JOURNAL OF AN ABCO
An extract from a reflective journal
by Karen Collins,
West wood St. Thomas School, Salisbury
Inserted from October 01
Have finished finalising arrangements for the MFL enrichment session with Sarah Terry. Hope that all this will work as planned, as I am concerned that some students will be tempted to switch off when they hear of the joy of two hours of extra French! I am glad there will be refreshments as these will hopefully give a more adult atmosphere to the session. If these students can come out of this knowing how to prepare a piece of coursework more effectively, I will be more than happy. My main concern is that there will be no continuity to these sessions, and that all they will learn will simply be forgotten within two weeks.
Using Year 12 as a resource I hope will work both ways for the students to extend themselves. Perhaps Year 12 will even learn that Year 9 students are not as horrible as they think.....
16th October 02
Today was D-Day. The enrichment session went with a bang, I felt an enthusiasm for the validity of such sessions as a real tool for learning- i.e./ for going deeper into the subject, and using what they have learnt for real purposes and not just isolated areas. The buzz in the room was fantastic, all seemed apprehensive at first, particularly faced with Year 12s and year 9s- HOWEVER THE GROUPINGS WORKED VERY WELL. One of the highlights for me was the way in which James engaged in the session. James will normally attempt to switch off and state that everything is too easy for him. Here no audience was interested in his opinions and he was able to engage without the peer pressure that he must normally feel within the classroom environment.
The main drawback was time or lack of it, and I wished for another two lessons to put everything together. This was also highlighted in the feedback sheets from the students, together with comments such as "very useful.. ", "it really made me think " and "I like the idea of being in a small group, there is less pressure ". One Year 12 student commented "It has made me realise that all Year 9s are not little s***s! ". Surely a great plus point for creating a greater community feeling within the school. I often feel that the layout leads to segregation of the Year groups on an extreme, and this discourages any relationships between year groups to develop.
I wish that ST could have observed part of the session. I will trap her asap as it would be great to get these sessions as more of a feature of the school- and not just isolated to one year group either.
5th February 02
Learn today that ST is leaving, and must admit that I am sorely tempted to go for the role of abco if it comes available. I would love to see the enrichment sessions developed further, and personally I have always been attracted to working for provision for these students. It is definitely an area that I would wish to see go further. I feel that the school's intake leans towards students of lower ability, and that these students are often ignored because of the fact that they are in a top set, and therefore will be alright when the exams come. What about the whole child?.....
Have my interview for the post of abco in three days. Must admit I am very nervous, but surely am in good position, as have just completed the able and gifted SIP with ST. Three areas that we wish to focus on 9or the successive post holder in her absence..) :
The development of enrichment sessions-this will mean high costs due to cover and resources, but the outcome and opportunity of the sessions will far outweigh these in my opinion. There must however be continuity or these will just be forgotten and of no overall use to the students. Also I am cautious that we would be going deeper into the subject areas in these sessions and not extending the students to make more work for them. Surely this would just switch them off.Links to HE; I believe that there is a limited outlook be some students of their future, narrowed by social environment in which they live.
Having read the excellence in cities programme and talked to Lee Henessy at the University of Bath (just as well exploit our MA Links!) this seems to be a viable option. I did think about students joining lectures, though this seems to be fairly limited in use in retrospective. To give our students a glimpse of what future that they might wish to create for themselves would be an enriching experience no doubt.
Mentoring and portfolios: Mentoring seems to be a current hotword in terms of ab/gif. The abco alone would simply not have the time to conduct these interviews by themselves, yet ST and myself think that this could be delegated comfortable amongst the working party- if we can provide cover for staff whilst they conduct the interviews. I suggested that by linking the students to staff within the curriculum area in which they have been identified as far as possible will help to engage both student and staff in the discussion,as both will already share a common ground. ST THINKS THIS IS THE BEST WAY TO PROCEED.
AND FINALLY......all this work will go ahead, yet if we create a system of portfolios for all individuals involved, then the students and all shareholders in the scheme will have an access point and a reference of the involvement and development of each student. The student can then take the material away with him/her at the end f their time at WST.
