Updated: Apr 13, 2021
So let me tell you more about and welcome you to Giraffe Corner - Transformational Teaching. This is the roots of everything I am trying to and will achieve. I started it up in 2015 as a branch of making my style seen while I was teaching in a further education setting. It was within that setting that I met some of the most inspirational students who only drove me to want it more - BUT they were that way because of the way that they had been 'handled' whilst in school.
These guys were massively hard on themselves, their self-worth and morale was through the floor and they were at the point where they hated everything and everyone that was going to make them study. But the college itself didn’t care about that. They were bums on seats, they had the metaphorical pound sign stamped on their head upon enrolment and in came the funding... case closed.
A fellow teacher once said to me that our job is to babysit them, and crowd manage for a few hours as they didn't want to be there, and our job wasn't to make them. That made me think but also massively worried and upset me for two reasons. one, is teacher morale also generally at that much of a low ebb that he feels like that and two, how can I change this?
So, I decided to move forward as quickly as I was able with my teaching concept. I promoted positivity in my room (Also christened giraffe corner by my students) I made sure that lesson plans were merely a suggestion, if some of my guys came into the room, we worked together with whatever support they needed. I worked hard for several years on making sure that my room was about so much more than the subject. It was about being somewhere safe, once my door was shut there was zero judgement and to just be themselves, whoever that meant they were. Now, my results went up hugely... but most importantly, my student’s wellbeing improved. They were more confident, they were enthusiastic, they started to embrace what they NEEDED to learn and actually started to want to.
Off the back of GC, I started to develop a concept called 'Too Tall'. One of my amazing Sport students, Caleb, had a huge impact on this as he always used to arrive to lessons rapping a Stormzy record (Yep, I had to look him up too!) called Big for you boots.... and we used to joke that he was Too Tall for my room... Too Tall was then born as an Arts concept to promote English within and outside the classroom.
As a Drama and English teacher by trade, I cannot tell you enough how important the arts are. My god, when year 9 pick their options, you absolutely get those that pick Drama for the laugh and the kick about. HOWEVER,... what they do not realise at the time is that those first session in a drama studio were the birth place of creativity, innovation and change. That change that would help them to step outside of the bubble of standardised testing, exams and controlled assessment. I cannot put enough emphasis on how significant this is because, whilst exam results are necessary to move forward in education and employment, what they don't prepare you for is actually living. School, in my opinion, is there to get kids through exams. Not teach them how to be a person, an inspiration, a parent, a friend, AN INDIVIDUAL.
The arts is an integral part of this and I am currently rolling out 'Too Tall Theatre Co.' purely for this reason. We will be working with students aged 14+, so the height of mental and emotional wellbeing, and it is aimed specifically, although not exclusively, as those who struggle with the day to day stress and control of school, they find themselves in inclusion a lot or being excluded, even going down the path and being labelled as a young offender. All of these things make these individuals who they are. I firmly believe that they could have positively affected their path if they had been given more opportunities to embrace the arts as it should be embedded in day to day education. I don't mean leaning on the water fountain at break reciting Hamlet... I can imagine exactly how some of my year 10's would react if I told them they had to do that!
This is about allowing the ability to create. To be them and to be assessed based on who they are and what they are great at. Not a list of things written by a man/woman in an office who hasn't set foot in a classroom with challenging students in it... unless it is to give a bad Ofsted grade!
I want to go into so much more detail - I want to make these guys lives better, I want them, to not have to make crap decision to be seen... I want them to not be frightened of being vulnerable and to learn, with support, to embrace it and they can then have the power to be whoever they want to be. And, long term, I firmly believe that this will improve the generations of the future. There is too much conflict already in the world that they are going to have to deal with. Let's at least give them a fighting chance to do it as themselves and not someone a letter or number on a piece of paper says they should be seen as.