My last lesson finished at my sweet school in suburbia, just north of London.
Year 7 students hang off of any limb of mine they can get a grasp of. Imagine that classic cartoon of a baby sitter taking care of too many hyper children. That’s what I looked like.
“Miss Lame!”, “Miss Lame, I love you!”, “DON’T GOOOOO Miss Lame!!!” My little rays of sunshine call anxiously for my attention. Some spill with tears. Some hold gifts and homemade cards up to my face.
“The super group”, they were called around the school and especially within the Learning Support Centre. This “super group” started their first year of secondary school, year 7, with me, Miss Lame. This name was given to my class for the reason that they all required special adaptations to their learning needs. These needs ranged from motor difficulties, which impacted their writing speed and clarity, to learning disabilities affecting speed of apprehension and/or written communication, organization. The majority of my lovelies also fell under the ADHD umbrella. Furthermore, many of these students also typically had more hectic home lives. This lack of structure at home helped to perpetuate their anxiety centres of the brain and further affect behaviour and memory function.
(Check out "Beyond logic, consequence and control: A love-based approach to helping children with severe behaviours” to read about the effects of anxiety/trauma on youths’ behaviours)
Daily, at least one of my year 7 darlings would announce: “Misssss, I forgot to take my tabletssss!”
I struggled for ages to teach this energetic, deeply loving, highly needy group of students. Getting them settled for science lesson (usually after they consumed ridiculous amounts of processed sugars over lunch) was a drawwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn……wwwwwnnnnnnnnnnn… out ordeal. In fact, sometimes… many times… settling down WAS the whole lesson.
In the beginning of the school year most of my year 7 students couldn't write a full sentence on a line in their exercise books. The tricky part… A select few could.
This was yet another challenge. Challenging all individuals.
Before I could effectively work out differentiation and challenging all students in a way that suited their unique needs, I had to first figure out how to even calm them within an hours’ lesson.
Spring came around and in the last 3 months of my teaching contract something changed. I think a few things changed, in me, in them.
Suddenly things worked. Our way.
A few things happened:
My rays of sunshine finally started to calm in their new, secondary school learning environment. Simple things such as the new building and classroom design became familiar. The routines, the style of learning, the new expectations had been absorbed and understood. For the most part…
Secondly, I realized how to teach them. I remember the moment I made this connect. I was quite pleased, in fact, very excited, to discover that the best approach was to be FULL ON MISS LAME. I could embrace my inner child 100%. The avenue of learning was play. We frolicked in the field behind my classroom, counting dandilions in quadrats, playing games like “red squirrel versus grey squirrel” to learn about the impact of non-native species on competition for food and space. They loved doing the “Earth dance”, spinning in circles to demonstrate 1 day, 2 days, 18 days… Bending energetically side-to-side to represent Earth’s tilt away from and towards a lamp (the Sun) during winter and summer. On good days, or just when I could tell my students and myself needed it, we would finish up lesson with a dance party. The most hyper active of the bunch would exit my classroom soaked with sweat, red in the face. I didn’t make them write as much. We just played with purpose.
The best part. They remembered everything.
I reflect, from Canada, over my summer holidays on my success with this beautiful group of children. They were so loving. They learned from me, and I, from them.
I, Miss Lame, can happily say I am becoming the teacher I've always dreamed of being. It is happening quickly. I am proud.
The most meaningful gift from a year 10 student: