I was chatting to a friend on Twitter this morning. She tweeted that
“I used to be more right wing until I went 2 work in an area with high unemployment in Cornwall as a Careers Adviser. Totally changed my view”
I realised then that I had changed my views over the last 10 years too. One student will illustrate why
I was teaching IT Key Skills in an Inner City College. I mostly taught A level student & some vocational level 3. Many of my lessons were in part of the drop in centre. This was far from ideal as I had to clear students out before the start of the lesson. Some weren’t keen on going. It was warm in there. They could chat & surf the Internet.
One boy had to be thrown out regularly “John” was an unprepossessing kid, skinny, spotty and always argumentative when I asked him to move. He was an Intermediate Sports Studies student who had come up from the foundation course.
The next year, I found him in a class I was teaching. I didn’t look forward to this. I knew he had a track record of arguments & even fights. I soon found out I was wrong. Yes, he could be aggressive and difficult, but this was his reaction to being asked to do things he didn’t understand. If you gave him time, quiet attention and the help he couldn’t bring himself to ask for out loud, he was responsive and tried hard. His biggest problem was a raging insecurity.
To pass the course the students needed to produce a portfolio of work and pass an on-line multiple choice test. His class took the test, most passed, he failed. The way the questions were written generally caused more problems than the content.
We worked together, he completed his portfolio. I told him I wanted him to resit the test. He didn’t want to, he didn’t like that he had failed and thought he would fail again. I spent a long time persuading him that he should, that all his work on the portfolio would be wasted if he didn’t. He finally relented and re-sat……and failed again. What was great was his response. He thanked me for making him resit, he said he was pleased he had and had improved his mark. He would have another go if there was time. If you want to see what the tests were like there is one here as a PDF
He completed that year, moved on to the second year of his course and vanished after a couple of weeks. The department made efforts to get him back into college but calls and letters went unanswered and visits home found no-one there. It looked as if he had become a statistic.
At the start of the following year I met him in college. I was genuinely pleased to see him and asked what had happened. He told me that he’d had to stay home to look after his dad who had “put himself in hospital with his drinking” he was back now because his “brother was back home and could help“. I didn’t like to ask where his brother had been.
So this was a young man who had left school with very few qualifications. He had worked through four years of college, learning new forms of behavious, developing his social skills and self-confidence as well as getting a formal qualification. He had come back to college after a year out to complete his course. The last I heard he was working at a Sports Centre.
I’m not sure I would have done so well if I’d had his background. I look at “difficult” teenagers differently now I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of knowing so many of them. After ten years in FE I can think of only a handful of students that I have actually disliked, which in all honesty is a much lover proportion than the adults I have met in the same time period.
Oh, almost forgot the point of this. Would politicians understand the “feral, scrounging scum” if they really knew people who weren’t actually educated at Eton? Or are they really a lost cause?
Disclaimer If I make any mistakes in these blog posts. Don’t worry. I’m deliberately rattling them off quickly with no rewrites in order to overcome the issues described in my first post