In 2000-2001 I was carrying out action research for my PhD, investigating why some pupils got excluded and others didn’t and what schools could do about it. I introduced meditation and sharing circles to Year 7 drama at a time when it seemed new and radical, and it had a positive impact on the pupils I was working with. I combined meditation with a ‘check in’ or listening circle which allowed pupils to:
1. Grade the teacher!
One way we can improve the learning in each lesson is to get the children to openly ‘grade’ the teaching and learning that has gone on in the lesson (pictured above). This allows children to take responsibility of their input into the lesson, and allows honest dialogue between teacher and pupil to take place. it helps to develop the teaching and learning that goes on by allowing the pupil to be in control and take ownership of their effort, something some children find challenging to understand. This method develops a pupil’s understanding of the need to engage actively with their learning opportunities and to allow active thinking to help them learn.
I think most people who work as teachers would agree with the importance of having high expectations of your pupils. And similarly, how important it is to model these expectations, and strive to do so, most of the time. I'm sure that again, for most teachers, it comes naturally to model good behaviours; positive attitudes and respect. After all, why should we expect this from our students if we ourselves are lacking in traits that are so fundamental to healthy human interactions?
During my visit to the Association for Physical Education's national conference, I was inspired by Keynote speakers Iwan Thomas and Richard McCann talking about how 'attitude is everything', and that it's all about saying 'I can'. Both of these speakers were absolutely right, but it got me thinking about one essential ingredient that all of our kids need before they can be confident enough to say 'I can': poker chips.
It took me back to the first ever teacher training video that I ever watched as a GTP student, learning my trade in a school in special measures just over 10 years ago. I vividly remember sitting down to watch this video with the rest of the teaching staff and being sceptical about what I was about to see. However, after just a few minutes I was hooked and have always remembered the powerful message that was conveyed by Rick Lavoie. His message was simple: our kids need to be given self esteem by us as teachers and parents if we want them to join in the game of life. We need to give them poker chips every day so they feel confident enough to play alongside the popular kids at school, enough poker chips so they can answer questions in class, and enough poker chips so they can take on the challenges that life throws at us.