Hook them in to learning! #PedagooHampshire16


Having almost completed a single rotation of a new two week timetable, I’m still smiling. Smiling because being in the classroom with students is totally and utterly brilliant. I’m one of those people who loves it passionately and misses it immensely during the school holidays. I am also one of those people who, despite starting their 18th year teaching, still has the ‘back to school’ worries and they hit me this year at about 4:30pm on Sunday September 4th.

I don’t have many new classes this academic year as within the MFL team I like as much continuity as is effective for the students, their enjoyment and progress whilst also considering what is good for my amazing team of fantastic teachers. However there are always new, more grown up faces at KS4 and the new year 7 cohort, new to our school and eager, if not a little scared, to learn the array of new subjects, and this is always a fresh challenge to get them hooked in to learning in your classroom!

At my school they’ll learn 12 and for me it’s important to make sure that as a classroom teacher first and foremost I’m doing my utmost to keep them motivated, excited and most definitely hooked in to learning languages! And every year I take time to ponder with the team and alone; what went well, what was enjoyed, how can the language learning experience be more engaging and exciting to ensure the hooks are there; fresh, new and exciting, present in schemes of learning and weekly planning grids, feature prominently in lesson activities, bursting from project work through to the purposeful homework reinforcing the classroom experience ensuring that we continue to have them hooked and learning, making progress, enjoying languages and smiling! Working with students asking for their honest feedback of my lessons, my teaching and the learning activities is a very daunting task especially when compared against the vast array of subjects they experience and other teachers they have but to me it is is an important non-negotiable each academic year which allows for purposeful co-construction to keep the learning journeys and activities engaging, relevant and fresh for the students in my school. And me on my toes!

If you have ever heard the rather fabulous @hywel_roberts speak (author of Oops! https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1781350094/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474059627&sr=8-1&pi=SY200_QL40&keywords=hywel+roberts&dpPl=1&dpID=41lTVjh7IkL&ref=plSrch) he recalls fondly and vividly his school years running to the lesson of a particular teacher who always brought something spectacular in a jar! What. A. Hook. The utter excitement and glee, as well as horror and morbid curiosity, that ‘the jar’ and its peculiar pickled contents must have stirred across that school must have been akin to a tsunami rising up through the students – What a delight for the students in that school! 

You’ll be pleased to know my hook, or collection of hooks do not appear in a jar. It doesn’t instil horror nor fear and most definitely will not result in nightmares. The hook for me is the way in, when faced with 1 or 34 students, familiar or brand spanking new, it’s about getting those students learning, and loving it, so at the end of a hour or two when you tell them it’s packing up time they use the phrases ‘wow really, that lesson shot past’ or ‘that felt like 5 minutes miss’. It’s about getting them in, getting them going; leading them towards the ‘full on doing and learning zone’ so imagination and curiosity take hold and the learning activities on offer entice them deeper. The hook is encouraging the children to enter the ‘wonderland of learning’ and be so ‘in-the-moment’, deep within the ‘flow’ that concepts such as time, hunger, the thunderstorm raging outside the window and their next lesson cease to be of interest. It is for me very much about being me, the professional teacher with a smile and a story to share as well as an array of secret weapons of tried and tested activities which will engage the most reticent of learners and have them hooked on learning even if they make slow and steady progress. 

At #PedagooHampshire16 Candida Gould and I are delighted to be able to share some foundational principles, strategies and hooks to ensure you achieve high levels of engagement and excitement in your classroom whilst also developing your arsenal of secret weapons to engage, excite and enthuse the lucky students who you’ll be teaching this year who might not always be smiling at the start of your lesson! All of which have been road-tested this last fortnight by my students for extra robustness! We look forward to meeting you and sharing your classroom experiences. 



Adventures in my classroom – when they get it wrong.


My fabulous y11 MFL allstar class did a listening paper the week before their GCSE terminal listening and reading exams. They completely and utterly ‘bombed‘ with so much wrong resulting in some very low marks, zero for some. I adore my Y11 class and I was, frankly stunned and certainly not expecting this with one week to go! 

