It is the week before Year 9 exams at my school. I have led my class through a carefully scaffolded process of reading, note-making, essay planning, and collaborative feedback, EXCEPT one of my better students has handed no work in. Not when it was due, not with an extension, and not after warnings. Yesterday I made him sit down during lunchtime and commence making some notes, and then I rang his Mum. Today he came back for another lunchtime detention to continue the notes. He told me that he had his own way of studying and notes didn’t work for him. I asked to see his way and he told me that it was all at home. Stalemate. He slammed the door when he left. This boy never gets angry, yet I made him angry.
I rang his Mum again today. She said he was upset when he came home yesterday. When she sat him down she identified that he has absolutely no idea HOW to take notes. I explained to her my carefully scaffolded lessons and the exemplar I distributed. She asked me to sit down with him one-on-one and show him HOW to do it.
This afternoon I asked him to talk me through his own method of studying at home. When he explained it to me, I pointed out that he was off topic and wasting his time. He went quiet then agreed. I then asked him if he knew how to take notes. He went quieter and admitted that he didn’t. I told him that it was my fault, not his, that he didn’t understand.
I didn’t know what to do next. I was thinking, how could you not know how to take notes? Don’t you just take notes? What’s to learn?
All my lessons for the past two weeks had been a waste of time. So then I swung around the reading booklet and took out a blank sheet of paper and said, “Watch, this is how I would do it.” It took me two minutes to summarise a few pages. I paused and said, “Now you ask me questions about what I have done”, which he did for a few minutes. He left with a spring in his step and a commitment to hand me his completed notes by Monday. Fingers crossed.
Thank goodness for Mums. Gee it’s hard to get inside the mind of a 14-year old.