Who cares about grades more?

I find myself once again concerned about my year 11 class. I can’t help it – they’re not just a class, they’re my class and I’m proud and privileged to be their teacher.  I have taken previous classes (of high and low ability) through their Maths GCSEs before, and a common thread seems to run through both types of class: it appears that I often care more about student grades than they do!

I put in hours of preparation for year 11 classes especially, creating, marking and analysing mock paper after mock paper to help them revise strategically.  However, asking for homework to be completed seems a lot to ask it seems.  Additional revision sessions (admittedly optional) are poorly attended when the sun is out, or when walking home without mates isn’t cool.  Mock papers have poorer than expected results due to little or no revision preparation, and getting students to come to class fully equipped is like getting blood from a stone.

I am of course happy to go the extra mile for my year 11 class – it’s such a crucial year, but I’ve been somewhere that students haven’t yet been – I’ve been present on many results days, when tears roll freely – tears of joy and tears of disappointment too. I’ve heard the ‘I wish I’d have…’ statement all too often, when of course it’s too late and when college and sixth form offers have been withdrawn.

The best gift that schools and parents can give a student is the right to choose. A student gets to choose their optional subjects in year 9. A student gets to choose their attitude and behaviour constantly. A student gets to choose their level of engagement with extra-curricular activities or lunch clubs. And the key life lesson is this – there will always be consequences (good and bad).

So students must choose themselves whether they want to pass or fail in this important year. Maybe we should let them fail more – but as teachers all across the country will affirm – that isn’t easy, because it IS personal and we DO care.

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