Keeping students learning through ‘Least Invasive Interventions’

Visiting Charlotte Pywell, a ’13 Ambassador teaching in the North East, we were struck by her skill in helping students stay focused on learning.  Charlotte’s school faces significant challenges: 80% of students receive Free School Meals, there is a very high turnover of teachers and leaders and the school has low results within the area (which itself is significantly below national averages).  Within this context, Charlotte’s approach supported students to try hard and engage positively in lessons.  Through skillful use of the ‘Least Invasive Intervention’ possible, Charlotte held students to high expectations and maintained a warm classroom climate.

Several aspects of Charlotte’s approach stood out:

  • Charlotte’s goal and priority is always learning.  She returns to the lesson without missing a beat as soon as students are focused.
  • Most of Charlotte’s interventions are exceptionally swift and so take the least possible time. Both her ‘Lightning Quick Public Corrections’ are a single word: ‘Chloe’ and ‘warning’.
  • Charlotte’s tone shifts slightly when speaking about behaviour, emphasising her point.  But she reverts to an upbeat, excited tone as soon as students are focused.  At all times, she maintains a ‘firm, calm finesse’ in her responses.
  • Charlotte also uses her posture and stance to emphasise her message: she stands still facing students when she notices a problem, and emphasises her attentiveness through ‘being seen looking’, peering around an ‘invisible column’ when waiting for several students to cease talking over her.
  • Charlotte’s interventions while teaching are very swift, but she makes time for a longer conversation with a disengaged student while the rest of the class are answering questions about a video.  Invisible and inaudible to the camera, Charlotte highlights what he should be doing and finishes with a reassuring hand on the shoulder.  She manages to achieve a powerful effect on the disengaged student without attracting any interest or attention from the student opposite, who remains focused on the lesson throughout.

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Charlotte faces unusually profound challenges in the classroom.  Her calm approach and use of ‘least invasive interventions’ allow her students to focus on their learning and help her to maintain strong, positive relationships with them.

Her firm, calm finesse was also evident in dealing with students while ‘on call’, which we will show in a future blog.

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