So this week, my husband had the pleasure of me losing my voice. For two days I was more or less mute.
I have never been the silent type, I was given words and a voice so I use it but there are some students who just never speak and in a playground haze of popular versus naughty they can be hidden for up to five years even from an omnipresent Head of Year
I made a conscious effort to never forget those pupils who always did what you asked, got the grades, carried your marking and had an average 95% attendance. A successful pastoral leader should know the names of their cohort, they should know what mum or dad does for a living, where grandma lives and how many pets are in the family.
It is from these little conversations that confidence and self-worth grow. I am not declaring all quiet children to be lacking in confidence and self-worth but a voice is so important and using it to agree, disagree, challenge and compliment contributes to a well-rounded student who achieves excellent grades.
As a Head of Year, you have to make time to talk to your students. Here are some effective ideas for you to get to know your cohort:
1) Take the register- depending on your school’s set-up, give the form tutor the PM register off. Go sit with the group, talk to them, ask them questions and above all learn their names.
2) Do Lunch Duty- offer your services at lunchtime. It provides you with another view, you soon get to see who is up to what and pupils naturally come over and talk to you.
3) Make three positive contacts home per week. A good ‘phone-call’ home works wonders for raising morale, it also boosts your rapport with parents too. Try and vary the reason and make sure you seek out the unseen pupils for this one!
4) Rewards- boost your assemblies with little gifts and treats. Give out awards for anything such as this week’s best smile, month’s nicest deed, best grade. Make it a combination of pastoral and academic so all pupils have their chance to earn it and enjoy it.
5) Pop into lessons- see how they are all getting along, get them to explain their work. Students love a chance to show their knowledge. Praise them all (including the teacher) and see how they all smile.
One of my favourite ways of getting to know my cohort was “Teach Miss Knight a Lesson’.
Teachers would be asked if they wanted their students to teach me one of their lessons, such as Maths or Music. I would then spend that designated lesson as a student, completing the work, asking questions and even doing the homework task. I had to meet the Lesson Objective and students would grade my progress. I have been taught how to make cheesecakes, convert equations and that I definitely don’t know everything!
Whenever you are out and about in corridors or canteens, always head towards those who are never on your radar. Seek them out, talk to them. As Head of Year, you spend so much time with students who have needs but the majority of your group are actually doing a great job.
They’re just doing it quietly.