Cause and Effect

I’m in a bad mood tonight. Actually, make that a stressed mood.

My Y11 GCSE pupils are slipping behind our, admittedly tight, timescale to get Project 3 done before the mock exams. One of them has just left for 2 weeks in the sun, he’ll be back 3 days before the hand-in deadline. He’s only 2 weeks behind (at the moment). Another one sat there for an hour after school, supposedly catching up on the work he should have done 4 weeks ago. After the hour he asked if he could go and was astounded when I said no because he hadn’t actually done anything. It’s unbelievable that when informed he wasn’t going anywhere until the target we agreed was met he did the work in a very literal 5 minutes. Actually it isn’t unbelievable at all, it was a trivial amount of work and the pupil in question is undoubtedly bright enough to be forging ahead with the top of the bunch.

My GNVQ class on the other hand don’t appear to realise that the work they are doing has any actual impact on their final results at all. They’re raving because they got their certificates through this week for their first unit. Lots of them got a distinction and the rest got merits. And yet they’ll turn up, fart around for half an hour, ignore me when I ask them to put their name on their work before they print it out and then carry on their conversations while I turn into Stressed Eric.

I seriously considered just leaving them to it, and collecting the grade they deserve, but would that do any good? They’d blame me for that, for not teaching them properly (technically they’d have a point but I’m in a mood so it doesn’t count). And yet sometimes they follow the subtleties of cause and effect incredibly well. They are quite capable of grasping that when I break tasks down for them and provide written, rather than verbal, feedback it makes life easier and they get better marks. I don’t even need to tell them that, they tell me! And yet lately they seem to be obstinately ignoring that fact. They seem to deliberately wind me up in lessons, which makes me less effective and therefore less helpful. This winds them up further and so the cycle continues. Somehow this cause and effect seems to pass them by.
I tell them that I know the train from London to Oxenholme leaves from London Euston and is a Virgin Train because my family comes from the Lakes and I’m over there all the time. I tell them that they could get the train on a Friday evening and stay over in a hotel rather than setting off at midnight on a GNER from Kings Cross and having a 6 hour layover in Norfolk. And yet I end up with 12 unique, and yet uniformly crap documents. None of which has a name and one of which suggests that the travellers in the scenario who work in London should set off from Newcastle, fly to Bradford and get a taxi to their final (and yet cunningly undisclosed) destination.

Anyway, I have a printer today (for the first time this year!) which means I could get their work printed out. Now, instead of having to spend 5 minutes looking over each pupils’ shoulder at their work and just about getting round the class in a lesson I can spend an hour doing it at home, give them their written feedback and chunked targets. If it means 2 stress reduced hours (one at home, one at school) rather than one stressed and unproductive one then it’s worth it in the long run. I wonder how long it’ll take them to notice…

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