During my relatively short career as a teacher, one aspect I have found exhausting is the students’ neediness. Often, their unwillingness or inability to try harder in the face of adversity ends in poor behaviour, giving up, disinterest in learning and apathy. Sometimes, I feel as though I am giving them my all and they give so little in return.
As a pedagogy leader, I identified this as an issue for many of our young people and decided to run a session on building resilience and determination in learners. From this, I have reflected a lot on my own practice and have endeavoured to implement the strategies in my classroom. Many of them are not revolutionary but simply take a little time out of your lesson to have a dialogue with students about their resilience and determination.In a lesson with my mixed ability year 9 – many of whom struggle with English – I began the lesson by displaying ‘clues’ around my room. They were asked to explore these clues to determine the type of writing we would be using in the lesson. They included ‘I am written in the first person and past tense’ and ‘I share my writer’s thoughts and feelings and include their day’s activities’. Whilst I took the register, students were able to figure out that we would be writing a diary entry. This was my first step in allowing students to work independently. The ‘unusual’ starter activity was engaging; plus, some of them enjoyed the movement around the room. Additionally, rather than simply telling students or reminding them of the conventions of diary writing, they were able to revise them independently.
From here, I decided to have a very open dialogue with students about what it meant to be resilient or to work more independently. I was very honest with them about how they often said ‘I don’t get it’ before they’d even attempted the task. Many of them nodded, knowing that they did this on a regular basis. Whilst this strategy isn’t ground-breaking, it worked really well in simply raising the profile of resilience and determination. Students came up with ideas about how they could be less reliant on teachers and support staff. They came up with the ideas of using their books, the glossaries in their plays and talking to one another.
Students then had to work in pairs or small groups to revise the events of Act 1 Scene 7. They would be writing a diary entry as Macbeth after his discussion with Lady Macbeth and therefore needed to be familiar with the main events of that scene. Students had a 10 minute timer on the board and were given 6 revision questions. After the open discussion about resilience, students were eager to show that they could work without support. Many of them used their notes from previous lessons. I could hear students telling each other which lines to have a look at.
The last part of this lesson asked them to plan their ideas. They were given four ‘prompt’ boxed which asked them to consider the content, structure, and vocabulary and language techniques of their writing. Again, with prompt questions and guidance, students were able to plan independently and were very well prepared for their writing assessment the following lesson.
At the end of the lesson, I asked students to reflect on how they’d worked differently that lesson and how they’d demonstrated their resilience. Many of them reflected on how they’d used their revision notes or talked to a buddy. Whilst it is important for students to consider their progress in subject specific skills, it is also important to remember that students must have key learning skills to be good learners across the curriculum. If we can address and hone skills such as resilience, we will inevitably see good progress across the curriculum.
Attached to this blog is the PowerPoint I used for my lesson, photos of the kids’ work and the session I ran for staff on resilience.