Having been a teacher with prior experience of mainstream schools, the culture of teaching at SOFEA highlighted some stark differences. Over time, SOFEA gave me the opportunity to examine my previous teaching practices, and how I could adapt them to best suit the youngsters at SOFEA.
Like so many teachers before me; I tried, and usually failed, to get the children to keep the noise down. Every teacher knows the stress that builds in unison with the noise level, which would invariably creep back up, no matter how much you try to dampen it. This approach meant that there were some kids who were punished for merely showing enthusiasm in a project they were clearly interested in, and their progress was hindered as a result.
Clearly some experimentation with noise in the classroom was needed. As a mainstream teacher I was always conscious of the noise levels in my classes, and the prevailing attitude was that noise was almost always negative, and counter-productive to learning. Noise means chatter, and chatter means that my pupils aren’t working. Right?
While teaching a science lesson with a student teacher, I set the children off on a group task while making no effort to regulate the noise levels. We took a step back and observed how the children behaved and worked. It soon became clear to us that none of the kids were off task. They were discussing the task, noisily, but making excellent progress.
This kind of approach is ubiquitous at SOFEA. The Education Team gives our youngsters the opportunity to express themselves; which carries over into how each child learns, and at what pace.
At SOFEA, the boundaries are much wider, which allows our young people to regulate themselves. This is a direct contrast to mainstream education where the regulation is done almost exclusively by staff and imposed upon the youngsters without any kind of discussion on how it’s implemented.
Reading some feedback from the kids who attended the school I taught at has proved to be vindicating. They said their time was too directed, and their behaviour, including their noise level, was too frequently challenged and often unfairly; regardless of what circumstances that could be arising for them outside of the classroom.
Not at SOFEA though. I’d be more worried if my students were quiet.