Responses ranged from the utterly illegible to too many responses; for an 8 mark question 16 were given, when responses were given in English as per the instruction answers were in French, some decided to skip the questions altogether. I had begun marking them with gusto yet within fifteen minutes I wanted to weep because it wasn’t just one or two of them it was a significant proportion of my allstars and I just couldn’t understand how or why this had happened! 

Genuinely stunned and close to tears I had to stop marking, I couldn’t believe the errors I was seeing so had to put aside the papers and do something else. A long dog walk and some serious tea drinking with a dose of comfort eating for sure should sort me out. 

We had identified in y10 that listening was the hardest skill within this group of students therefore had dedicated one hour per fortnight focusing on improving and developing listening skills using two fantastic sites: www.gcsepod.com and www.thisislanguage.com to build confidence, skill and slowly add challenge independently. SLT we’re delighted with such a sensible departmental approach which clearly had consulted the learners and responded accordingly to their needs. So you can imagine my utter horror at the situation I found myself in one week before the exams! 

Back in lessons we continued with revision t-shirts, vocab drills and quizzes with a side of 8 mark reading and listening questions and another paper carrying on as normal until one of the A* hopefuls mentioned the dreaded paper yet to be returned. His point was clear; ‘Miss you always give us our papers back the next lesson, it’s now two lessons on – what did we do?‘ Tentatively I lifted the collection of papers from their hiding place, until this point I’d been in a dilemma as to whether to share the ‘epic fails‘ with the students. There are two reasons for this; firstly do I shatter their hope and aspiration with the revelation of a less than great performance with less than a week before the exam or secondly celebrate the failure and seek to close the loop; remembering that great things come from spectacular failings. Ordinarily I would leap on to the latter however I wasn’t convinced that my lovely students would see it anything other than from a negative perspective at this rather late stage.

As I reunited papers with their owners a deathly silence fell across the room, a few gasps of horror and two students teared up. I stood at the front and waited until they slowly tore their eyes from their papers and looked me in the face. Eventually all of them met my eyes though this may have taken some coaxing. ‘So what happened?‘ I asked with a smile. ‘I failed Miss‘ said one disappointed You Tuber, another added ‘everything you told us not to do, we did!’ Another called out ‘what a fail‘ and started laughing, a few others started too and within a minute utter hysteria had hit the classroom. Wiping tears (of laughter) aside we opened the paper together, some tentatively and we walked through what we should have done. Students explained their ‘failings‘ and then corrected themselves, others tutted stating they knew how to tackle the question and could read the instructions so were horrified by their errors. I was relieved, they could tell me what they had done incorrectly and knew how to correct it. Phew! ‘It’s ok’ I said at every opportunity, getting it wrong now is fine, it’s what we do on May 17th on that paper, in that room that’s the most important. There are no second chances then. 

Walking talking mocks and stripping back the papers metacognition style has been a key focus in our department, and indeed across our school for several years now, to empower students to be ‘that bit better‘ in exams, and it was brilliant to see and hear them bounce back from this quite spectacular bump in the road. It was an important lesson to have learned, to be reminded of and to bounce back from but please perhaps not so very close to the final exams! However that said, better late than never! We listened to each of the questions again and students did significantly better, thankfully, so departed my classroom having closed the loop, feeling success but with a very clear message at the forefront of their minds.

On the day of the exam all students arrived at my classroom smiling and very early for a final breakfast spaced learning session. Just before the session ended and we walked to the exam hall together students called out their final ‘top tips‘ to remember. It was great to hear them remind one another so positively.   Several nailbiting hours later as they exited the exam hall after their morning session was over, they told me cheerily how they had highlighted, circled, underlined and checked each question carefully and also managed to write answers neatly and carefully checking before the last grains of exam time fell. I was, and still am so very proud of them. Now we’ll just have to wait to see how brilliantly they have done in August! Image via itsmaha.wordpress.com

Image from www.doodle.ac  

Hiding in plain sight.


Anyone who knows me understands how passionate I am about knowing your students beyond the data given to you and this was again reiterated a few weeks ago as I listened to an incredibly brave young 21 year old man called Chris Kilkenny.

@kilkennychris has a very interesting perspective and one that needs to be heard. Chris spoke about the challenges of growing up, education, school and caring for himself and siblings, the impact of poverty and of being noticed. 

