6 whole pizzas
Do you remember I told you that the wilderness only lasts for a time, once you don’t stop moving or give up? Today I celebrate my 100th article and I also want to celebrate with you that a part of my wilderness has come to an end.
Two days ago I officially started a new job, yippee. And yes, it is another teaching job. I returned to the same school that employed me during the second term of the 2011/2012 school year. It was my best teaching experience thus far and as a result I was willing to return.
The staffroom was a place you enjoyed being in as it was always filled with laughter and stories and was generally peaceful. As a relatively inexperienced teacher in comparison with others in the mathematics department of which I was a member, I never felt ostracized or ignored, and the support and encouragement from the department was genuine, consistent and continual.
Having been a teacher for the past eight years, I have grown to recognize the importance and significance of this career. I have also grown to recognize that to be an effective and influential teacher you must first love and understand young people and, secondly, have a passion for teaching.
As some of you know, my background is in youth work and it is on this foundation that I structure my teaching style. In general, when I enter the classroom, I enter first as a youth leader and then as a teacher. I have found this approach to be effective.
School students are young people first and then students – which means that once you have a general knowledge of how they think, respond and develop, your teaching experience may be more enjoyable.
In 2007, I was the form teacher of a first form, which in my view is a very tough job. Within the first few weeks of term, I recognized that the math marks from tests and assignments were not the best. Since students have different yet equal giftings and areas of strength, I decided to challenge the class collectively.
I told them that if the class as a whole could score an average of 65 per cent – 70 per cent on any maths test I gave – I would buy lunch for the whole class. That week, I gave a test and the class met the grade. I followed through on my promise and ordered four whole pizzas. The response from the parents was favourable and one of them volunteered to provide drinks the next time, which she did. Four weeks later, I gave a test and once again the class collectively did well and this time I had to buy six whole pizzas since four weren’t enough last time.
During that year, I taught a second form, which was one of my weakest forms. The girls averaged 46 per cent and the boys 32 per cent in Term 1. It wasn’t that they lacked knowledge or ability; it was that they didn’t care, didn’t see the value in doing the work, had little or no support at home and generally lacked motivation.
I decided to use an incentive to motivate these students.
I walked into the class on the first day of Term 2 and said, “The student who comes first in maths this term will receive a gift voucher worth $200,” and held the money high for them to see. That term, the boys’ average went to 56 per cent and the girls’ to above 59. One girl went from 17 per cent in Term1 to 71 in Term 2 and 81 in Term 3, and for the rest of her time at the school she continued to score over 70 per cent. One boy went from below 30 per cent to around 72 and another from 18 per cent to 73 per cent.
Yes, it was out of my pocket that I did this. I was able to because I was teaching lessons at the school on evenings and was able to use that extra cash to invest back into the children’s lives.
I will continue this article next week.
• Corey Worrell is a former Commonwealth youth ambassador. Email [email protected]