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“Hey up! How do we get children bothered about what they're learning? How do we get them to care about what it is that you're teaching them?

I was working in a ‘PRU’, a Pupil Referral Unit, and I was walking down the corridor one day and there was a little boy who was outside the room, sitting on the floor - and he was looking really grumpy.

What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

He was called Maxwell, and I said “Maxwell, what's up?”, and he went “Urgh!”.

He was really moaning, he wasn't very happy at all.

I said “Come on, Max! What’s up mate?”, and he said “Oh! Mr. Roberts! Mr. Roberts! We're doing Romans!”. 

I said “Well… Romans, that's quite exciting isn’t it? There's Gladiators and there's invasions! There's quite a lot going on with Romans”.

He said “No. No, Mr. Roberts! They were ages ago!”, and he was right, they were ‘ages ago’.

The challenge then for us, was to sit as teachers and support staff and say to each other, ‘How do we get Maxwell bothered about Romans?’.

Warming the Curriculum

There's lots of things we could do, we could perhaps dress up as Romans for the day - that might work. There's all sorts of things we could do to get Maxwell bothered. 

The thing that I’ve found that works and the stuff I like to share in my work, is the idea of using narratives and stories to breathe life into what can seem to a child to be quite a cold curriculum.

We warm it up, and we warm it up by thinking about ourselves and thinking about how we are preparing and sharing this curriculum that we've constructed.

All curriculum needs to be published. We put it on our websites don't we. We share it with our parents.

But as soon as we write it down it's dehumanised. And what we do as teachers is take that cold document and we warm it up.

Protecting Them Into the Learning

One way that I like warming up documents is by using stories and narratives, so if we're teaching Romans, we say ‘Where are the people in Romans? Where are we? What are the dilemmas and problems that these people have to face?’.

That's one way of doing it. We have to protect children like Maxwell and other kids, we have to protect them into it. 

For them, school can seem a bit of a rough river, so how are we going to Sherpa them across? How are we going to metaphorically hold their hands?

Botheredness

When you do that, the child feels that ‘botheredness’.

So it's not just about curriculum, it's not just about classrooms, it's not just about the adults, it's not just about the children - it's about the whole thing and I think that's what authentic care is.

And I think that's what we signed up to when we become teachers. That's what we wanted to do. It's the reason we signed up in the first place - that spark, that feeling you had in your teacher heart - that is ‘botheredness’!”

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About the author

Hywel Roberts

Hywel Roberts

Hywel is in demand for his work in schools that is not only entertaining but firmly rooted in his ongoing experience as a 'travelling teacher' in some of our most challenging communities. He is the author Oops! and Uncharted Territories with Dr Debra Kidd.

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