May 08, 2015

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Getting to Know Your Pupils

Getting to know pupils is vital if you want to avoid conflict, and if you want your pupils to realise their potential.

Teaching is an interactive process that requires an ever-changing system of exchange and negotiation between you and your pupils. It is important for all of us to remember that employing the ‘jug and mug’ principle, with the children being the empty receptacles into which you simply pour a healthy portion of knowledge, is no longer appropriate.

Pupils should no longer be considered as the ‘passive recipients’ of the teacher’s subject expertise. Pupils bring their own socially constructed agendas into the classroom. These agendas have been formed through their experiences both at home and at school, and manifest themselves in the idiosyncrasies, expectations, aspirations and intentions brought into the school and into your classroom.

It is, therefore, totally understandable that at some point during the working day even the most effective and skilful of teachers will experience a ‘conflict of interest’ between the values of the school and those of some of the youngsters in their classes. It's your role as teachers to reduce the number of situations that could conflict with your ultimate aim – that of producing effective learning scenarios for pupils.

Getting to know pupils is vital if you want to avoid conflict, and if you want your pupils to realize their potential. Gone are the days when teachers were seen as omnipotent beings.

The questions to ask

So, what is the best way to find out about your pupils? The answer is simple – take the time and trouble to ask them about their lives. Pupils appreciate it when teachers do this, and making time to interview your pupils on a one-to-one basis will most certainly pay off in the long run. However, if you haven’t got the time to do this then it's worth seeking the help of your colleagues. Very often the people with the most up-to-date and detailed background information on your pupils will be the head of year, form tutor and, if relevant, the SENCO. Spend some time talking to them about what makes these pupils tick. Here's a list of questions which should help:

  • Who are the child’s chief carers? Is there a step dad/step mum in the family?
  • Does the child have siblings? Do they live in the family home?
  • Do siblings go to the same school?
  • If the child’s biological mother/father does not live in the family home, do they visit/stay with them?
  • Are family relationships harmonious? How does the child behave at home?
  • Does the child experience any social/emotional/behavioural difficulties? How are these manifested in the classroom? If so, are they getting any support?
  • What interests, hobbies, etc does the child have?
  • Who are the child’s friends at school? How harmonious are these relationships?

Often, simply taking the time and trouble to find out about your pupils is enough to change your relationships with them for the better. Because many youngsters at this stage of their lives feel so confused about their identity and feelings, they often get defensive when interacting with adults.

Further research

In addition to finding out about the social and emotional backgrounds of your pupils, you will be expected to research and explore their academic backgrounds with a view to using these data to set individual and whole school targets. One of the main sources of information about the social and academic backgrounds of pupils is the Fischer Family Trust.

In 2005, in conjunction with Ofsted, FFT developed a ‘School Self Evaluation Report’. The report collates data on individual pupil’s performance in KS2, KS3 and KS4 tests, and analyses value-added progress over a three-year period; it produces an overview of trends in performance for the school and for groups within it. FFT uses a contextual value-added model throughout these analyses. Reports are not provided for KS1, Infant or Special schools.

Aamani Khan
Aamani Khan