This is a guest post by Kate Porter, Senior Tutor and Biology teacher at Holy Cross College in Bury.
I am a busy class teacher, pastoral tutor and working mum, and as such, I am always rushing down corridors, speed teaching the latest revised syllabus and spilling my breakfast down my unironed blouse (‘it doesn’t matter – I’ll just leave my cardigan on’). My life is hectic. It’s full on. I sometimes catch sight of my reflection in a window as I run (awkwardly) into my next case conference, greeting parents with apologies about my lateness, ‘sorry, there’s been an emergency ….’, ‘sorry, I had to take an important call …’ and it’s all true. Pastoral is no showboat. There are no short cuts. There is a daily stream of teenage angst waiting at my door, excuses about missed work and daily panic about the future. One thing that I’ve learnt as a tutor is that students are unpredictable – they don’t always do as they are told (surprise – surprise). They can be apathetic, withdrawn and disruptive. Why? Well for a whole host of very good reasons – their personal circumstances, their latest turbulent relationship or just because they got out of bed the wrong way but one thing that often unites these students – one thing that crops up time and time again, is an uncertainty about the future. A haze about why they are doing the course – how it will help them – and the biggest of all, what they are going to ‘be.’
This ‘be’ is a biggie. ‘And what do you want to ‘be’ when you grow up?’ choruses nearly every grown up when you are little. I wanted to ‘be’ a mounted police woman. Why? I’m bossy and like horses. My colleague wanted to be a criminal psychologist. Why? They’d watched Cracker in the early 90s. My son wants to be a dinosaur. Why? He likes them. I’ve yet to break the news …… As adults, we have an obsession about what we should or shouldn’t be and the way we are going to achieve this aim. The problem is, it doesn’t always work out.
Fast forward to a telephone call or case conference with anxious parents concerned about why their teenage son or daughter is underachieving and 9 times out of 10, we reach the conclusion that it’s because they have no goal. They have no aim. They have lost sight of their dream to be an astronaut, doctor, engineer etc etc. They haven’t got the grades, they’ve refused to reconsider their long term career aspiration and now they’re at sea. Disrupting their history class is a symptom, failing to submit their Chemistry homework is another, struggling to organise their time independently another, even lack of sleep. If you’ve lost sight of what you want to ‘be,’ how do you motivate yourself to get the grades to let you onto a teaching course or start your apprenticeship?
I suppose this is the point I’m making. A strong pastoral team recognises the importance of careers staff and employability guidance. Their role is pivotal in focusing and refocusing students when the going gets tough. As important as all the other aspects of a pastoral team, including the college nurse, counsellor, student services, learning support and 1-2-1 target setting, careers’ staff are flexible to students’ successes and failures, advising them on courses and opportunities open to them. Knowledgeable about course requirements and the latest buzz in the recruitment sector. Assessing current achievement and discussing achievable goals.
Last year, we were introduced to Kloodle by our Careers’ team. A platform that initially seemed Facebook familiar in aesthetic and that the students enjoyed using. Staff were resistant, concerned about their lack of technical know-how, worried about keeping up with the latest millennial hype. What if it isn’t private? What if students write something silly and it can never be erased? What if I click the wrong button? What if they don’t use it? What if they upload inappropriate photos? What if …..? What if ……? What if ……? Well we used it and continue to do so and none of this has happened. Our students are introduced to Kloodle as part of the first tutorial focused on profile setting and target setting. We remind students of the importance of regularly updating their profile and evidencing their skill-set. This year we have introduced half termly skills’ weeks, where curriculum staff have to focus on an SLT prioritised employability skill and include it in their lesson. Students regularly review and assess their achievements and build towards the next stage on their career path. The onus shifts towards the student. In regularly reviewing their skill acquisition, they are moulding their own future employability. And of course, this has all had its benefits. Students acknowledge gaps in their skill-sets and are more proactive in addressing them. They understand their own market value and just as they create their own image on Facebook, they are aware of addressing a more formal audience on Kloodle.
So, I find myself asking my own questions: What if Kloodle isn’t all that complicated to use after all? What if students reconsider some of their on-line behaviours? What if this platform truly does impact on the future of students? What if Kloodle encourages students to be more aware of their future from the start of their college experience? What if students regularly update their skills’ evidence? What if Kloodle raises students’ awareness of new companies, new roles, new jobs? What if students do use their Kloodle CV and acquire jobs from it? What if it encourages those students who didn’t think they could, to apply for aspirational opportunities?
What if the positives outweigh the fear of the unknown?
Perhaps, just perhaps, it can help with refocusing those students who have made mistakes or fallen short of their aspirational goals. Maybe, Kloodle might just be able to motivate students to achieve.