If you have time and want to know about the impact of poverty on the lives students, who may be in your classroom everyday, you might want to take a look at the following link. It’s very honest and pulls no punches and it will change you forever: https://youtu.be/jBogsSeavqE 

So many aspects of what Chris so honestly and humbly shared, battered my psyche but one especially tipped me over the edge. What was a troubled and extremely challenging existence became a whole lot worse thanks to a teacher who frankly just didn’t know their students, the ones in front of them which I found absolutely heartbreaking. Without a doubt those students placed in so called ‘sub-groups’ are known to us but beyond that; do we know the extent of traumatic home lives therefore the daily challenges our students face before even arriving at school? We can’t know everything, some may argue, yet surely it’s our duty to make sure we do our utmost to support students in challenging circumstances in our classrooms. Planning lesson activities carefully that extend, enrich, excite and include the all learners in front of us is our job. Also making sure that any ‘sensitive’ elements of the lesson won’t upset, disturb, undermine or antagonise those same students? 

I love my job, working with young people and seeing the progress they make is a privilege. To see the wonderful humans they become over time is fantastic, a true joy. It’s not always easy but if we do indeed know the students in our classrooms, outside in the playground, the ones here and there, the ones walking alone or those on lookout we see whilst on duty; we notice them, hopefully acknowledge and engage with them. We shape futures, change mindsets and maybe make a difference through noticing and engaging. We just have to care enough to get to know them and their amazing minds, to know what makes them tick and hook them in to great learning experiences that reinforces, challenges but also provokes curiosity and further questions about themselves, their learning, their futures and encourage them to think from a different perspective.

Know your students because when you do you speak to their hearts not just their minds. If we know them we notice them and by noticing and acknowledging them it could make a difference or be the difference. Having someone to see them and ask if they ok being everything.Image via http://www.culture24.org.uk 

Never too old to relearn / improve your practice.


Last week I spent a fabulous week in Park City, Utah with friends, well sort of. They are all  very much advanced skiers and snowboarders and I, well I guess I was the nervous novice. About 5 years ago I had a fairly unpleasant and rather painful skiing accident on day 4 resulting in some drama à la Greys Anatomy, a first class flight back to the UK (thank you insurance company and Air Canada) and an op on my right knee and lots and of physio. Thankfully after 18 months I gained the full range of ability and flexibility back to the offending knee (by being able to kneel on it without pain, I was walking tall & proudly on it after a matter of days) thanks to the truly fantastic work of knee surgeon and specialist John Hardy @orthoandtrauma  and his physio team at The Spire Hospital in Bristol for which I am eternally grateful.

I’d decided before I even stepped away from the laptop, after booking the holiday in January, that I’d need to have tuition to help me gain my confidence on skis back. I was an ‘alright skier’ liking the challenge of some fun and hairy blues yet still managed to avoid the madness of black diamond runs and off-piste challenges as I quite like life and a fully functioning pain-free body. 

Whilst friends and their children were excitedly snapping on skis and tightening bindings and dashing off to the ski lifts I spent my time with a fabulous instructor who showed incredible, patience, tolerance and never once lost his temper, belittled or made a sarcastic comment about my fears or bad skiing habits. 

Putting myself back firmly in to the learner spot wasn’t an issue as I’m proud to be a lifelong learner however I teach a classroom based subject not an outdoor recreational one. Reading a book or watching an inspiring video and trialling new strategies is great but the practical and physical aspect of being on the slopes learning seemed well actually terrifying. Thoughts of ‘what if I panicked at the top of the mountain’ or  ‘what if I just couldn’t do it’ were circling around my head but I like to consider myself a ‘can-do’ person so as I trudged elegantly across the snow toward my instructor (feeling and sounding like Robocop in my ski boots) I gritted my teeth swatting the negativity away. All I had to do was my best or at the very least to try, as I often say to my students.

My instructor, Wayne, was a delight, his purposeful and carefully planned questions coupled with excellent listening skills would start straight after our morning greeting which would provide the route the lessons and learning activities would take. Wayne has the most lovely manner, always questioning, watching, coaching and mentoring, explaining carefully, demonstrating constantly and encouraging me to go beyond what I thought was my current range. I didn’t even realise how hard I was being pushed as it was done in such a caring, considerate and compassionate way. Wayne has been teaching for over 40 years, skiing for over 47 and it was a privilege to have been his student. His approach of ‘I present, I model, we do, you do, we refine, we extend’ I really liked and is not dissimilar to my classroom approach when teaching Languages. 

