On Thursdays I’ve been helping out at a nearby Primary School and, I have to say, I LOVE it! I find myself leaving at the end of the day and wishing the next Thursday was here! Five years ago I used to volunteer one afternoon a week at a SEN school and the old feelings are back – it’s the best day of the week for me. (In between then and now I’ve spent 30 months volunteering in India and Sri Lanka, of course. A different kind of fab.)
I don’t do an awful lot, really. I just sit with any kids I’m told to help. My general role is to try to keep the children on task and focused on whatever it is they’re doing – a spot of writing, reading or maybe some maths puzzles. Helping to find words in dictionaries, trying to get them to think about answers to the questions they might have, that kind of thing.
They’re in Years Three to Six, so I guess that’s ages 8 to 11, and the deputy-head assigns me to whichever class needs me.
A couple of times I’ve helped with tag-rugby for half an hour,occupying surplus kids with a bit of running about and ball passing. It’s good fun until one of them intentionally kicks another behind my back resulting in the victim rolling on the ground while the perpetrator runs off into the distance… In fact, it’s the same kid who does a lot of kicking and prodding and elbowing in class; a few have behavioural problems.
Perhaps I should be careful not to say anything which might identify particular students. Let’s just say that there are kids with difficulties and one who must be borderline exclusion material. I am in awe of the considerable patience and reasoning that the teachers exhibit in dealing with him. Best is that they have empowered the other children to not be intimidated by his behaviour and to either move away or report anything unacceptable. But he is a drain on teachers’ time and resources which impacts directly on the other kids. Unfortunately, there seems little I can do to help when he simply runs away, crawls under desks or sticks his fingers in his ears when I try to speak to him. I’m not going to chase after him or pin him down. It seems to be a severe form of attention-seeking because I notice him making a nuisance of himself with kids I’m working with when I ignore him. If only I could get onto his wavelength but, while I can’t even approach him, there’s little chance.
It’s interesting. I realised it would be when I deliberately selected this school. It’s a challenge! There are many absolute little sweeties amongst them and I enjoy chatting with them all. In fact, I sometimes wonder if the net effect of my presence isn’t just more distraction for the kids! Well, we’ll see. To add some value I really would like to introduce some tech for the older classes. And I’ve put up a notice in the staffroom in the hope that I can help teachers with technology too. OK, tech isn’t the “be all and end all” of pedagogical utopia, I know, but I’m sure there are huge benefits for teachers and children if it’s adopted sensibly. I can try…