Look at the above title. How does it read to you? Is it negative or positive? That little word ‘yet’, in my opinion, communicates a hugely positive message because the little Year 7 boy or girl who walked into my classroom for the first time ever four weeks ago, can’t change the world right now, but one day, they just might.
Three years ago I joined a secondary school in an old mining town in West Yorkshire; the town has a very close knit community whereby everybody knows everybody and collectively they are bound together by their sheer love and passion for their local and successful rugby team. Whilst on interview, I was given a guided tour by a group of Year 8 pupils who took immense pride in showing me the ‘Hall of Fame’ corridor in which numerous photos of pupils, both old and new, decorated the walls. Despite the love of rugby that, I feel, was once (and still very much is) the beating heart of the school, our pupils are encouraged to be the best they can possibly be in any subject from the moment they walk through our doors to the moment they leave and beyond. Only yesterday, I picked up a document that contained pictured of the smiling faces of past pupils who had joined us with low KS2 grades and poor literacy and numeracy levels; this document praised the varying successes of these pupils who had left us in July. It celebrated the fact that, against all odds, these young men and women achieved the grades they did not expect to achieve when they first joined us in Year 7. Having recently returned to work from maternity leave, I wasn’t able to celebrate in our Year 11 success, but on Monday morning, through sleep deprived eyes, I saw the smiling face of the boy I taught when he was in Year 10; the one who once struggled to write a difficult essay about ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The boy achieved his much deserved C in English; this may not seem like much to some, but to him, it was the Everest he had to conquer if he wanted doors to open for him in the future.
Within our Academy, we teach and nurture a vast array of pupils from very different social and economic backgrounds, but our aspirations for them are always the same. Some pupils struggle to see that a world exists outside their little town and it is up to us as educators to change their perception. I am well aware that ‘one size does not fit all’ and as a classroom teacher, as a form tutor, as a member of the English Department and as an employee of an Academy I am incredibly proud and lucky to work for, I will do everything in my power to help a pupil set out on a journey to become the person they want to be. Yes, they will need guidance along the way, because, who at eleven years old knows that one day, they might just want to rule the world?
My pupils and my own children are very lucky to live in a society that empowers them to be the best they can be. However, I feel it’s also important to recognise that everyone’s best version of themselves will be different. I recall many years ago, when I first started teaching, a girl in a top set English group told me that all she wanted to achieve out of life was to be a wife and mother. I scoffed at that (I was childless and single at the time), but who was I to do that to another person’s dream? Looking back now, both as a mother and as an experienced teacher, that was poor form on my part and perhaps as a new teacher, I wasn’t at my best…then. I really hope that she achieved her dream of being a wife and a mother and I am sure, if she is, she will be doing a damn fine job at it.
Millions of children unfortunately grow up in a world they can’t change…yet. One whole school initiative that we must abide by in our academy is that all lessons should include an insight into ‘the bigger picture’. This ‘bigger picture’ is known professionally as ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’, it is a way for us to help make the world a smaller place for our (mostly) rugby obsessed teenagers. It allows them to discuss and learn about what is going on in the world around them. I have to admit that when I first started teaching at my current school, I struggled to put SMSC in my lessons as it felt somewhat forced. I felt I was trying to shoehorn in a Sky News bulletin just so my pupils knew that somewhere far away and in a place they may never visit, a bomb blown up and injured hundreds of innocent people. However, after discussions with my boss and after observing other teachers, I learnt how to incorporate it into every single one of my lessons. For example, I am teaching ‘Romeo and Juliet’ once again to a group of low ability Year 10s. I asked them to imagine a world without books and after a bit of prompting, we had a lovely discussion about the state our planet would be in if we couldn’t read and communicate with one another. There was even one new student who has recently joined us from Africa tapping away on ‘Google Translate’; he may not have understood much of the discussion, but he will do…soon.
Having read about ‘The World’s Largest Lesson’ on September 25th, I feel that if we all share a common goal in aspiring our children to be the best they can be, then perhaps these global goals that the world’s leaders are committed to, could be achievable by 2030 and who knows, one of those current world leaders might just pass their baton (because every world leader has a baton) onto a young man or woman from a working class town in West Yorkshire who just became the best version of themselves.