Learning by accident?
Working with young people who are alienated by their undeclared obligation to learn in schools can be incredibly challenging. How can we reach out to children that are vacant in class or are bouncing off the walls, seemingly determined not to focus? A question as old as the concept of school! Some young people face precarious challenges at home and in their day to day lives that stretch far beyond the classroom. An awareness of this fact when attempting to manage a classroom of 30 is often incredibly difficult to maintain, day in, day out.
Travelling Teacher – Hywel Roberts
Hywel Roberts is a travelling teacher with experience in teaching at special and alternative schools. He offers a different approach to this age-old problem. Asking:
- How do we protect children into the learning we know they will find challenging?
- How can we ensure curriculum planning and delivery covers the coverage whilst opening up questions as to what it means to be a contributing citizen?
- How can we mobilise our professional imaginations and apply them to the curriculum we are required to deliver?
Create a Safe Learning Culture
Protecting young people into learning sounds fanciful. What does it mean, exactly, and how can we apply it? Hywel demonstrates that through creating a context, a hook on which to hang our message, young people are given permission to be creative and enter a plane where they are readily thinking laterally. Through subtle techniques such as using inductive statements, inviting thinking with questions and building a context using people, places and a problem to be solved, young people are invited out of their daily concerns and into a context they can explore.
Of course, this is not reinventing the wheel. It is however, acknowledging the assumption that learning can be tedious and often not a priority due to the sometimes intensely damaging problems young people face elsewhere. Being inventive in a vein more relatable to their lives allows a young person to invest, rather than engage, in the learning experience. A simple word association of famous figures such as Sepp Blatter and Lance Armstrong, for instance, offers the exploration of more intricate themes and a detailed discussion. This could open the doorway of investment in a more elaborate book or play like Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
“Think of a place, and house your message in it”
The Power of Hooking Kids Imagination
Widening our focus using hooks, open questions, strange and unusual photos, artefacts and contexts helps to protect young people into using their imagination and problem-solving skills. Setting up scenarios where they can revise their knowledge and teach others can also encourage learning and investment. Hywel gave the example of conducting an interview with Margaret Thatcher, allowing young people to take on different perspectives each time (coal miner, home owner etc). That would certainly make for interesting discussion!
Positive Learning Experiences
To create positive learning experiences, it is important to take on the perspective of young people when delivering messages to them. Forcing a subject is often necessary, however where possible, let us help young people learn accidently.