Despite the relatively positive vibe in the classroom and despite the vast majority of the thirty eleven and twelve year olds all battering into their writing tasks, I can’t help noticing the sneer and lack of movement at the corner of my eye. She hasn’t opened her jotter yet, hasn’t picked up her pencil. The task is clearly written on whiteboard, success criteria plain to see. She sneers at a teacher who doesn’t see her, she thinks, doesn’t differentiate between her and anyone else in the room. ‘We are all the same to you, aren’t we,’ she seems to want to say. ‘If we don’t say much you’ll leave us alone and everything will be okay.’
But it’s not, is it? She will hope to hide her book in a jungle of thirty other pieces of work, familiar with the rules of the game for some years now. Accepting the overworked teachers and their inability to deal with the real problems in her writing. And who can blame her? Despite being told otherwise, she has been labeled since the first day of Primary school. Placed with others with equal difficulties, she has been inadvertently given work which neither helps nor challenges. Busy work. And perhaps been told of the importance of school, the importance of an education, the need to be resilient and foster a desire to learn. She knows her place.
I wander from pupil to pupil; a quiet word here, a quick pencil comment there, a reminder of the Correction Code placed around the room. She has begun to write. Slowly at first but I leave her be. Whenever I get close she covers up her work with her arm. Primary school elbows, I like to call it. Protect your answers from your peers. She starts to write more, seems to be getting into the subject. I approach again, manage to look over her shoulder. She can write this girl, she can write.
Eventually, towards the end of today’s lesson, I manage a ‘Well Done’: and she doesn’t close up. She keeps writing. I keep wandering around, seeming to concentrate on the others, but I’m watching her. Slowly losing her inhibitions. A knock on the door and a pupil from another class enters with a note from a colleague. She bristles and stops writing for a few minutes. I wonder why. She seems to be looking around for a rubber and is too shy to ask her desk partner. I quietly place one in front of her as I pass. Writing begins once more. Again in passing, I point to a small error which she corrects without problem and I move on.
At the end of the period the class pack up their things and move on. She makes sure her book is not on top or bottom of the pile. Won’t be noticed in the middle. But of course it will be, it always is. Tonight I will make sure she knows that. However, as the class leaves, I do wonder how many more classes like this she will face today. Is it just English? Probably not.
Despite the relatively positive vibe in the classroom and despite the vast majority of the thirty thirteen, fourteen year olds all battering into their writing tasks, I can’t help noticing the sneer and lack of movement at the corner of my eye…