As a teacher I spend my life building relationships with my pupils so that I can safely push them to take risks and move their learning forward! I spend my life encouraging pupils to be brave, to take a risk, to put themselves out there… I constantly tell them ‘ It’s doesn’t matter if you are wrong mistakes are part of learning!
Why then do I find it so difficult to be brave myself?
Being brave is hard that’s why! It means putting yourself out there. Purposely putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Going against the grain, taking a risk. In order to do this this you need to feel fairly confident that what you are about to say, do share, give, is right, or that you at least can justify and understand your response…
I teach kids who genuinely find learning difficult, they have significant, identified barriers stopping or barricading them into being unable to achieve their potential . I ask, I expect, I need these kids to be brave every minute of most lessons and I know this is my biggest ask of them. I need them to be brave or I can’t improve their skills! However I’m aware that 5 days a week they are forced into a situation for 6 hours of everyday where the thing they find most difficult is forced upon them, reading, writing, remembering. To top it off the thing they find hardest is then measured and compared and exposed! It’s no wonder if learning is that difficult you become disengaged, switched off or have no self esteem, or self belief…
To know you can read but not be able to answer the question because you can’t read quick enough – soul destroying
To know you have been taught what a verb is several times but still not know what one is – annoying
To know you can’t write neatly quickly or fluently meaning the teacher can’t read the amazing sentence you have written – devastating and pointless
To know you have the answer in your head but not find the words to explain, meaning you face putting your hand up but making a fool of yourself by stumbling – mortifying
To know you have great describing words but no idea how to spell them – frustrating
These kids are brave… Braver than most because they battle through everyday, trying to keep their heads above water in an ocean of stuff they can’t really do or find difficult… The worst bit is they feel they should know because they know they have been taught it before! Still they smile and still they turn up and generally they try their hardest.
Growing up with undiagnosed dyslexia I lost count of the amount of times I had no idea what the teacher or lecturer had asked me to do because I couldn’t process the instructions quickly enough or because I didn’t actually understand the initial concept because I had maybe missed the point or the learning had moved quickly. Often it takes me a long time to get stuff, I need to see it and link it to some prior learning to be able to get it to make sense!
As an adult, even as a professional adult I still often have moments where I am overwhelmed. It’s because when you have lived life with the constant feeling of not ever feeling quite sure it does bring you down after a while, it subdues your confident voice and it pulls you within yourself, it makes you feel small and it makes you feel anxious… It makes you feel scared. Luckily I have learnt to manage this feeling because I am surrounded by friends and family who understand me and see me for me… They don’t judge me or think less of me when I get things in a muddle, they embrace me and accept me unconditionally… They are the relationships that enable me to take risks. They don’t care if I make mistakes, they help me back on the right path and nurture me through…
These people make me brave… They believe in me when I don’t, they see the goal when I just can’t and they spur me on to want to be brave!
… Because I understand these feelings of insecurity I have an empathy that is real. The empathy comes out when I teach… (Every cloud has a silver lining! The years of experiencing an underdog feeling means I can play the game as good as the kids I teach!) The empathy oozes from me, it reaches into the most hard to reach kids, it pulls on their strengths and it supports and surrounds them till they feel able to ‘feel’ brave… I believe in the kids I teach, every single one of them, no matter how disengaged, switched off or scared they are. I will never give up hope and I will endeavour to find new ways to teach them.
That in a way is my brave too… I’m going against the grain delivering programmes of study which meet the kids needs, not necessarily the curriculums! Constantly pushing my knowledge and understanding into new realms because I don’t want to fail them. I’m their best chance their lifeline to survival because I know exactly how they feel I’ve been in that same place, mortified, soul destroyed, frustrated, annoyed and devastated but now I have knowledge. I have qualifications which can help me help them… I have learnt how to make it better… I can try to fix it… I can teach them in a way that I know will work, I can teach them skills that I know will make a difference and I can make them brave …
Because when you are brave you can carve your own way. When you are brave you can courageously make an attempt make a mistake and pick yourself back up… but most importantly being brave gives yourself the best chance… We need to take inspiration from the kids that find it hard! We need to encourage their brave by being brave ourselves that way we all get our best chance and that way we all get to make a difference!
It’s time to get your brave out people… No one made a difference by playing it safe!
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