There was a time when I enjoyed Easter Study days. Getting down to the business end of the year; kids beginning to really focus; the more relaxed approach; the snacks. I tended to get their full attention when they had given up their holiday time and were aware that I was giving mine. I would even take pride in the numbers I would get in the sessions; surely testimony to the relationships I was building with the class and their appreciation of my teaching. Great results in August were clearly down to that extra work we had all put in.
But then, after a few years of this, something began to trouble me. It wasn’t merely that I was giving up holiday time I could and should have been sharing with others. It wasn’t even that it was voluntary with no chance of ever being paid. It was down to the fact that, even though I tried not to notice, the kids who really needed the extra help never turned up; the high flyers who were destined to pass with ease always did. It was a joy and a luxury because there was little challenge; little chance of it not being a success.
So does Easter study class really help them? Do they need more time with a teacher to go over material they haven’t learned yet or need more practice in? I don’t think so. What I think serves them better is time on their own to revise and learn, revise and learn; time to think for themselves and develop understanding of the things we no doubt spend ages in class going over pre-holiday. Dare I say it but, yes, developing understanding is at times a very solitary activity. My pupils will benefit greatly from sitting quietly in their own rooms and revising the work.
We may well be doing them a disservice by providing more teacher access at this vital time. I haven’t done the research though. Sorry. But, in my experience, it seems that perhaps we over-protect them from real learning at this time of the year. Perhaps we provide too much of a safety net. We may do that for genuinely caring reasons: we want great results for pupils and school; we worry that a little bit extra just might make the difference. However, I would suggest that targeting those most in need would be more beneficial and these guys often are reluctant to give up holiday time.
So, at this point, perhaps we would be kinder to them if we simply locked the school over the Easter break. Removing the water wings might help them to become better learners. And, while I can understand the argument that offering Easter classes may help to develop a stronger leaning culture in a school, they may well learn better without us. I still want them to be able to contact me – I use Glow for questions and access to materials – but I won’t feel any guilt about not being in school at all.