April 24, 2023

School isn’t for everyone, but education can be

There are plenty of students that thoroughly enjoy their school experience; they fit in, excel in their subjects and are ambitious.

But what about everyone else? What happens when you don’t fit in, do not excel in your subjects and have no idea what you want to do with your life?

I used to teach Drama and, for me, this was one area where those students that didn’t ‘fit in’ could find a different way to learn. For almost every subject in every school, you spend five years sat behind a desk looking at a board. In Drama we had no desks, we had no board – and students found this utterly liberating.

Once I taught a student whose Mum was dying of cancer. In one lesson he said to me, “I love Drama; when I am in this class, I can forget everything that is happening at home.” That has always stuck with me. School shouldn’t just be about absorbing facts and getting ‘the right grades;’ it should also nurture your emotional and mental well-being. And you know what? sometimes it should even be fun.

I was made redundant twice because Drama was not seen as an ‘important’ subject. Many of my friends that taught subjects such as Drama, Dance, Art, Food Technology, and Construction have found that their subjects are disappearing in schools. Instead, the majority of lessons now taught are of the ‘sitting behind a desk for five years’ variety. No wonder we are finding it difficult to get children to exercise, go outside and use their imaginations.

As I said at the start, many students do excel at school which is, of course, wonderful. But many are left behind. What happens to them?

I joined Apricot Online in 2017 – an opportunity to work with students who could not attend a mainstream school environment for a variety of reasons. It was difficult to visualise how teaching online would work, but as soon as I began teaching in this way something became very apparent.

The students that don’t ‘fit in,’ that feel overwhelmed by the pressures of school, the ones that desperately need attention so ‘act up’ in class – they all have a new opportunity to access education in their own way. The liberating environment I was able to create in my Drama classes is operative in my online lessons. The students feel comfortable, relaxed, and above all, cared for. These students have the opportunity to learn at their own pace and are allowed to get things wrong without the fear of a teacher making an example of them.

If Apricot Online didn’t exist, these students would simply drop out of education and find themselves on a confusing path that can often lead to very poor life choices.

School isn’t for everyone, but education can be – as long as you give the student the opportunity to be heard, encouraged, and cared for.

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