Whilst the rest of the students in school are merrily looking forward to the summer holidays, barely giving September a second thought; in my world the picture is somewhat different. For us these last couple of weeks are never easy, our students know that change is on its way and much as they want their long awaited summer break, for them it is tinged with a sense of uncertainly.
It’s our job, to think outside the box, and show them that change can be positive. Differentiation is about more than worksheets, it’s about changing the way you think, it’s about understanding your students and thinking about them as whole people. It’s about finding ways to make them feel safer in their environment, less anxious about change and happier about the person they are.
So, in a bid to achieve Mission Change Can Be Good, we’ve started the changes early. And so far things (aside from the odd hiccup) are going well. Three weeks ago we moved those students who are heading up to Key Stage 4 up early; they’re now comfortable with their peer group and happy in their environment. In some ways it already feels like the group have already been together forever. It’s one less thing for our students to worry about over the summer.
Last week we started eating lunch in the main dining hall, 15 minutes earlier than the rest of school, which much to our surprise our students are loving. The gods have been kind to us, and have provided both chips and pizza over the last couple of days – both of which have been thoroughly enjoyed. And for the first time this week our youngest boys got changed in the real PE changing rooms. Our students are growing in confidence, and now they’ve begun the changes they’re starting to look forward to their summer.
Of course, there will be more changes to come; there will be new timetables, new teachers and new students. But the seeds have been set. Big changes have been made and conquered. All of our new students have visited at least six times; our students know them and we’ve established shared interests. New teachers have visited, played games and chatted. They’ve got a grasp of what our students need and our students feel happier because they aren’t waiting for a sea of unfamiliar faces in September.
They’re still nervous, the changes in September will still be big ones, but they’re a little less anxious than they would otherwise have been. Stepping through the door on the 2nd of September will be that little bit easier, their holidays that little bit happier.
Small things make a big difference; a difference you can be part of. So when you get your class list this year, have a read through. Is there a student on there with ASD? If there is, take a moment, have a think. Could you give them a much needed holiday gift by sparing just a few minutes to find them and have a chat?