My first week in post. Have drawn up an action plan for myself in terms of what I think is plausible to go ahead with in the first year. Juggling my three roles will be the most tricky item to manage, and I propose to block areas of time out for myself in order to make the task more manageable. My main concern is communication, and how effective this can be between all the shareholders in the project. AH raised this as a concern in the interview, and I think that this is central to this project being a success. Yet how to engage everyone within what I am trying to achieve, To what extent is this possible? A few ideas;
Meet with the working party twice in a term. MAKE SURE THAT MEETINGS ARE ACTIVE, AND NOT JUST A LISTEN-TALK SITUATION. I WANT THE FORMAT OF THE MEETINGS to be open , so that members can talk about their own ideas in a freer context. A colleague said to me this week that "A working party is like working with your friends. You are lucky because not only can you choose them, but they will also share your interests " Perhaps a thought should therefore go out to HoFs, struggling with their "families ", including the pubescent teenager.
Meeting with the colleagues leading enrichment sessions, and making sure that these sessions have an emphasis on skills based work. That they are deepening current knowledge and not an extension to create more workloads for everyone concerned! These sessions need to be monitored via the standard feedback sheet, and I hope to invite parents/governors in to share/be involved in the experience. There also needs to be a record of the importance of the session, wither by video camera or photographs capturing the session. I wish to liase with CL on this.
A PARENTS MEETING. This is central to the communication element of the project, or pilot scheme as I wish to name it. If I can persuade parents to attend, never easy, and ask AH, ST, and PA to be involved then the session will really be invaluable. or a complete disaster! To persuade parents I might use the lion bar that they will be finding out more about their own child at the meeting (which will indeed be true). A personal aspect will help, and a carefully worded letter to ensure that parents know the meeting will be an active one, and not just a talked-at session.
Bath University is shaping up nicely, although I wish to invite a governor to attend the trip as well. This will allow them to feedback on the worthwhile or not nature of the trip, and to engage with the students on what they have got out of the trip. My only concern is the 15 only available places on the minibus....
Meeting the students as a group. The students are probably very much in the dark about what the offer is for them, and I wish to set up staggered session, which I will film, in order to get feedback from them about the project. If the offer to them is of no use or interest then they, as the main shareholders, must surely have the final say in what they are involved in.I wish to also get an info. Pack together, which I will deliver to parents, governors, SMT and staff alike to HOPEFULL GENERATE DISCUSSION ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON. I need a positive and supportive feel from the staff particularly, if this project is to be a success.
The programme is almost in place for the Summer programme of enrichment sessions. We really do have some wonderful sessions going on, and the ideas is that each student will receive a mixed diet according to their requirements, I am not going to make any session compulsory, which could be disastrous, yet I will emphasise that these will be recommended for certain students, and that each can exercise their right of choice over participation as necessary. Now I do however feel that the role that I have created for myself is becoming huge in terms of workload, and I feel that this pilot will need to be trimmed and refined in order to become a more manageable beast in future terms. I am particularly keen to attend as many sessions myself on a pop in basis so as to gain immediate feedback from the students involved. I wish to take the camera with me for this, and to use this as a witness alongside myself to the events taking place.
Today I got the student group together to start informing them of the plans being made for them. All appeared engaged in the session, although I was aware that I was talking at them, and that they did not have the opportunity to express their opinions for long enough at the end. I wish to repeat this in two weeks time, and to have a more interactive session. 20- minutes was however a very tight timescale to work within. At the end, as we overran, the next group to use the room started to arrive. As they did one girl picked up the video camera, and filmed me talking to a student who had remained behind. This I will thank the girl for forever as it was a rich exchange:
Becky: You know these enrichment session things...
Me: Yes, uh oh, you're going to tell me that you don't want to be involved, aren't you?
Becky: No, no not at all. I just wondered which ones I can do, that is all. I really want to do the Art one, although I know I can't be greedy.
Me: between you and me, almost everyone wanted you in their sessions. However, don't overload yourself, and be realistic about what you can fit into one term!
Becky: I'll drag my parents along, and they can help me. It all sounds fun, though. Bye..
Afterwards, his left me with a glow, as at least I knew I was inspiring one student to be involved in the project!
The parents' evening is becoming a make or break event for me! To my surprise, the Headteacher, the Head of Pupil Support, our link governor (who is also an LSA at the school) and the Head of English have all said that they are "delighted " to be involved. This means that all of them will be giving up their evening to do this, and the programme will be a lot richer than expected for parents, students and staff. I do however feel that everything must be right 100%, and am already loosing sleep thinking about my own delivery.
