For the last two weeks I’ve collapsed two classes in to one, staff absence and the need to complete an external vocational qualification with y9 students before the end of term and academic year has necessitated this. So my ever-challenging y9 mfl allstars were joined by set 1. Mixing two classes with one teacher, is far from ideal especially as this meant there would be nearly seventy of them and just me however somethings just have to be done.
I greeted my class at the door with a larger than ever smile and asked them to sit quickly, I think they guessed that something was off but bless them they chose to not mention it. Once seated I beckoned a colleagues class over and invited them in too. To say gobsmacked was a bit of an understatement as my y9 were aghast, words failed them as thirty-odd of their peer group shuffled in. An eery silence fell across the room and a few side glances as I followed the last student in.
As I addressed all nearly seventy of them, slowly the realisation hit that I was their MFL teacher today and grins seemed to slowly appear. I think they thought ‘ace, I can get away with doing very little in French today ..’ Or words to that effect, however, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I knew the ‘collaborative challenge’ I was about to launch would ensure that they worked their socks off, well I certainly hoped so, but it was all very much dependant on their cooperation.
As some of you may know I’ve had a really bumpy ride with my y9 class since they were y8 and to say they are hard work is a teeny understatement. With every ounce of my being I stood at the front of my classroom and asked for their help, cooperation and focus in the challenge I was about to set. A few murmurs and side glances galore, I continued to launch the tasks for the lesson, secretly praying to any and all deities available and listening, that we could pull this off and not have SLT and the Head marching down to MFL to ‘sort out the ruckus’ if disaster struck.
With the tasks launched, clear instructions and expectations given, focus, collaboration and hard work was the order of the day and off they went to one of three spaces in mixed groups. My role today was facilitator, observer and supporter, not teacher leading from the front of the class and the students were clear in this. I knew half of them, maybe a few more from having taught them in year 7 yet told them all I trusted them to rise to the challenge and to make me happy. The students in their mixed groups had to complete challenges using their knowledge, skills and understanding as well as recent MFL experiences so every single one of them made progress in the lesson and completed the tasks but they were learning from each other. They were the teachers and learners and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many students so focussed for so long. Some chose to remain in my classroom, others sprawled across the atrium floor to get on with their learning and surprisingly few in the neighbouring classroom that would have been theirs had the classes not been collapsed.
Across these two weeks these two classes with ever growing y9 giants, have been utter stars filing quickly and quietly in to my classroom at the start of each French lesson listening to the challenges and tasks to focus on and complete in the lesson collaboratively. The results have been amazing, set 2 have been working with set 1 directing and encouraging more complex sentence structure and reminding peers of the need for a range of tenses in their general conversation section of the qualification (or ‘Mrs H will be disappointed and you don’t want that’ I heard one of my more vocal allstars pass on) Set 1 students have been assisting set 2 in developing finesse in their spoken French especially in pronunciation, intonation and pace in the public announcement part of the qualification. Honestly I couldn’t be prouder and I’m delighted by the outcome, truly, I asked for their help two weeks ago and the trust extended to them has been richly deserved. They have been utter gems completing the tasks and challenges set by the qualification beautifully and the quality of work produced has been superb.
Last week one of our deputy head teacher’s went past at looked horrified at the students sprawled across the floor and tables in three spaces not initially seeing a teacher he went in to one of the rooms and came out smiling. I think he was delighted at what he had seen he told me that he had witnessed groups so clearly involved in their learning that they didn’t even notice him. How proud was I? Very.
Some people say that trust has to be earned, I gave mine it straightaway and they really didn’t let me down. Be brave and give them a chance, be honest and clear and I’m sure they won’t let you down either.