Are you good at joining in?
Or are you someone who stands and watches for a bit before joining?
Or are you someone, like me, who has to work hard to join in? You would think, wouldn’t you, that someone who talks for a living would find joining in quite easy but, in my case, I am the one at the party who is passing the food around so as to look like I am fitting in!
Just because you can do something professionally, does not always mean that this is your natural preference. Does this resonate with you?
When it comes to our pupils, we do expect them to join in and then we expect them to do more than that- to co-operate and, before long, to take a lead. These are big asks!
Here is a model that sets out the various stages of joining in:
So often we expect our pupils to make this transition, between levels, smoothly and speedily. With vulnerable learners this is going to be a slow and erratic journey of trial and error.
The model shows how much more time will need to be spent in engaging in the learning activity- being attentive, being alongside, presenting as being ‘here’, showing curiosity etc. before actually taking part. The vulnerable has ‘to catch’ the energy of the other pupils and want to be part of what is going.
Participation will only happen when the vulnerable child can take a risk. Their experiences so far may militate against risk-taking. Participating will be putting themselves out there to be made vulnerable, yet again. Any attempt is likely to be followed by a retreat. This is why progress is likely to be erratic.
As teachers we are looking for co-operation, partly because this is evidence of social skills being gained and partly because this is how we need to teach large numbers together- desirability and functionality.
So the question is, how do your staff monitor this journey with vulnerable pupils? Do they report lack of participation and co-operation or the subtle progress from engagement to participation?
And when we think back to my example of passing the canapés around at a party…what level am I operating at? A kind of psuedo-engagement? And this is from someone who has held major leadership roles! We need to remember that is not a linearly attained skill. Children will exhibit different levels of joining in during different tasks and with different participants.
The model may be hierarchical but does not have fixed or ranked stages. How can we support teachers to support pupils to support themselves from an understanding of these different ways of being?