Recently, I got locked in a classroom with over 30 year 11s.
To be completely accurate: the door handle fell off in my hand (sorry, couldn’t find that image).
To begin with there are a whole host of metaphors for education here, as thousands of students around the country are taught in outdated 70s buildings (usually too small, too few desks and chairs, no air, insufficient light etc.) alongside outdated Victorian education values…but that’s not what this blog is about.
We were locked in.
Firstly, despite being teenagers, and having given me a fair amount of gip for the last hour, the students nervously looked at me to see how I would react. I was a visiting teacher, so they were working out: would I blow up? Panic? Start making demands? As it went I laughed. Lucky not to suffer from any kind of locked-in-a-classroom-with-30-teenagers-phobia I figured that it was unlikely that the school would actually leave us captured. We weren’t in a film and I couldn’t see any whoever the 21st Century Jeremy Beadles is, around anywhere.
A pupil went past the door. I waved the door handle around to illustrate our plight and asked her to help. A couple of minutes later a panicked looking SLT woman came along. Distressed, she assured me that ‘help was coming’ then flapped away again. With no idea how long we had I realised I had an ideal situation: A Trapped Audience.
For most of the lesson so far, I had been supporting these stressed factory chickens – sorry, yr 11s, with their revision. Now I had an opportunity. I asked:
“O.K. We probably have about 10 mins, what do you want to learn about?”
There wasn’t a pause in their responses; young people know what they want to know:
“Real life. Politics. Taxes.”
A vote was taken and it swayed to me (a trained English Teacher) giving a lesson on taxes. I issued a disclaimer to start:
“I am not a Maths Teacher, Accountant of Financial Advisor, but I am an adult and will do my best to teach you about taxes. I may not be able to answer your questions.”
For the following 10mins, mostly thanks to my 8yrs of being self-employed, I outlined the principles of Income Tax, Council Tax and VAT; all of which led quite naturally to a whole class debate on individual’s financial contributions to public services, formatted around the question:
“Is it your personal responsibility to pay for Billy’s (a member of the class) future children’s education?”
Improvised situations like this put me in my absolute element. When unforeseen circumstances allow me to go off-piste with the learning plan and really understand what my students actually want to learn.
I don’t know all the answers (when do you start paying VAT as a business? What if Billy has 10 children?) but I can facilitate the enquiry.
My questions now: How do you ‘structure’ this type of accidental learning? What would a school look like that harnesses this approach to education?
Answers on some kind of e-postcard please.
The services I offer support students with Emotional Behaviour Difficulties and those who work with them; those who are perhaps struggling day-to-day with behaviour, or those who need a fresh vision to moving forward.
I offer practical, step-by-step actions that are doable and easy to implement.
I work with these students because I choose to; I know what it’s like to be on the front-line – and I enjoy it – which means I also love to help motivate others to do the best they can for these students too.
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