To you, this might just look like a photo of a fire. A pretty poor photo at that. But to me it represents much, much more.
The shadow you can see on the right is one of my 10 year old students. He wouldn’t mind me saying that for him, that fire is one of the biggest things he achieved all the way through last year.
No matches were used to light that fire, not even any lighters. This young man spent over an hour trying, again and again, to get this fire going just using a magnifying glass and some not very dry tinder.
For him, that is a massive achievement, not because of the fire he managed to light, or because of the fire alarm he set off – my fault for not paying attention! But because this is a boy who finds the very act of trying, of persevering at anything, incredibly challenging. Back at the start if the school year, he wasn’t even able to attempt a half-dozen simple maths questions without losing his rag. And losing it in a big way.
But over the last nine months, we’ve worked together to help him build his self-esteem, patience and confidence to try new things, to have a go and above all to keep trying when things get tough. It’s been a long road, and there’s an awfully long way still to go. But for me, and for him, seeing that fire burning for just a few short minutes means that we’re heading firmly in the right direction.
Sometimes, ideas just come to you but other times I’m in no way shy about stealing them from other people.
Kate Reid of The Scout Association’s Regional Development Service mentioned during a training session the other night that she has successfully used pledge cards to get more adult help in local groups.
The idea is that at the start of an event where you’ve got parents – AGM, presentation night, whatever – you hand out cards printed with something like “To help my child’s Scout Group, this year I pledge to… .” Parents fill them in, with some hints if they’re needed, then hand then in.
As well as lots of adult support for the group, it’s a great way to offer a reward for volunteering: just use the completed card as raffle tickets.
Okay, so after a week of doing SATs (which for anyone that doesn’t work in schools in England are government-set tests in English and Maths that children take when they leave primary schools) I’ve been itching to write something – anything – to make clear to people just how stupid it is to put 10 and 11 year old children through such stress over something that really doesn’t matter.
While I try to put that into a form that isn’t going to get me into trouble with anyone (Mr. Gove… ) I have come across a video that really does sum up what is the most important job that schools have:
If only the world had more inspirational teachers like Ms. Reifler.