The ‘Daywalkers’

In my other life, when not writing or tweeting about whole school issues and behaviour, I am a Head of Media & English teacher (@mediaradarguru). Hence the title of this post and reference to a reasonably ok-ish vampire film – The Daywalkers. The premise, kinda given away by the title, is that Vampires have started ‘daywalking’ (you got it) and are no longer fearful of the things that once struck fear into their hearts – sunlight, garlic, stakes and the like.

I loved Tabula Rasa’s post ( http://tabularasaeducation.wordpress.com/ ) by @TessaLMatthews ‘Why does Luke always get sent out of lessons?’ It struck a chord with me and reminded me of the many ‘Daywalkers’ that are out there – students in corridors, stairwells, toilets, no longer fearful of the things that should make them fearful – sunlight, garlic…..no, sorry – detentions, consequences, phone calls home and the like.

As Tessa so rightly says ‘Luke always gets sent out of lessons because we let him…We don’t seem to care, so why should he?’ The thing is, I think it’s in the word ‘seem’ – because, we DO care, otherwise why would so many teachers, like Tessa be writing about it in blogs, on Twitter, concerned about other Daywalkers like Luke. The problem is in the word ‘seem’ – that we don’t behave, as institutions, in a way that shows Luke that his walking out the door, 2-3 times a day is a problem, a big problem.

So why do we do it – ‘seem’ not to care? I think it comes down to a number of factors. When faced with classes of 29-32, one possibly two Daywalkers do not, for the class teacher, usually take priority over the majority. When Luke goes, the teacher rightly resumes teaching. Luke then becomes someone else’s problem. Of course, the teacher will follow up after the lesson, aiming to conclude and restore the problem, but the consequence and restoration are very dependent of the wider mechanisms of the school – what are the consequence options? How are they enforced? What chain reaction is set in motion if Luke ignores the consequence? What opportunities for restoration of student-teacher relationship are in place? Is the emphasis placed on Luke’s response to individual teachers (Well, he’s never been a problem for me…!) or is there a rigid, non-judgemental structure in place?

Challenging pupils in school will always, always have one (maybe more) teacher they like to be with, they do not walk out of their lesson. There is often something quite random (and not necessarily ‘magical’) about that teacher – it could be as simple as strongly reminding the student of an Aunt who they always really loved being around. We can’t all BE ‘the Aunt’. And it is this delusion that I think sometimes stunts the growth of grown-up behaviour policies.

So, we HAVE to deal with the behaviour, face up to it, take responsibility for it, give firm boundaries that show Luke that we do care about his education, because we may be the only clear boundaries he has.

Why does Luke always walk out of lessons? Because we can’t all be ‘the Aunt’.

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Do Pens matter?

Before you go any further, let me clarify:

These are  not the rantings of a self-proclaimed philosopher asking the twittersphere their views on the abstract notion that plastic things may have feelings when you chew their ends off. No. This is a question about whether pens, in the possession of students, matter.

I’ve always had a sneaky feeling that they do matter.

Recently, I’ve seen a number of initiatives come and go, which attempt to wrestle with the issue of the ‘penless student’. I have heard colleagues, from NQT’s to experienced practitioners, argue that the pen is really no biggie, quickly get on and start the lesson, hand out the necessary tools to those who don’t have them and remember, as I was once told, some of the children cannot afford a pen.

I am not heartless. I am aware of the environments some of the students I teach exist in. I am also aware that many of these same students I have been told to take pity on, often have a mobile phone surgically attached to their palm that they would never forget to bring to school, or misplace between registration and period 1.

So, should we continue to sweat the small stuff, as Phil Beadle (2010) argued in How to Teach? I think we should, and I’m genuinely confused about the message we giving our students, which says loud and clear ‘School Tools, are not as important as your phone’.

Surely, whether we like it or not, we deliver more than just content information to students. We act as the first ‘institution’ outside of the family that young people experience. As we are not, generally speaking, nurturing Revolutionaries, we must equip students to exist in the real world, as it exists. And in the real world, pens matter, as do hard hats, uniforms, timekeeping and general manners.  Isn’t it also about expectation? A pen is not an unrealistic or unachievable expectation. It is the good parent expectation, like cleaning teeth before bed or changing pants! It is an expectation which clearly says: education matters, your engagement with education matters and our expectations of you matter.