This last week I was invited to visit some English lessons where the girls had completed some outstanding work. Their teacher was proud of them for a number of reasons.
Firstly, all the girls were accessing texts that were demanding and challenging. 12 year olds reading Great Expectations to understand the gothic genre. Their views were varied on the text but they could all apply what they had understood from their reading to another short story they were studying in that lesson.
Secondly, the level of engagement they had shown in accessing these more demanding texts. When I walked into another room they were collaborating in small groups and discussing their views on dystopian literature. Distracting them momentarily from their task, they were keen to explain, with much intellectual energy, what was meant by dystopia and how they could identify it in other books they had read. There were no passengers in the lesson; they were all engaged and all thinking at a very high level.
I then walked into a Year 9 lesson where the girls had completed work on Twelfth Night. I read their work with much interest where they had analysed how Shakespeare used music not just in “Twelfth Night” but in many of his plays. They had put the play into historical context of Elizabethan theatre interpreting Shakespeare’s view of the rise of the Puritans. When quizzed on what they had written they were articulate and freely discussed their ideas and interpretations, with me learning much in the process.
I was reminded of the recent theory on High Performance Learning by the educationalist, Professor Deborah Eyre. The belief that high performance is a possible outcome for all students, their outcome is not determined by genetic disposition, or social background but instead our belief in the student and building in them the skills and learner attributes needed for high performance. This was certainly evident in the lessons I observed. The girls were set demanding work, they were given the skill set and the belief that they could do it. They did not disappoint the teacher, nor me, in their achievement.