Last academic year (March 2014) a company called Humanutopia– www.humanutopia.com came into my school to work with a very troubled Year 9, on a ‘Who am I’ day. They were so impressive that we asked them to return for a ‘full package.’ A total of 6 days and/or extension sessions.
Humanutopia are simply mind blowing, the way they interact with our young people, the way they maintain their full attention and the way they manage to get young people to reflect, engage and apologise to one another! Yes, they got students to stand up and say sorry for times they filled each others ‘bins’.
I wrote about their first visit and The Fix Up Team here.
As result of continued work with Humanutopia I have continued to reflect; What has remained with me throughout all of the Humanutopia days (irrespective of their presenters), was their mutual respect to the students. I didn’t hear once…
“You can’t talk to me like that!”
“How dare you speak to an adult/member of staff like that.”
“DO as I say, NOW!”
I also noticed how all the interactions with the young people started with the students’ names! (HOW did they manage to remember all the students names!) I think this is extremely important. Knowing your students. As a Director of Inclusion I ask all teachers to know their students, know whether they are PP, SEN, SEND, EAL, FSM, GNT etc. Yes, I expect everyone to eventually know everything about their students.
Observing other adults carry out these sessions, I again, sit back and think about they way I engage with my students, with other students. Both when I am happy and angry. I feel I am much calmer as an individual and as Teacher now.
I also leave my pride aside. I am therefore much more likely to let a student walk away from me and let them calm down before pursuing any action now. In addition, I am much better at handling my general emotions, now. Was this thanks to observing how others, non teachers carry out their role? Maybe. (Or, Is it because I turned 30 this year?!)
Humanutopia came into school dressed hip, funky, cool. They wore jeans, trainers, hoodies. This to me is interesting, most of the behaviour interventions that we outsource with external agencies involve people dressed in this similar fashion. When I started my role as Assistant Head Teacher I was worried about joining a new school and wearing a suit. I always wore Chinos, designers shirts, funky ties, pumps. I thought students would see me as the other side. Wouldn’t think I was on their level. Wouldn’t think I was cool any longer. They would think I was boring. Old!? However, I have quickly realised that students do not want us to be on their level. They like stability, authority and a sense of purpose. They like to know who is who and for what. As long as you can speak to the students in a way that is not condensing or demeaning, then you have a chance.
The speakers always used an incredible amount of self reflective wording when asking questions. Almost all questions from our students were batted back with another question. I have thought about this in more detail since then and wonder if we as teachers do this enough? Are we using the write phrasing when challenging? When trying to push a student further? I know I can do better.
We as teachers always think when we ask a student a question we must get an answer instantly. That silence for us feels like a hundred years, despite it only being a mere few seconds. We want to know somebody knows the answer and we want to know it now! However, there are several ways to combat this; questioning techniques such as PPPB. Or no hands questioning and so on… Whatever you chose, just think about the way you word the questions, do we need to ‘give’ in so easily?
After writing my first blog post about the inspiration/motivation day for my school, I was asked the question;
How sustainable is this? How is it measured? Is it worth it?
I did ponder the answers to these questions. I did worry about how I would justify the spending. Whether it would indeed make a long lasting impact. I did also think was this just a fad, a gimmick, a quick fix. I guess with any long term investment like this, initially a little faith is needed…?
One thing I am unsure of, is whether these inspirational days are ever sustainable or long lasting. However, I don’t think that matters, all that matters is that our young people were exposed to a day where they challenged themselves and asked many questions about their inner workings. How wrong was I… Students have continued to engage with this process for well over a year now! See below the video that Humanutopia created with our Year 9 heroes. We use these students to link up with our new Year 7s. We use them as student ambassadors, as student helpers, as student voice. They are trained, informed and willing. By booking Humanutopia in again and again we are aiming to have a whole school of heroes… watch this space!
Click here for the Humantopia webpage- scroll down and look at their theory of change diagram (shown below). Listen to the students explanations. I feel exactly the same way.
“Get out of your comfort zone, move past the stretch zone… life is more fun in the panic zone!’
How do I measure the impact? How do I prove that the money I have spent is worth it? I have kept a track of my year 9 heroes, we also carry out academic mentoring during tutor times and tutors are logging the conversations with their students. But, sometimes, I just feel it was worth it, in my heart. In their smiles and their thanks. I will continue to come to this… @astsupportaali