Yesterday was the whole-day at Bath university, and I feel that I have developed greatly in my own understanding of what I wish to achieve and explore with this research. I explored my own values yesterday, perhaps for the first time, and feel that they relate greatly to my own enthusiasm for the abco role. How am I embodying these in my own practice has become clear to me, and I am aware that I have been doing this since first taking on the role, yet sub-consciously. Looking back at this journal, many of these values I have expressed as I have written my thoughts:
5th February 02: I feel that the school's intake leans towards students of lower ability, and that these students are often ignored because of the fact they are in a top set, and therefore will be alright when the exams come. What about the whole child?..... (taken from own journal)
October 01: If these students can come out of this knowing how to prepare a piece of coursework more effectively, I will be more than happy. My main concern is that there will be no continuity to these sessions, and that all they will learn will simply be forgotten within two weeks.
Here, we go: this is My LIST OF VALUES. This is why I am here:
"Justice " for all students
Providing for the whole child.
Developing skills for lifelong learning.
Equating provision to needs of students and individuals.
Awareness of students about their own learning.
The other vital question will be to answer "How do I know that I have influenced my own and others' learning? " What evidence can I provide to validate this judgement? When this question was first asked, I sat and scratched my head in bewilderment, however I thank my colleague greatly, who spurred me into action and gave me the first idea. I started by identifying whose learning I could influence, and was influencing, and how I could collect this data.
Group 1: Students: Increased self-awareness. Skills available for lifelong learning. Increased opportunities for learning via sessions. Awareness of planning needed for post-16 and beyond. Recognition of own skills and talents. How to work in a team and co-operate with each other (also outside of own year group). Increased horizons of own future.
Group 2: Teachers/staff: Learn new skills in own pedagogy to access more able students. Learnt to share ideas and learn form others' ideas. How to implement these within own practise. Consideration of in-class provision for most able.
Group 3: Governors: Increased knowledge of able and gifted. What is this? What is WST doing for these students. What enrichment sessions do and how they enable young people to achieve. Awareness of opportunities for students post WST.
Group 4: Parents: what gifted and able is? How this applies to their child? How they can support their child? How they can be involved in the sessions? Avoiding overload for their child, communicating with their child.
Monday, 13th May
The working party meeting has just finished. Again I was disappointed with the turnout, although six is better than the last occasion, so perhaps I am making progress! I was anxious to hear the first feedback about my draft document of information to parents. This was the first time that anyone had read this through, and I imagined further hours retyping this! All agreed that it was aimed at the right pitch, and that it provided parents with the information that they needed. My colleagues quoted at the beginning of the meeting "Surely there are easier ways of earning one point ". I do believe that this role is very much self-created in terms of workload, and that I have been over-ambitious in this pilot term. Supposedly I am trying to prove myself within the role, although sustaining this will have to be seen. The main problem facing me is how to engage all Year groups within these sessions, after the input that the current Year 9 have received. Again I stress the need for the input to be on-going and linked, so that isolated events are not forgotten in a short time span.
The working party could offer me no solution- but again, I do not feel that an easy one exists. Only links to other schools could ease the burden on our own teaching staff. I realize that this momentum will be the most difficult to sustain.
I now await the next meeting with the student body on Thursday, and await the interactive style of response that I wish to engage here.
The parents evening though will be the big test. How many will show on the actual night? Or will be made to perform to two parents!
Wednesay, 15th May
Had an excellent meeting today with the Wiltshire careers advisor and our school careers advisor on how to access the careers programme, how to cater for the ab/t students at our school. So, me interesting gossip.. despite having sent out identical letters to all schools in Wiltshire regarding this provision, only two schools including Westwood have replied. Perhaps this means that our agenda is firmly ensconced at the able and talented.
At the meeting tonight, I gained an excellent insight not how I interpret other peoples ideas and thoughts on
my project. I realise, through comments that I made to Jack and the group, that I am interpreting other's ideas within my own mind concept and that I am taking these ideas and transforming them so that they are not replicate of their original state. Tonight, Mark Potts gave me an insight into why teachers wish to engage in the able and gifted programme- in that within our schools intake, there is often not the opportunity to teach and engage at the highest level for many staff within their own pedagogy. The three-tier system at Key Stage 4 also means that staff within some Faculties do not have the opportunity to engage the most able at Key Stage 3 or 4, such as in BHL. For them, this is an opportunity for personal development, and an opportunity to learn new skills that they would not normally utilise, such as scarcity activities in Business and Economics.
During a staffroom discussion with our English working party colleagues, she commented that her enrichment session meant that she would need to learn the material that she was to deliver before delivering the session (web page design). Would this opportunity have arisen if this session were not taking place? Another colleague is engaging with design psychology, which does not appear in the KS4 SOW for DT. This therefore means that he is returning to his own knowledge base to access this material. Would this have lain dormant under other circumstances?
