What I am struggling with this week: Establishing “normal”.

What I have been struggling to come to terms with this week is my lack of a benchmark of “normality”. Whilst I realise this is a relative concept, I have been agonising over whether my classes are learning the “right amount” or whether kids are taking the “normal” amount of time to understand a concept.

This is especially so with my year 8 class, who continue to baffle me with their lack of knowledge about basic concepts, or skills in areas like spelling. What I have gleaned from discussions with this class’ other teachers (and through observing them in detention with many other teachers!) is that this cohort isn’t “normal”. Their skills aren’t up to scratch, and it isn’t just my lack of experience which has me baffled. In our faculty we have faced this dilemma with the new cohort of year 7 students as well, and our head teacher is putting in place plans to combat this skill deficiency head on whilst kids are still in primary school.

I was feeling the same way about my year 11 class up until today, feeling a bit lost as a previous year 11 standard class I taught was able to grasp the same concepts quickly, and were able to apply skills much more readily. I was concerned that my class were going to require scaffolding beyond what I could provide for an HSC class, and that I was going to have to call in reinforcements. Until today, when they independently synthesized 4 poems and our concept of identity using a table and focus questions I had provided. They had me stunned, to be honest. To see all the discussion I thought was fruitless and discarded churned out in a way which was succinct, relevant, and coherent made every heartbreaking lesson I have had with them so far (and there have been many!) worth it.

Whilst it may be a few years before I can judge what is “normal” for a particular ability level or age group, these #star moments keep me going in the struggle.


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  1. * ihsprojectreal says:

    Teaching only in low-SES schools leaves me no choice but to forget the concept ‘normal’. Normal is the cohort you have in front of you, therefore, I develop a concise understanding of where they are ‘at’ and develop a response to that identification and analysis process. Gain your star moments from relative growth, this is where they were, this is where they are now. Plenty of formative assessment and encouragement provided regularly will pay dividends. Good chunking practice and the identification of an appropriate literacy strategy for the cohort also helps. I use 3H comprehension and TXXXC.

    Most importantly, it is OK to feel like this and it is amazing that you are considering these issues in your first year. Looking back at the end of the year you will identify personal, professional and academic growth, either in yourself, or your students.

    I always love reading this reflective blog

    Neil Fara

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 3 months ago

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