Over the last three weeks I have been acting TAS co-ordinator as my boss has been on sick leave. . . . he not only left big shoes to fill (funny, because he not only has bigger feet than me, but is also wearing a bootie to protect a broken heel) but at a busy and tiring time of term it was even more challenging. ANYWAY, the point of this reflective post is that we had a TAS meeting on thursday morning, and on my little agenda post-it was the following equation: (ENGAGING ACTIVITIES + RELEVANT ACTIVITIES = HAPPY STUDENTS) HAPPY TEACHER . . . .
After a sad week where one sewing machine was broken (seemingly on purpose) and others were found with scratch marks and graffiti, I started to ponder the CAUSE. We all know that engaged students are “easier to manage”, we have less classroom management issues when students can access work and are interested, however, we have an ongoing issue with this and YEAR 8 TEXTILES. The more I started to think about how the sewing machines were damaged a little scenario started to play in my head. . . . Year 8 student, slouched in their chair, frustrated with the sewing machine because it wont work, it cant be fixed without the teachers help, teacher is busy helping someone else and they are taking AGES, it’s old anyway, and broken too? *FRUSTRATION!!!! *cue pushing/turning all dials until something breaks. . . .
I don’t think it matters what classroom or subject matter we are talking about, frustrated teenagers are not ideal. Respect for their teacher and environment diminishes when THEY CAN’T DO. . . SIMPLY, IT IS OUR JOB TO TEACH THEM, make work accessible to all and ALLOW THEM TO LEARN AND HAVE A SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT.
I did loads of reading this week on engagement, and I found an old but interesting article that reiterated EXACTLY what I was thinking “Good teachers are firmly in control, allow discussion and its attendant noise only in so far as it is educational, and direct and shape student learning. The best teachers know how much to talk, when to listen, how to motivate student interest and engagement and at what point to unleash the students, under supervision, as active learners, engaging richly and deeply with the learning material”
In a practical subject, the point at which we UNLEASH THE STUDENTS to use machines, tools and equipment is vital. They need to be confident enough to problem solve and self correct- there is NO WAY a teacher can possibly attend to all the raised hands at once that are calling out “MISSSSSS!!!! SIRRRRRRRR!!!! MY SEWING MACHINE ISNT WORKING?! CAN YOU FIX IT!!??”.
At Thursdays meeting as a faculty we had an excellent discussion based on this article, my thoughts in regards to the cause for the damage to the sewing machines and some practical ways to avoid this in the future. We looked at ways of BALANCING PRAC- so that students were confident in the machine use BEFORE actually using it, buddy systems and also techniques and strategies in managing challenging behaviour that is stemmed from frustration. We mainly see this challenging behaviour from boys- in their gender bias of textiles and battle with the complexity of the sewing machine. BUT, we came to an agreement, which isn’t new -that the TEACHER makes a difference, their enthusiasm, helpfulness and encouragement is what KEEPS STUDENTS motivated AND engaged. And DESPITE the unit of work and a students perception/interest level, a GOOD TEACHER WILL MAKE LEARNING HAPPEN!
I am not avoiding the fact that the broken sewing machine is WRONG, however, we should delve deeper into the cause of student behaviours, be proactive and employ practices that prevent them from happening.
YOUR TURN: Where does student engagement COME FROM? . . .from the content? from you? from your activities? . . . . What does an ENGAGED student look like? how does is affect your class management? how do you plan ENGAGING lessons??