“If I Don’t Know – He Won’t!”

Picture the scene – A warm summer’s evening at the infamous, end-of-year ‘School Production’.  Disaster strikes! The multicoloured coat (a quintessential ingredient for this particular play) is missing!  It is needed on stage in approximately fifteen minutes and I am given the task of retrieving said item – off I set, a man on a mission.

I enter the classroom where all the outfits have been laid out. I am met by two children from my class, a boy and a girl.  Immediately I ask the girl if she knows where to find the coat.  The girl is extremely ‘bright’ and helpful; in fact she is labelled as ‘gifted and talented.’ She searches the classroom for a couple of minutes and when I ask if she has found the coat she confirms my worst fears, regretfully informing me that it can’t be found anywhere.

I then turn to the boy who is labelled Special Educational Needs (SEN).  I ask if he knows where the coat is but before he can reply the little girl innocently interjects –   and what she said has haunted me since.  Her polite reply was… “If I Don’t Know – He Won’t!”

It is clear that both pupils were abundantly aware of the implications of the labels that we, as educators, had attached to them. Perhaps even more significantly, I also asked myself; why did I ask the girl first? Was this an insight into my own subconscious thinking or merely chance? The answered saddened me.

This day was five years ago and it was a turning point in our thinking about pedagogy. Needless to say, we have learned our lesson!

The Thought Weavers


3 thoughts on ““If I Don’t Know – He Won’t!”

  1. This is a very thoughtful post and an important one to share. Moments like this can transform the way we approach children. What is best though, is that it provided you with an illustration that the labels we can give out have a lasting impression on pupils.
    The fact that you ‘learned a lesson’ from it shows how thoughtful you are as teachers. We need to share this sort of experience more often and I will tweet your link.

  2. Funnily enough, I’m just doing some research on PLTS and students with learning difficulties – particularly autistic students. The structure of the PLTS makes activities far more accessible to students of all ranges and abilities. I’ve found that the G&T children are sometimes less receptive because they think they already know what to do, whereas my SEN students have come on in leaps and bounds.

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