I had a small epiphany yesterday during the Year 10 Parents’ evening. No one saw and I kept it under wraps….
My Year 10s have been reading Adichie’s Danger of a Single Story in the Edexcel IGCSE anthology. In the article, derived from a TED talk, Adichie explores the barriers we erect by over-reliance on a ‘single story’, especially around race.
I have been talking to my boys about not believing their single story – the one which says – I am rubbish at English. To me this attitude simply creates an expectation of failure and denies the chance of improvement, yet we hear it a lot in schools. This year I have managed to remove the numbers from my sets in Year 10 but a “low” set will always be identified by the members of the set and especially by their peers, in search of a quick bout of one-upmanship.
So here’s the epiphany which emerged as I talked…
Picture a teenage boy who is a good cricketer. He always gets out playing a certain shot – say a late cut to an off-spinner. All else works well and some of his stroke play is magnificent…
Does he say “I’m rubbish at cricket”? Does he stop trying because he sees no hope? Obviously not. He goes into the nets and works to improve that strand of his game.
So my boys, who are finding analysis of Macbeth and the concept of Equivocation hard, what do they say?
“I’m rubbish at English”
Time to change: Maybe “I need to work on finding really useful quotations to use as evidence” or “I need to work on structuring an essay because I am finding too much material and am not sure how to organise the ideas”… anything but “I’m rubbish at English”… They talk English, they write English, they think English, they use it in a wide range of subjects and situations all day every day – they re not rubbish.
Time to throw the ‘single story’ out of the window. They are good at English – they have not yet mastered certain elements of the subject techniques – yet!
Let’s not reinforce this negative stereotyping. Let’s challenge this negativity when we find it in students, colleagues and parents.
We can all improve in a range of areas – let’s admit this to our students and help them to move on with their heads held high.
I thought I would collect a few essays written this term about Jerusalem by my Lower 6th Boys. I believe these to contain some excellent material, perhaps not in the form of model essays for examination, but in the form of written work to promote discussion and to provide material for discussion.
Please use them and share them to a wider audience. I have not edited them and have not included the “marked” versions quite deliberately. This is the work of 16 and 17 Year olds and I believe it stands on its own regard without excuses.
A repeat post for my guide and activities for this wonderful text. I am so looking forward to engaging with this again, and bothering @Patrick_Ness on Twitter when my students have questions or present something great.
This is for Year 10 who spent a grand 50 minutes exploring the SCA of SCASI.
One or two didn’t copy it and one was absent.
I can’t summarise a poor photo, but the gist is that the poem is a poem of development from innocence to experience – the childish excitement of the opening becoming more of a sense of “excited and scared” (Sondheim) as the child gains experience. We looked closely at Character to chart this development in the language used around the child and repressive nature of the imperatives which come from his internal voice (?) which add more and more inhibitions to his behaviour.
The overt sensory setting was a rich area of discussion as was the passage of time and the awareness of moving from one state to another after a cocoon-like wrapping in the sacks… The boy emerges with heightened self-awareness as his innocent state is left behind him.
The Action divided between inside the shed and external action – the scuffling laughter suggesting his “friends” conscious rejection of him and the cold “biting at the same time suggesting the emergence of his recognition of his new state.
My boys may not have gone for the Sondheim allusion – this is Red Riding Hood ion Into The Woods – excited and scared as her “experiences” in the woods are considered – the new-found awareness s of sexuality is not really a feature here, but the personified garden of threat at the end seems clearly to signify a frightening new world which awaits our young adolescent.
There seems to be a terrible outbreak of the lurgy at school (or it might be Friday period 6). Here is the discussion from today’s lesson about linking Ibsen and Chaucer, based on the June 2016 AS exam passage for analysis from Merchant’s tale (starting L.525).
In another reduced class, we discussed Feminist readings and the conversation took a turn into the discussion of critical theories. I am keen to remind students that all critical theories are applied after the event – Feminism, Marxism, Freudian et al…
My favourite moment here is when one student asks: “bit isn’t that unfair…”
Once again, a reminder that we are linking Chaucer and Ibsen for the OCR A level.
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