Friday, 25 March 2016

The B word

I'm bored!

We've all heard it whispered, blurted or maybe even frustratingly said by a student. I'll admit that for me it's a tough thing to hear, I pride myself on providing a stimulating and engaging learning environment. Yet still I've seen that stifled yawn, vacuous look or just puzzlement at the reason for being there.

There are other behavioural signs of disengagement, but by confronting the B word some of these can be dealt with or headed off at the past.

At my first school, far more traditional environment, there were still many approaches to remedy the B word. Relationships are paramount, know your student and what makes them tick. Kidsedchatnz, Minecraft, personalised reading, differentiated art, hands-on learning and passion projects all were features in my teaching toolbox. But I fought to find more ways to reach more learners and stave off any nasty B-related afflictions.

With my colleagues at HPPS we push ourselves to provide an authentic and personalised programme for all learners. Projects form an inherent part of this, co-constructed from wonderings during immersion activities, they can be responsive to tailored to each students learning needs and interests. I currently have students exploring Da Vinci's machines and their modern day equivalents, with a focus on the science behind the inventions. Others are focussed on kitchen chemistry with individual concentrated on chocolate tempering, baking and one boy who is exploring the making of plastic for Lego. Our students choose what part of the day to work on their projects, while planning for workshops that cater for their literacy and numeracy needs that can't be accommodated in these projects. It is for this reason that our immersion phase is so important, exploring worlds they didn't know existed to arouse their curiosity and wondering.

But even with these projects ongoing and teachers that are forever challenging themselves to find contexts and methods to engage each child, there are still opportunities for learners to utter the dreaded B word.

Whose problem is this?

I believe it's mine. I'm fully cognisant that my colleagues at HPPS will ask me what have I done to create or change the situation (this applies to any scenario, not just the context I refer to in this post).

We've recently suffered a number of students who are attempting to occupy a healthy portion of their day with sketching, they use YouTube as their 'inspiration' and copy the steps. It's arguable that there is less creative endeavour behind the process, chess is another time filler that is enjoyed by our learners. Both are signals of the B word. Often this means that the contexts for learning are not appropriate for the individual and we need to build our knowledge/relationship to find a context/medium for more effective teaching/learning. For some it is a sign that they struggling to recognise the priorities in their learning, deadlines, workshops, literacy and numeracy goals for example. Most importantly, all of these are signals that teacher intervention is needed so that the student can be supported to more meaningful learning experiences.

In our space these time fillers are OK brain breaks, or even planned activities at the end of the day when priorities have been met. But not planned as the priority task for the day. Yes, for some sketching is a passion, and as such, it should be integrated purposefully into their learning. Some of our students successfully include many different creative arts into their projects and we use the creative arts as a vehicle to teach many aspects of the curriculum.

No doubt there are many underlying factors contributing to this affliction - real or perceived, thats for another post though.

But the B word ultimately is my problem, not theirs.