The results are – at least partly – in. 8X3 have finished their reading assessments. As I circulated, it didn’t look like they’d done badly, although there were a fair few of them who had still written half-hearted answers to the ‘long answers’ sections.
There have been no miracles. My HoD walked in the other day and commented on how it was like seeing a different class from the start of the year, which is great. They are more positive and more engaged than they used to be. Their understanding of The Tempest is better than I could have hoped. Their relationship with me is an awful lot better than ever before too.
But their writing is still lacklustre. Imprecise, flabby, and often incoherent.
It is not too much to ask that they will address that, but it is too much to ask one person to achieve. Without a whole school drive and common approaches to reading, I don’t hold out much hope.
In a bleak moment last week, I asked 8X3 if there were any lessons where they worked in silence. They said that “all of our teachers try, but nobody succeeds”, apart from one teacher – and then they begged me not to make my lessons like this teacher’s. I like and respect this teacher, but I have heard similar things about them from other students, and I hear rumblings that SLT are watching them closely, and it leads me to despair. What hope is there for 8X3 if across the school they are not being asked to work rigorously in silence for any time at all – if that is an abnormal situation?
I expect miracles because I have read the blogs from Michaela Community School (like this, this and this, all great) and because I follow Doug Lemov on Twitter, and because I know that they are happening elsewhere. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect them either. But I can’t make them happen where I’m going to get in trouble for sending students out if I enforce the rules; I can’t make them happen if I can’t follow up students with any kind of meaningful deterrent; and I can’t make them happen if I, like my friend, am a lone voice in the wilderness crying out for silence and focus. It has to be all of us, or at least most of us, or we’re finished.
What is happening with 8X3 is not a miracle, it’s an improvement. Maybe I should be satisfied with that, but I’m not – because it’s still going to be too little, too late if we’re not careful.