As a teacher I talk about smashing through glass ceilings with students so they don’t self impose limits to stay within their comfort zone. I want them to explore new territory and develop their skill set along the way. My teacher, was the absolutely same. 

Wayne allowed and encouraged me to start where I was comfortable (I was slightly perturbed so it was über-newbie, the never-ever start for me on day 1) before pushing me to explore differences between old and new habits, techniques and relearn easier, safer strategies to help me become a more confident, happier and more secure skier. 

Three hour lessons whizzed by and I had a fantastic time learning, improving, developing, re-learning, changing and enhancing my rusty and very nervous skiing style (if it could be called that!) I was utterly exhausted after it but went out to practice with determination and excitement that which I had learned each morning breaking down to fine stages then rebuilding and refining each technique so by the end of the week I could be proud of my achievements and skiing technique. 

I’m far from naturally talented on skis but with careful directed focus and repeated practice, focussing on breaking down movements, bending the boot, angulation, balance, considering posture, correcting Zorro like turns to long, smooth curves slicing carefully through the sherbet like freshly fallen snow. I’ve made progress which I’m delighted about. 

I took a lot of time to practice and hone in on areas which caused me consternation which in turn thankfully made a significant difference the next day. Turning from a gorilla like stance (translation: terrified with ski poles) to confidently (but with a degree of caution) parallel turning and some decent edging.

By the end of the week I’d racked up over 26,400ft which is 5 vertical miles, improved my skills and confidence but more importantly had been able to dissect my performance to see where the smallest change can make the biggest difference, which when I did correctly, absolutely did! To an expert skier it probably doesn’t sound like much but to me it has had a profound effect.

It has been a great week of re-learning. Re-learning the correct and safe way to ski down the beautiful Rockies in Utah rather than ripping up the slopes Zorro style. The experience of this week will stay with me as I venture back in to my classroom and it has been invaluable to relearn from a students perspective. Now once I’m over this jetlag I’d best get saving to get out on the slopes again.   


Image credits: Crista Hazell & http://www.sharpshooterimages.com

Adventures In Another School Part 2


Improvisation in Jazz, ‘where’s the MFL in that?’ you might ask and ask you should. But really ask yourself the question and allow quality thinking time especially if you can’t see links and opportunities to develop classroom practice or the learning experience for your students straight away. The following is my response, after some consideration.

Students don’t tend to like improvisation do they? Well what about the teachers? I guess like all good strategies carefully applied, time, thought and planning needs to take place before the activity is launched with students in class. But the amazing thing about being the lead learner in the classroom (and luckily for me, of the MFL department at my school) is that I have time allocated to think about exciting and innovative new strategies, nuggets or brill ideas shared. It’s my job and I love it! 

I’m not saying that I’ve been teaching my students how to play an instrument however… Far from it but without a doubt being challenged by the questions and reading the article entitled Coda -Creativity and Improvisation in Jazz and Organisations by Frank J. Barrett (1998) was superb at highlighting a few gems; perceived strengths and weaknesses and the impact on teaching and learning. To say I found this extremely interesting, was an understatement.

I’m not musical person, I can appreciate music and I most definitely sing loudly (and badly) when alone in the car but ever since I wanted to ditch the recorder in middle school and pick up a very shiny and amazing looking saxophone to then be unable to make a sound my journey with music was gone. I have the utmost admiration for musicians who can play an instrument and make it sound beautiful, and if they can play more than one well, they are super amazing, talented folk. 
I understand that to play an instrument well, and with confidence, is a learned skill, practiced and honed throughout the years and is actually not dissimilar to learning a language. The basic musical notes, the chords need to be learned and the skilled music teacher will teach these to allow access to pieces of music which will develop in time, as confidence and skills, and fluency in musicianship becomes more real. 

