Message for Monday.

This is the message that my pupils are getting in the bulletin on Monday.
A message from Mrs Carter
Lunchtime behaviour.
At lunchtimes, we want to give you freedom to be with your friends, have some  less structured time and get a break from strict supervision.
We trust you to behave in a way towards each other that ensures that everyone feels happy and relaxed.

If you cannot do this, there will be very serious consequences, so before you speak to anyone at lunchtime, stop and consider the following:

Is it true?
Is it helpful?
Is it inspiring?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?
THINK.

If you cannot be kind to others in this school community, I will need to supervise you until you learn to be so.

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Real results.

30 years ago today I turned 18. I cried for most of the morning. 30 years ago to the day, I also received my A Level results and “only” got 2 As and a B so was not going to be accepted into my chosen university.
The tears were related to the results and not the birthday, which should have been a day of celebration and joy.

Of course, I had done incredibly well. But I felt a failure. The system of exams and university entrance, so divisive and narrow in its definition of “success” and “intelligence”, had led me to equate value with being able to do well in exams.
No matter that I was a good, kind person, a creative and talented singer and actor and a deep but slightly chaotic thinker.
In the end, I got a place by re-applying the following year. But the experience having “failed” on the basis of a few hours sitting in a stuffy hall and spewing out all I could remember about French, German and Politics hit me hard.

So reading this fabulous piece this week makes me wonder what on earth we are thinking and doing, thirty years on from my results day:
https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/after-sitting-28-gcse-papers-four-weeks-i-was-left-thinking-what-was

Having worked in education for over twenty-five years, I have seen attempts to challenge the system come and go:
Vocational GCSEs;
The revival of Drama and other creative subjects in the noughties;
The accreditation of work experience;
The inclusion of Key Skills in A and AS levels;
The attempt by organisations like the RSA to promote the value skills-based qualifications.

And in Scotland, where I now work, the creation of a new Curriculum For Excellence qualifications system that allows pupils to be assessed without an exam.

But what are we doing in Scotland? We are talking about re-introducing the exam into our National 4 (lower tier GCSE equivalent) as seemingly people don’t value it without one.

In fact, all that needs to happen is that we need to do the PR better. Pupils, parents and the universities need to be persuaded that exams are only one way of assessing pupils, alongside many other equally valid methods.

Exams are indeed often a memory test. And they are easy to administer and mark.
But let’s not pretend that easy is best for our children or for the future of our country.

When I go in tomorrow for our first day of term and ask my colleagues to analyse our exam results, I will be just as interested in the non-exam results; in the non-examined National 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s.
But I will also be keen to hear the narrative around each child and to reflect on how well we have supported them in their journey to become educated and achieving in the broadest sense; to be happy, healthy and doing the best they can.

 

The longer-term view.

Last weekend I went back for a music festival to the island where we had spent six and a half years. We left nearly four years ago when I sought promotion to a senior leadership post.

When we lived in Uist, I was variously a supply teacher, PT (Head of Department) of Support for Learning, PT Languages and Youth Theatre leader.

I consequently got to know lots of pupils over the years.

I knew at the time that I was blessed to work with them. They were generally co-operative, creative and resilient.
The classes were small and although we were on a remote rock in the middle of the Atlantic, we were generally well-resourced.

Of course we had some issues. There was a significant degree of rural deprivation. Some pupils found island life suffocating and frustrating. We had our fair share of family break-ups, health and mental health difficulties and bereavements. Alcohol misuse was a concern amongst young and old.
And we had the terrible trauma of a care-leaver who was murdered soon after leaving school in S4.

But we also had an amazing sense of community that was based around music, drama, ceilidhs, Gaelic and tradition.

The community was somewhat wary of outsiders at times but on the whole we fitted in.

Within minutes of arriving at the festival, I was confronted by three lovely young women. “Lena! Do you remember us?” At first, a moment of bluster, having been taken unawares and unable to place these beautiful faces… and then “Of course!! Caitlin, Sarah and ….. Jessie!” Two former Germanists and youth theatre die-hards and one of my first S4 French class and a Gaelic star.
Now, as if possible, an art undergraduate, a medic and a British Museum trainee…..All confident, poised and so very interesting.

I felt a burst of pride and a genuine sense of contentment.

And so the weekend continued. Re-union after union, tale after tale of children grown into young adults; lots having been inspired to continue with German, many carrying the baton of drama into their adult lives.

Several had not found school easy but are now achieving and thriving as grown-ups.

The highlight, perhaps, was dancing along to the Beinn Lee Ceilidh Band which rivals any of the modern-traditional fusion bands that you will hear today and was formed completely of former pupils.

I know that I didn’t get the full story or complete picture in every case. I know that not every past pupil will be in a good place.

But last weekend gave me a huge sense of affirmation that our job as a teacher is a privilege and potentially life-changing.

We can’t measure our success in a matter of months or a few short years. We need to take a longer- term view to really see the seeds we have sown grow, flourish and bloom.