Friday, 29 June 2018

In The Students' Shoes For A Day

Over the past few months I have struggled to build relationships with some of my Year 11 PE students. There are 7 students who are close friends and sit in the back corner together, and often I find myself spending time managing their behaviour. ALL of these students have been identified as priority learners, and they are Maori students too.

Last year I went and visited one of my priority learners in another subject (see blogpost here), and found the experience incredibly rewarding. I took away some strategies to use within my class to support this student. My biggest concern with my current 7 students, is the time I spend trying to get/keep them on task, is sucking away time with students who really want and need my help - it really isn't fair. So, I requested, and was granted, a whole day today to observe these students in some of their other subjects. I really enjoyed seeing the kids in different lights, but also felt a sigh of relief when other teachers expressed their concerns and difficulties with the same students as me.

My key thoughts and reflections throughout the day;
  • Following around the students really made me appreciate how difficult it must be for the students to move between different classroom environments, different rules and expectations, different peers and completely different topics. I found it difficult to switch my thinking between periods and determine what was accepted in one class (which may not be accepted in the next). So I think I need to be a little more empathetic sometimes if they forget some of my rules!
  • Physical placement within the room seemed to make a considerable difference to many of their concentration levels, motivation to complete tasks and engagement in their learning. In addition, the classroom layout itself effected how they behaved and came across in the class. This wasn't too surprising though!
  • When the tasks were hands-on, or not using their devices, the students were generally more engaged, and were completing more of their tasks.

After this day, some strategies I think may help moving forward in my 11PE class are;
  • Change up the layout of the classroom, so the students are not all segregated in the corner. This may encourage the students to connect with other students, may reduce the behaviour management time, and may increase student engagement. In some of their other subjects, these students were seated closer to the teacher and they were less disruptive than in my class.
  • Have more one on one discussions with the students about their learning. I spent an entire period with my Year 10 students, individually discussing what they had learnt throughout the previous unit and what they still didn't understand (away from the other students in the class). This was so effective to gain an understanding of where they were at in PE, as well as enabled me to have conversations with some of the quieter students, building a closer relationship with them. Having the individual chats with my Year 11s, including the priority learners, may be as effective to increase relationships, will increase time spent with other students in the class, and the conversations may give me further strategies to support each student.
  • Include more activities/tasks that are not on devices. Gaming, social media and YouTube have been some of the main things I have had to manage when these students are in class, and today's observations demonstrated to me that removing the devices increased student engagement.
Overall, today was a great experience, which I am grateful for. I took a lot away from being immersed in other subjects, not only from the students, but also the teachers. I would definitely recommend observing priority learners who may be more difficult to connect with, in other subjects.

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