I’ll get straight to the point. I am not against students revising. Nor am I against an individual student or small group asking a teacher for help outside of lesson time on an ad hoc basis.
I am against teachers being forced into providing counter-productive sessions in order to make management or the school look good. If you have agreed to running such sessions, it may well be that you haven’t felt coerced, but you must reflect on whether your ‘volunteering’ is contributing to an expectation on others.
I will make my case not with evidence* but with a few anecdotes, some of which are linked. *note: that it would be very difficult to prove that these sessions have a positive effect, and at the end of this blogpost, I will even propose that they are counter-productive.
1) Several years ago, my HOD came into my yr 11 lesson stating that she was offering a certain day of the week – which day would I be offering. In front of the students, I felt I had been bullied into offering a weekly session. I complied but told my students at the end words to the effect that I didn’t want anyone turning up asking questions that they ought to know … etc. Anyway no one turned up and my HOD criticised me for not ‘selling it’ to them. I realise now that she was probably being bullied from higher up and was under pressure herself.
2) I can’t remember if this was earlier or later but one year the set day for maths was Wednesday. I had a long standing arrangement with a voluntary group straight after school on that day. The headteacher told me that he was sure my friends would understand if I cancelled (I thought ‘what sort of message does this send out to the kids about commitment!’) and that teaching was more than a 9 – 3 day (yes I know, ask my husband and kids if I already know this!). I stood my ground and subsequently the DH said I should do a different day. He managed to find two students who were brought to me for what I felt was a pointless session. It was as if the institution was making a point and had to win the argument.
3) A girl in a year 11 class once asked ‘are you doing revision tonight, miss?’. And here comes one of my greatest replies – ‘have you thought about actually working during the lesson?’. By now I had the confidence(?) to point blank refuse the schools requests for this form of goodwill. I knew I had no intention of getting involved in the farce of revision sessions. My reply to the girl was to challenge her poor work ethic. Her peers got my point.
I’m sure there are do-gooders who are against me at this point [as long as we increase the results by 1% then the 47 hours unpaid overtime will be worth it!] As I said at the start, students who approach me with genuine questions arising from their self study will find me very accommodating. But I do not support the idea of regular sessions regardless. I believe they are counter-productive. Students seem to forget about their responsibility and have no chance of being free from the spoon-feeding that the system demands. I have observed students getting a warm feeling for attending these sessions almost forgetting that they have not paid attention during the lessons themselves that day. What do they think the teacher is going to do after 3pm that is different to before 3pm? If a magic scheme or teaching method existed we would be using that in our lessons in any case. I’m afraid it’s going to be – more of the same! I also resent the fact that some teachers use these sessions as a way of catching up with a syllabus they have not completed through their own incompetency.** I am organised. Yes, I do go at a certain pace that some students do not like. But it is the correct pace that comes from over 20 yrs experience. I have never not finished a syllabus. **only reply to this point if you are a teacher who does not finish the syllabus; I am not lumping everyone who offers sessions together.
Anyway that’s it. No, it’s not …
One final point. It may be an ‘ofstedmyth’ but managements seem to think they are a good thing. It would help us all if OFSTED frowned upon these type of sessions.