Hey Teacher, Leave them Kids Alone!

Induction’s been officially passed, new term INSETs are done and dusted, and it feels like the holidays were an age away already. September’s here, and it’s time to get back into the swing of teaching. The timetable’s somewhat fuller, and there are less names to learn this time round, but it’s still equally nerve-wracking and exciting to be back at school.

When it comes to new year resolutions, mine are to stop over-planning, calming down a bit with marking and then making sure I leave work earlier than last year.

It seems counter-productive to actively try and do less this year, but it’s not. Last year, there were lessons where I was doing more maths than my students. That’s definitely counter-productive.

My new year 9 class were in their third lesson with me last week, (multiplying fractions) and I set them a textbook exercise. They were working in silence, and I gave them the chance to get their teeth into it, to focus. Not having some gre’t lummox faffing about asking you questions and confusing you for 15 minutes whilst you got to get your head down and practised meant that when we stopped, I could really start to question what they had understood.

“Why was question 4 different to question 5?”, “Which question was harder, question 8 or question 14? Why?”, “Write a question you don’t think you could solve this way, and suggest why not.”

If you’ve got no hook to hang your hat on, you’re just chucking questions around.

The breathing space for them allowed them to focus on what they were doing instead of what I was doing. The atmosphere was calm and the students were really proud with what they had achieved, which in terms of building confidence might allow them the security to attempt more involved problems applying their skills.

When it comes to building in routines and getting students to really hone a skill, unsolicited silence as they concentrated on getting through the task was a wonderful surprise.

If students aren’t working on a task long enough to run into a problem, they certainly aren’t going to have the time to dig themselves out of it.

I don’t need to micro-manage my students every second in my classroom and write it down, I don’t need to slave over every single thing my students write in their books either.

This year, I’m going big on routines, and sometimes that routine will involve doing a lot of similar questions quietly.

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