There was an immediacy of engagement with Mark during the meeting, and I was aware that my own creativity had linked into the ideas originally expressed by Mark to develop my own understanding. This has led to the comments above from the original comments, "There is a need to recognise the more able within a comprehensive system such as ours...This area has been neglected..AH placed more emphasis on this area from the beginning of his appointment....There has been a positive reaction to the able/gifted programme by staff....the programme needs a driving force to make it work but will become more engrained in the system given time "
"Inviting engaged, appreciative and critical response to my account helps to move the enquiry into a consideration of its influence on others and on the life itself of the enquiry " (Jack Whitehead). With Mark this evening, I was also talking to a parent of the able/gifted at the same time. This gave me a different perspective on the programme. Mark stated, "I feel that in my child coming to this school, I would know that there was a programme on offer catering to his needs " DB, Head of the new Year 9 also stated that she fielded questions from parents on how we are catering for the able and gifted at Westwood. Had I allowed DB to be sufficiently informed about the programme before she went to speak to parents? This has led me to feel that I need to send a copy of the Summer programme to all Heads of Year 8 at the middle Schools.
I realise that I am now engaging with various staff about the programme approx. 3 times daily. This is forging links that I never would have been able to make in other circumstances. It has widened my perspectives of the school, and I realise that I am constantly thinking about other Faculties and their delivery to the most able within my own teaching. Within a Year 9 lesson today, students were telling me of the "brain gym " technique that they have been using in Maths with ST. This made me think about the lack of kinaesthetic learning within my own classroom, and how I can begin to implement this. I have also been conscious of a shift between my relationship with the most able in my own classes and when I encounter then in tutor groups or other lessons. I will often engage in discussion with students about their interests, plans for the future and how they are finding the information that they are receiving about the programme.
In the same lesson today, I engaged with James, who I have really begun to forge a more co-operative relationship with. James is noticeably engaging more in my lessons since learning that he has been identified, and is really starting to think things through and correct his own errors. He is simply more aware of himself and his own capabilities. With James and the other 5% cohort within my own group, I have also started to identify students within this group to correct answers themselves to the class, identify others errors and explain why. I also feel that my expectations of them have increased. I also will ask them to refer to someone else in the class who is confident with the material for help before asking myself.
These are items which I wish to raise at the upcoming INSET looking at in-class provision for the most able. Is this true evidence of how I have learnt through engaging with the programme? I am acting in the direction which I believe to be my action plan for the able and gifted, however, I feel that not only myself is critically judging the programme, but that others are openly invited to do so. Who? The students in daily discussions, the staff in working party meetings written feedback and informal discussions, other abcos. Through the sharing of individual programmes and governors through feedback on the programme intended. Jack Whitehead 2002
Am I evaluating the effectiveness of what I am doing? To some extent yes. Each day brings new feedback of some form about the programme and reactions to this. I am now looking forward to interviewing the staff involved in the programme and the students as well. This will be critical judgement in a more formal way for the programme and learning through this medium. If my critical judgment is not validated by others then how can I show evidence that this is the case?
With Mark's comments, I felt that I have amplified these to my own needs, and possibly overloaded it with meaning for myself in the ab/g programme by referring to examples of other staff members.
Thursday, 16th May
Today was a negative day overall for myself related to the programme. One colleague (for very valid reasons) wishes to no longer be involved in the project, and this has led me to feed from this negativity and start to imaging that others may follow suit. I have racked my brain to find ways of engaging staff in the programme, and feel that the INSET will be key to maintaining and developing people's interest and enthusiasm.
I also met with the group of students for the second time today to stress the importance of the Monday meeting and to dangle carrots of "This will be a chance for you to find out about yourself " and "to sign up for the enrichment sessions ". The group was too large to address as a whole, and I felt swamped with a group now growing in excess of 40! In the future I will try to find a new venue to address the group, or will restrict getting them together, as they disparate in nature. The PE identified students formed a group in the corner without knowing that they were all identified within this bracket! At the end of the session, two students remained. One stated "20 minute mentor sessions will not be long enough, We will get nothing done in this time " The other commented "I don't want to work with my Mentor, no offence to him, but I would much rather work with X " What if many students do not wish to agree to work with their agreed Mentor? This could cause the breakdown of the system and leave many staff feeling annoyed and no longer interested. Mediacy will be called for!
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