In language learning we teach the basics, the vocabulary, the verbs, the connectives and with support students begin to function at word and sentence level. As confidence and positive learning experiences develop so does the range of language used, sentence structure changes from ‘pedestrian’ through to additional subordinate clauses perhaps even with additional adjectives for extra spice! Oooh and if there are correctly formed adjectival agreements well, language teachers across the land shall go weak at the knees! 

Whereas musicians have to manage tone, pitch and their instrument(s) so does a novice linguist make steps towards sounding less English (dare I say less ‘Delboy‘) and increasingly more French with pronunciation support through phonics and repetition games (tongue twisters, songs and rhymes) making sure the sentences, paragraphs and role plays developed, provide the listener with ‘joy’ to the ears rather than a screeched deluge of peculiar sounding words. Again like the musician. I can still see my dad’s face after I’d finished playing London’s Burning on the recorder, it was a pained but an ‘I love you daughter’ expression (probably because it was over). He was so kind in his feedback and praise that I believed him, every word, as it was so sincere which spurred on continued practice and learning which in turn slowly developed in to new pieces. Once I managed to play (possibly screech through) a whole piece he encouraged me to practice even more (in the garage) lucky me! (All of that space to myself!) Honestly though, he helped to motivate me to practice and improve step by step and with the kindness and support from a (weary) music teacher (sorry!) I did manage to be in a school concert or two. (thankfully before video cameras were common place!)

Jazz musicians are an incredible array of highly skilled master music makers exercising incredible skills which they have become highly proficient over many years leaving listeners in utter awe. Fluent linguists are the same. Both have to practice hard and for hours to get in the ‘groove’ – to ‘feel’ the sounds, the words, the notes and chords and to reproduce them in highly ‘random’ yet astonishing sounding improvisational pieces. Absolutely stunning to the ear and never twice the same. Musicians feel what they are playing and when the improvisation takes over the musician is very much lost in the music, in the moment, in the flow. 

Developing musicians and MFL learners can achieve and produce wondrous creations. Once competent in the basics and gifted the freedom and the support to develop, trial and explore different arrangements (of music or words) will develop sentences and conversation or a beautiful piece of music played flawlessly from start to finish is the reward for their endeavours. And what an incredible achievement that is. The guiding hand of the teacher, lead learner or master musician to support, correct and lead through incredible and exciting learning landscapes. Inviting students to help paint the canvas with music or morphemes. Along this learning journey the student might become the leader taking control of the music or words and leading the journey, the conversation, the role play, the oracular spectacular to a new place. Improvising as they go, applying their knowledge of the basics learned to make something new, fresh and exciting. 

I want my language learners to improvise and play around with language in this way. Some have started to and it makes for a very interesting lesson when they do though patience (and good quality positive confidence building feedback) is required. I’m going to make it my mission for 2016 to get them even more confident so they are improvising with language to make using it a more real experience for them and exciting for me as their teacher. 

 After reading Dave Keeling’s fabulous book – ‘The little book of laughter’ I realise that as I teacher I improvise all of the time. I know my students and plan their lessons accordingly however when it doesn’t work I have to adapt and not be afraid to! Improvising as a teacher, gaging the learning climate or motivation levels in your room and changing the activity to impact on the pace, deepen the learning and heighten the engagement is a must. I just need to ensure I empower my students so they can go for it too; to improvise with their language. I’m not afraid to change my lesson activity if I need to so I just need to make sure my fantastic #mflallstar learners aren’t either!

Thank you @musicmind and @SWWoodwind for the inspiration and for asking the question ‘Improvisation in Jazz, where’s the MFL in that?’ 

 Thank you @mrappealing for the giggles and laughs as well as the fabulous tips, advice and examples in the book, details below and on that brilliantly thought provoking ITL thinking day at Springwell. 



  Image of Louis Armstrong via Typorama

Adventures in my classroom; Harnessing the Power of Technology to get them speaking! 


The new (academic) year equals new classes and without a doubt new strategies to employ. Good friends who are brill with ICT, Apps and iPads have given me a helping hand to get students speaking in the target language overcoming fears of looking or sounds daft and the anxiety of not sounding right. I am grateful to them for their support as labouring the same strategies can become repetitive and lose impact hence my steps in to harnessing everyday technology to keep learning exciting and fresh in my MFL classroom.

