Average pupils deserve our best

5th May 2006 at 01:00
There is a poem about the average pupil - about the ones who do not cause teachers trouble, whose grades are OK, who listen in classes and are in school everyday. They are in all our classes, although they are easy to overlook, precisely because they are average.

They work hard, listen quietly to our every word, hand in homework and coursework on time, behave impeccably and have immense respect for our knowledge and teaching.

But they are the forgotten ones in comprehensive schools. They conform to the rules but receive little teacher attention because they behave well.

While teachers deal with the unruly and uncouth, these pupils still work.

If only some of the energy expended on the recalcitrants was spent on the dedicated and committed pupils.

If standards are to be raised these pupils are crucial. They are usually the CD borderline candidates, and these "forgotten ones" need some precious teacher time.

The more able have innate ability and will succeed if they work. They will generally be in the top set where there is less disruption. The less able are in smaller groups, have withdrawal lessons and are sometimes statemented. The average child has no extra resources spent on him or her.

Teachers should talk to these pupils more, say how much they are valued, and that they will help them to do their best. There is no greater reward than seeing the average child succeed. Two I taught went on to attain teaching degrees, and another two qualified as nurses.

Every year my greatest pleasure is to see the average pupils in the class attain the C grade that will take them to tertiary education where they will again make the most of their opportunities.

I have found one of the best ways to encourage these pupils is to keep them back as a group after the lesson, to save their embarrassment, and to praise them for all the good things they have done.

As a group they receive proportionately less praise but they thrive on it.

At last they have the teacher's attention, somebody does value what they do, and somebody has noticed them. Tell them you have high aspirations and expectations of them.

There is so much academic potential waiting to be elicited from these model citizens of the future. We should help those worthy average pupils and expect much more of them.

Jim Goodall is a science teacher from Torfaen

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