I’m thinking about the long journey I’ve had with ‘that class‘. In a few days time I’ll have the last ever lesson with them and swiftly after that the academic year will draw to a close and ‘that class‘ shall no longer exist. This has been at the back of my mind all term. I have been dreading this week because the class that has challenged me the most will disappear and be no more and I don’t want the journey to end.
Eighteen months ago I’m certain that I would not have felt as I do now, quite desperately sad, that my eclectic bunch of challenging learners would cease to be.
I’ve been honest about this class with close colleagues and friends; that this group have caused me significant consternation since I first met them. I used to feel weary at the thought of teaching them prior to lessons with all that they would throw my way. They are a very challenging and large class with some characters within that I hand-picked from colleagues classes to save their groups from disruption to learning. It truly is a mixed group which for some MFL truly isn’t their favourite subject and never will be. They used to frequently make me aware of this through their punctuality, attitude to learning, lack of equipment and if I was really lucky, through verbal and non-verbal comments and behaviours. This class has been a real labour of love and caused me intense frustration, tears and headaches as well as sleepless nights not least because I just couldn’t seem to get through to some of them and this I couldn’t compute nor was I prepared to accept.
I understand that MFL isn’t everyone’s first choice but I was frustrated by the surliness, bloody mindedness and utter refusal to truly engage and after some time of battling against them, pleading with them and almost tearing my hair out I had an epiphany in @davewhitaker246 ‘s session at @NRocks14. Genuinely it didn’t take long to dramatically change my attitude to teaching them, their attitude to MFL and their motivation and engagement in our lessons and their attitude towards me. Gone were raised voices, consequences (for the small stuff) and tellings off, in fact it was banished. Back in were smiles, positive comments and caring; really honestly giving a damn about them as humans, as learners, as children. Caring how they were doing in and out of school, what they were doing and what made them tick. It didn’t take at all long to see transformative behaviours from the class of students who had been wearing me down. I took the time to really get to know them, and regardless of the ‘goings on’ remained as unconditionally positive despite what came my way. There were times when I genuinely thought I was beaten that this was the class I wouldn’t get through to but there was no way I planned to give up (not least because that scared the hell out of me!)
So onwards I went. Digging deep. Remaining unconditionally positive with a huge smile and cheesy grin. Positive body language and careful use of voice when in the past I might have not been quite so smiley or positive! I thought very carefully about the impact of my behaviour towards these students who were highly unlikely to choose MFL for further study (some repeated this every lesson) on to options evening, when I had a ‘Hunger Games’ moment. Many of them raised their hands admitted that they had opted for French despite struggling. Lots of them had opted for it. I was in shock! According to them I was ‘safe’ and one of those teachers who you could trust to be fair and honest, who actually cares, one of the ones who you could turn to for help or for support. After picking myself up from the floor I took the compliment and continued on my journey with them, guiding and scaffolding bumps in their learning journeys reinforcing key learning points as we aimed high to secure target levels. Almost all of them have secured their target level and many have surpassed it too, which is a joy. I am sure the ones that missed out will be disappointed, but not as much as I am, but there was nothing else I could have done to support and coax them to increased success. All of their achievements are a huge success and I am proud (of each of them and their progress) because eighteen months ago the picture couldn’t have been more different. To have completed this stage of the journey from where we were to where we are now has been incredible, with blood, sweat and tears shed along the way.
I’m dreading my two final lessons with them this week, bidding ‘au revoir’ to them for the final time. It’s going to smart and I’m going to feel it deeply. Even as I type this I’m welling up at the thought; however we have two lessons… one to complete a vocational qualification and one to celebrate their successes.
I probably won’t forget this class ever and I know I’m going to miss each and everyone of them as they commence the next stage of their learning journey. I think I’m going to thank every one of them in our last lesson. They’ve made me become a better person; a more resilient and unconditionally positive teacher who still loves their job despite everything.