1. The trusty old MP3 player. Image of Sansa MP3 player via Amazon.co.uk

We have mini MP3 players for students to use, alone or in pairs and groups prior to or instead of speaking in class. Trusting students to be in charge of the recording allows them to relax a little, actually a lot. Allowing students to be totally in control is extremely liberating they can delete and re-record their spoken pieces if and when they’d like to. They love it. You just have to remind them to give their name at some point so you can praise their hard work and effort!

Handheld MP3 players don’t cost a fortune and can be easily uploaded to the cloud or student server, students could do this if you teach them where to save it so you have access, your fabulous IT technicians or you if you have time. It’s easy and once it’s done you have a digital recording that can be used for DIRTime, for praise and as evidence.  

2. Yakit kids. Image of Yakit Kids app via itunes.apple.com

Oh boy do I love Yakit kids! The amazing and generous @musicmind shared this fantastic gem with me several months ago to try out with some very testy Y8 students who just couldn’t be encouraged to speak French in lessons or out of it. The impact that it has had on the confidence of these students has been awesome, truly brilliant.

Yakit kids is a free app available for iPhone where students can upload a selfie or other image and record short bursts of sound. The photo and sound can be edited to produce some fantastic and hilarious results. This app is genius as it draws students in that they forget about the worry of speaking, the anxiety about not looking cool, the accent and they go for it. They are speaking and they love it. Students come to lessons asking if its a Yakit lesson which can only be a good thing! This App has had a phenomenal impact on my students and I’d urge you to have a go at it with your classes. 

Download it here: YAKiT Kids by Freak’n Genius Inc


3. Telligami.
                              Image of Telligami app via itunes.apple.com

Telligami is great for getting students recording longer chunks of spoken work through a digital avatar which they can customise. 

I like this app a lot as it allows student to speak through their avatars. It’s great really and fun and it allows students to speak for longer than the 15 second bursts of recording on Yakit kids. This has had a brilliant impact upon students and presents more grown up graphics for more able or older students. It’s a fun app and definitely one worth trying if you haven’t discovered it with your students yet.  Students seem to forget their anxieties about speaking in the target language when using this and Yakit kids and it’s fantastic to see.

Download it here: Tellagami by Tellagami Labs Inc.


4. Replay.   Image via iTunes.apple.com
I absolutely love this. @ictevangelist kindly shared this with me in October and I used it to collate the students and teachers photos taken on our visit to Barcelona. 

Replay is very easy to use, to upload photos from your phone or iPad to create a slideshow of images in a fun ‘zoomy’ way that students love. And the images appear to music. Brilliant. Having spent time showing students the Reply shows students have gone on to create their own Replay shows which is always a good thing. 

In the classroom I have used Replay to present new vocabulary visually having collated the images separately and uploaded them in the order I want to present them. Students like this as its a little different to traditional flash cards and Quizlet, and it’s another way to present, have fun with or test vocabulary. 

I plan to use Replay to create photo stories with students to develop their length of speaking with a visually aid/prompt. I can see students having fun with this in developing their oral presentations or picture based discussions and it will help them ditch the paper some rely upon so heavily. I’ll let you know how we get on!

Download it here: Replay Video Editor – Make Movies with Photos, Clips and Free Music by Stupeflix


5. Shadow Puppet edu.
Image via iTunes.apple.com

This brilliant app was introduced to me by @musicmind, again another fun visual app that allows students to upload their own edited images and create labels, add amusing additions and also support development of spoken language and confidence. The images can serve as prompts to extended spoken tasks or simply as a slideshow background to presentations. 

My students have had fun creating these and some have created these to help in other subject areas as the visual nature of the images they have created has helped how to structure responses to exam questions in a range of other subjects. Others have found that using this as a tool to order thoughts when revising has proven extremely helpful.  

I’ve also used this to celebrate student success in a unit of work photographing work and students in action then adding captions and icons proved a great success as it was such a giggle for all concerned. 

Download it here: Shadow Puppet Edu by Shadow Puppet Inc.


Many thanks to @musicmind and @ictevangelist for generously sharing their knowledge and expertise! And for their precious time and patience. And a special thank you to my students who have taken a risk, embraced this and enjoyed every minute. Great Learning ahoy! 

