Izzy, Wizzy, Let’s Get Busy!

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    Don Ledingham wrote a great post (NB: pedagoo.org did not pay him for it! 😉 ) about what he calls ‘Evaluation is for Learning‘ as a natural evolution of good practice. One thought I had as I read it was that his opening question would make a great topic for the forums:

    Tell us about a time when you enabled a learner to achieve beyond their own expectations and explain how you met their needs.

    So… give it some thought, and be ready to share! I’m sorting out some of my own examples and will post one or two soon. Let’s get this ball rolling 😉


    Susan Wood

    One prime example is from very early on in my career. A certain young chap was underachieving in all areas in school. However, he was achieving in all areas of criminality and was very well known to the local constabulary! To say he was disengaged from learning would be an understatement… We struck a deal one day. I gave him alternatives to the work the class were doing. Sometimes, it would even be as straightforward as copying out of a book! But he was always doing something that would enhance his learning, whether he knew it or not. In the end, Mod Studs was one of just 3 SG’s he sat, and he got a 5 – his highest grade. I was so proud of him, and was happier with that than the raft of Credit grades the rest of the class achieved. It’s still one of my biggest achievements and I often wonder what happened to him.

    karen doherty

    Hmmm…interesting topic.
    I recall a lad with Asperger’s Syndrome who was flagged up as being very high tariff. Destinations for him looked bleak. I was dreading having him in my class. He did not engage with any of his previous teachers and although they suspected he was bright, they couldn’t connect with him. Consequently, his behaviour was always high on their agenda. He was violent, unpredictable, argumentative and blunt to the point of rudeness.
    After a few false starts I discovered that he had a passion for all things Scooby Doo. I copied and pasted a few clip art images of Scooby and Shaggy onto some worksheets and suddenly he was rushing through work. All correct.
    As luck would have it, a children’s comic was offering a tin box in the shape of the mystery machine with little character cards inside. It was like magic. Do 3 tasks, get 1 card on your table. Try to get the full set by the end of the day.
    I gradually increased the number, nature and challenge of tasks required before giving him a reward.
    Eventually, I gave him no reward at all other than telling him what he had done well and asking him to think about how to improve next time.I am a huge fan of intrinsic reward.
    He changed from a frustrated, belligerent individual to a hard working, independent learner. He’s at college now doing very well by all accounts. I still have the card he gave me when he left primary. That and the three foot pen he gave me because he noticed I am always losing pens…


    From Judith Weston:
    “Mine was a whole class. I arrived in a new school at the start of May to find I had a Standard Grade class who had spent a whole year doing nothing with an NQT who resigned mid session. It was a highly able group, but they had learned nothing. Full steam ahead…The year was crammed. We made the most of every lesson-you have to start lessons promptly (not easy when I was peripatetic) and with real purpose. Aims and expectations were raised, group and peer assessment were utilised for learning, not just as a cheap cop out to avoid marking, and soon they were working hard. I couldn’t let up for a minute. Up to then, I think I had become complacent in my job, ambling kids along, safe in the knowledge that we would have time. Here, we didn’t and I had to be excellent. Every lesson. The results were outstanding, with every child in the class of thirty achieving credit-11grade ones. Fast forward two years, and I end up with one of that class in my Higher class, having achieved a no award in S5. Same principals were applied-no time to waste, high expectations, some tough talking and as much of my time as I could give him-and he sailed through with a B pass. I reflected that ambition, drive, making the most of the time available and giving of your help as much as possible, is what my pupils respond to.”


    One of mine that really stands out happened not long after I’d seen Sir Ken Robinson’s influential and brilliant Creativity Ted Talk.

    We had a particularly troubled and troublesome lad (who I’ll call Ben for the sake of clarity)who would do no work in class, and instead, spent his time drawing graffiti all over his jotters, his neighbours’ jotters, any available scrap of paper, and failing that, the desk. Ben was driving his teacher up the wall. None of this was improved by the fact that any attempt to challenge his behaviour was very likely to result in an escalating response and counter-response that on more than one occasion led to his being excluded.

    One day, and with Sir Ken’s words ringing in my ears, I decided to try challenging him in a different way. I saw him writing on his jotter, and asked him if he had heard of ‘Banksy’. He hadn’t, so we ended up having a great chat about how sometimes graffiti could be political, and worthwhile. I made a deal with him (yes… a teacher making a deal!), find out about Banksy and the history of political graffiti, and I’d help him complete his English folio. In time honoured fashion, I never saw him again. I have no idea he wrote about Banksy for his folio, and I’m fairly certain he wasn’t too interested in the history of graffiti… but at least I’d tried.

    I’d see him in the corridors from time to time after that, and always asked how things were going. Within a year, he’d left and I didn’t think about him for a long time.

    3 or 4 years years later, I bumped into Ben again. On leaving school, he had discovered Punk and looked truly frightening… leopard hair, bondage jeans, piercings all over his face… in short, the sort of young person who will send most people heading in the other direction. He was, of course, in a group of others, and they had been drinking. This was about the time I was beginning to wish that I had made a will.

    “Mr Winton!” There’s nothing like a well timed shout from a scary ex-pupil to stop you in your tracks.
    He came rushing towards me and before I could do anything, had his hand out and was giving me a great big smile.
    “You’re the best teacher I ever had…” (I bet he says that to all his ex-teachers!)”…thanks to you, I’m at college doing graphic design. I’m hoping to get into Art school next year…”He turned to his posse. “He’s the teacher I told you about. The one who knew who Banksy is.” Within minutes, I had been accepted, and Ben was taking great delight in discussing the Banksy film Exit Through The Gift Shop with me.

    A few minutes later, and we said our goodbyes and I left feeling very proud of Ben and really pleased to have had a brief update on his journey.

    So, what made the difference? I think it was that I took an interest all those years ago. I didn’t fit into the usual pattern that had become well established at school. I drew on my own (very limited) knowledge of graffiti and Banksy, and challenged Ben to channel what he was doing into something that might be of use to him. This was entirely as a result of Sir Ken’s creativity talk. I looked for the positives in what Ben could do, and wanted to do.

    I had not realised how much of an impact my throwaway challenge had made on him. Unbeknown to me, he did go off, found Banksy, became inspired, and started chasing Graphic design courses. If he hadn’t, I suspect he’d be in regular trouble with the police by now.

    Sometimes, we need to forget the academic, and think about what is best for the young person in front of us. On this occasion, I got it right… but I do worry about all the other times I don’t.

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