The question was “If you had a clever, quiet, student, disengaged, who did the work but you didn’t feel you were really getting through to him/her, what would you do to engage him/her in all that the school had to offer?” It was based on me (and one of my children, actually) but not me, in part because schools are completely different now from when I was a pupil, and also because it doesn’t quite describe young Z. I was not really asking for on-the-spot psychoanalysis.
I can’t remember quite what the Head said when he was being interviewed, but this time (I may have omitted the word ‘quiet’) he took it to mean a bored lad who was quietly subversive. He certainly thought it was a masculine trait – which is fair enough, all the things they say about the way boys learn at school compared with girls, I’m well on the boys’ wavelength.
The reason I brought the subject up was that we were planning questions to ask our student teacher, who was going for an interview the next day. We asked the fairly standard ones, and then slipped in a few tricky ones. I wanted to ask (and you might suspect you see something of the young Z here too) – oh, I should explain that she is a PE teacher – “teenagers tend to be either sporty or not, and you will naturally identify more easily with the sporty ones. How do you encourage the less able pupil, who finds sport hard – may be small, overweight, have poor co-ordination or whatever, and doesn’t want to join in?”
She came up with some good suggestions, including getting the pupil to do some coaching, doing dancing and non-competitive exercises, maybe aerobics and so on. I was happy with her answer but afterwards, I said that her answer to a previous question had actually appealed to me a great deal. That question was the fairly standard “describe a lesson that had been particularly successful, where learning had taken place, and how would you know that it had?” She told us of an athletics lesson, where she had been improving the long-jumping skills of a class of girls. She had put a low barrier of some sort to encourage them to jump higher as well as further, and then measured their progress with and without it. Each girl had been able to measure her own jumping – there was a row of coloured cones so that, rather than spend time measuring, they had been able to see whether they’d reached the red, yellow or whatever cone, and they had become keen to beat their record. The point was not, on that occasion, to compete with each other. They had worked out why they were improving and (unprompted) talked about trajectory and so on – it was really interesting to hear her. And I said, I thought that would also be good for someone who isn’t a natural athlete, because she wouldn’t have instinctively understood what she was doing wrong or how to improve. I also think that, for the sort of person who would be more likely to be in the library reading than on the athletics field, that an analytic approach would engage interest, especially when it transpired that the theory worked in practice.
Afterwards, of course, the Head said to me, “so, what is the answer to your original question?” And I’m not so sure that I had a complete one, although I did give him an answer. And that can wait for another day. Both the Sage and I had difficulty sleeping last night and kept waking each other up. I’m tired and I’ve got two parties to go to tomorrow. Of course, one always perks up for a party.