Thursday, 8 December 2016

Do our students perceive us as the problem, or the solution?

A wave of mixed behaviour and assessments plague the Christmas season before the students and staff get a much deserved break. I've been busy working on other projects for my own development and I remembered that I have been slacking on the blogs.

What I am going to talk about today is the perception that our students have about us as FE teachers and lecturers. Our students come in to a system in which they have to attend further education until the age of 18. If they choose to continue at 19, they still have to complete compulsory English and Maths until they are 19 also. The students I work with have displayed unusual behaviour this week, sometimes the confrontations start and vary throughout the day. I believe this is down to personal frustrations and the feeling that they are tired from the longer side of the half term towards Christmas.

One of my students today was unmotivated, didn't want to be there and frustrated. It is very easy as a lecturer to be objective in this circumstance but the conversation I had with this learner afterwards was very insightful. This learner told me about her negative experience within school, and how her previous teachers would get on to her to work on her Maths. Our conversation revolved around her negative experiences with teachers, interestingly enough, she said that she hopes she has me as her maths teacher again next year, a positive message that I wouldn't have known about without taking the time to show I cared about her education.

What I learnt today was that our students view us as a part of a system that criticises, judges and demotivates their ambitions. We often tell our students to complete tasks and activities within lessons but within Mathematics, our students are often felt feeling belittled, small and often stupid. My students often tell me that they feel stupid when we don't get something, a feeling that is shared amongst my adult evening classes too. It is worrying when adults tell you how they feel upset when they don't understand some content you are delivering.

My advice for today is to consider your students as people, talk to them about their priorities and what they see themselves doing. Your students view you as part of the system, show them that you are interested in their wellbeing and learning while they are in your care. It's very easy to complain about behaviour, it's much more difficult to consider the cause and get to the root of the problem. I realised that my students aren't angry at me, but at the system that got them in contact with me, become deflective of negativity and know that it is not you, but rather the subject they are frustrated with.

A short post today, but I intend to do shorter posts throughout the week, and then end on a much bigger blog entry considering experiences shared. I am currently completing my QTLS qualification so I may not be able to post as frequently as possible, so thank you for reading and your continued support.

- Matt