The last lesson of the week on a Friday afternoon. Not the best moment to have to teach, but somebody has to, or are we to shut all schools on a Friday after lunchtime? For me this year this has meant teaching H2P (13-14 year olds) as my final session of the week. I’ve always had a last lesson of the week of course, but this one has felt a little different. This has been the case for a couple of reasons:
- Most of my classes I see twice a week, but for H2P I only see them once, so everything has to happen in the 60 minutes that we have together!
- They are quite a jumpy bunch and come to my classroom shortly after having had their physical education lesson, making them a little extra tired, a bit more jumpy and a ever so slightly sweaty!
- Before this school year I hadn’t taught any of them, meaning I had to get to know their own little ways and of course they had to get to know mine
It’s fair to say that they are a class that you have to learn how to handle. My teaching style is not to dominate my pupils, I prefer to sweep them along with enthusiasm…yes, even on a Friday afternoon. Having said all this though discovering how exactly to do this in our one hour a week has been a bit of a process of experimentation and discovery.
We’ve drawn, we’ve painted, done some collage and designed for the 3D printer. It all went OK although it did take a while before I actually had the whole class traveling with me on our artistic journey. Some of the boys seemed to be testing me out to see if it was acceptable to do, well the absolute bare minimum. As the weeks went by even this group started to up their game.
The 3D printer idea was one that I thought would trigger the enthusiasm, it did for a few, but a significant number were blocked by the intellectual leap that is needed for working digitally in three dimensions. To be honest I was surprised, but teenagers can really be as irritated by computer software as their grandparents!
The true watershed in the activity of this jumpy group of teenagers came in an intense drawing session, using charcoal that we had one afternoon. In 45 minutes of drawing each child produced a series of six to eight drawings. Which the following week I immediately rolled into the beginning of a lino-printing project. Suddenly there was so much energy in the class, and all being channelled into the practical activity.
The last few weeks I have presented the necessary materials at the start of the lesson, the ink, the rollers, the paper and the lino, and then I have largely stood back and manned the drying rack making sure we start loading it up at the bottom and work our way upwards (why do teenagers always fail to work that out for themselves?). The drying rack aside we have enjoyed a series of lessons where kids have been wandering with fully loaded inky rollers, others have been head down over their lino block, whilst others are frantically rubbing the backs of their paper trying to get the best possible prints.
Yes, we’ve had messy tables, messy children and occasionally messy floors. But we have also had children standing back at the end of the lesson, the end of the week, thinking wow, did we just do that.
The challenge for all teachers is of course to try and carry this energy into the next assignment…..I still have some thinking to do about how I’ll approach that!