course, it wasn’t very well resourced and the standards we had avaliable were pretty dull and boring. I had surveyed the class and was keen to co – construct the course for the year. My survey revealed that very few of them had actually wanted to do the course for its intended purpose of setting them up for employment. It was either “I thought it would be heaps of easy credits” or that they had to make up 5 subjects and that was all that they could do or they were just put into it.
There is alot to unpack in that and I find it challenging in many ways but this isn’t the place to record those thoughts right now.
This bunch also struggled with the idea of co-constructing a course. It was like the will to learn had been sucked out of them. So, I picked the most relevant and interesting standards on offer, made up the first terms course and we got into it. After term 2, we set in place a structure where the students were interviewed to find out what interested them and then we found L3 assessments from external providers and my role became helping them with their learning. For some this opened amazing learning opportunities but this was probably a minority.
I was constantly surveying the students to see if their needs were being met or how we might do things differently but they were incredibly passive. What I deduced was that the value of school to these students was not NCEA L3, it was being part of a community, having a structure in their life, having a purpose. Some had pitched their tent and were camping out untill some inspiration about the rest of their life hit them. I should point out that this is a small cohort of students.
I found the situation quite challenging for several reasons. Firstly, I like to set high expectations and to feel that I am contributing positively to students lives and secondly, there was pressure to use a punitive school system of punishment or coercion to motivate learning. This in my mind is why we have 17 and 18 year olds with no motivation to learn and to me doesn’t seem appropriate for students we are trying to set up for the real world.
To cut a long story short, I rationalised that it was better for these students to be in class with me where there was the chance they could glean how to be a tolerant and compassionate adult rather than at home on the sofa playong xbox. They might of even got something out of our “inspirational Friday’s” or the positive role modelling I was always mindful of. I learned a lot with this class and know I have a bit more to learn-not sure if I will get it again next year at this stage.
Anyway, the point of this story was to articulate that relationships matter. These guys finished school 2 weeks ago but today one of my students sent me this ted talk link. He was really difficult to get work out of over the year but I think he got what I was all about as a teacher.