Two fun Yakit Kids ‘vidz’ – purely for fun you understand but the students absolutely loved them so please have a go, download it and play!

Adventures with my new tutor group


For the last few years I’ve been a Y11 tutor, I love being a tutor it’s makes for a cracking start to any school day. 

My current tutor group had been adored by their previous tutor for four years then after an opportunity elsewhere the former tutor departed and so these students now have me, which I’m not sure they were entirely happy about. 

Despite being at my current school for six years now it’s always with some trepidation that I volunteer to be the tutor of a KS4 group. I’m a confident, happy classroom teacher but taking over a tutor group, a sometimes surly group of teenagers as they approach their final year of school is no mean feat. Yet I found myself last year volunteering again to step up. Am I bonkers I hear you ask? Probably. Almost definitely. 

I received the list of students and knew only three of them, the rest I didn’t have a clue about beyond the data and the outgoing tutor only wanted to inform his lovelies in the final week of Y10 of his departure. I absolutely understood this and the reasons behind it but it made for a fun September; not only learning who my MFL students were (beyond the data) but also my new delightful tutor group. 

Attendance was an issue for some, homework for others, uniform and equipment and punctuality too also based upon consequences issued. A tutor time activities rota in hand and photo list at the ready I was well up for the challenge. 

The tutor group filed in, some already looking cross because I was directing them in to seats whilst welcoming them in with a smile and a wave. Thankfully within a matter of minutes they were smiling though some looked frustrated. I’d bought them a welcome to Y11 present, a fantastic puzzle pen and it was proving an interesting challenge for some. I treat my tutor groups to ‘surprises’ every so often, a fabulous new pen, a pencil, a lolly or an eraser. Perhaps if they are really good some chocolate. 

The pep talks, the stories and games of getting to know them have been fun and it is my privilege to be their tutor. To help support and guide each of them through the most stressful elements of their school careers to date; deciding on what to do in situations that arise, what they might want to do with their lives and where this might be beyond our 11-16 school and making sure they start the application process. 

In the two terms to date attendance is improving, consequences are decreasing and students flock to our classroom bringing friends along for a quiet place to sit and talk, perhaps with a question they need an answer to, to get support or just to eat their lunch and natter. We aren’t perfect but we try our best to do the right thing.

They are a lovely group of young men and women who are worried (and are pretending not to be) about their mocks, their post 16 experience,  friendships, doing the right thing and sticking to deadlines, oh and what to wear to prom. They are ace. 

We celebrate attendance targets that are met, boost and encourage those that just missed out, quiz each other working through Ian Gilbert’s Thunks, decipher what their future’s might be when they are my age (42!), watch Kid President videos, discuss politics and news stories and ask what we can do to make life that bit better for each other alongside the reading, revision, notices and checking they have the right equipment and uniform to ensure a positive day ahead of amazing learning. It’s a fun start to the day, with decent discussion unless they are particularly anxious, in which case I have to work that bit harder to make sure they smile before they depart for their first lesson. I don’t want to let them go unless I’ve managed to get a smile out of them!

I love being a tutor, I love that they have begun to text / Instagram / tweet / direct message each other if people are missing from registration, that they wrote the names of the student(s) across the doors of the advent calendar of absent peers that they didn’t want to miss out, that they all write beautiful and individual messages to Safyre (the young lady in the U.S. who only wanted cards for Christmas). As I’ve already said, they are ace. And I’m really lucky, and proud, to be their tutor. 

With three more terms to go I’m sure the trials and tribulations of teenage life will roll in but I’m certain that my lovely tutor group will do their best to look out for one another, will help and support each other with kindness and a sprinkling of banter to arrive at the best solution for themselves and their peers. Proof of this most recently is those that have had 6th form interviews freely sharing their experiences with the rest of the tutor group unprompted and unscripted to ensure each other are ready also helping each other complete application forms for 6th form providers. It is lovely to see them at their best.

They are, without a doubt, going to become even more wonderful young people who will change the world for the better.  

 Image thanks to Unify via Facebook.

Our favourite Kid President videos available on YouTube :        

And something that always keeps me smiling and motivated.   Image from http://www.funnyand.com