Guest post by: Chris Lawson
I truly believe, from my years of experience in the classroom and my own learning journey, for students to learn they need to feel safe and happy. Through using technology, teachers can check on the emotional wellbeing of the children they teach and also support them.
Realising the Importance of Emotional Health
Students need to feel safe within their classroom environment, that they have a voice and will be listened to. This leads to them feeling more confident to know that they can share their thoughts, feelings and what may be going on inside and outside of their school day. Some may suggest that this is altruistic; how is this possible with the increasing demands on teachers today? Here I will demonstrate how using Showbie has enabled this to be a reality in our school. Using the most basic Showbie features children can articulate successes and worries which has had a transformative impact on the children I teach.
Looking back to my educational ‘Why’, I have always strived to empower students to learn great things. Yet, I too often see barriers to learning for the children that I teach. Granted, some of these barriers are Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) but often, a low sense of worth and self-belief can be equally limiting to educational progress.
A few years ago, one Friday evening, whilst driving home, I realised that for the whole week I hadn’t had a conversation with one of the children in my 32 strong class. This bothered me greatly – I didn’t know anything about their week – other than the work I had marked. On deeper reflection I realised that the classroom environment that I had forged and took pride in, failed to give the children I taught an opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences. This was mirrored in other classes in school. There had to be a way to change this – the answer – Showbie.
The following week, I created an assignment in Showbie called ‘Communication Box’. I asked one simple question – How are you? The response from the children was quite staggering. Granted, some put ‘fine’, after all, I didn’t give them any confines to work within, but others told me about their weekends, family who were over visiting them to the other end of the spectrum: bad night’s sleep and worries about the family pet.
I felt so empowered to read these nuggets of their lives. It was the missing piece of the jigsaw and I knew I had discovered the key to knowing more and being able to support more.
Once established, Showbie then became the hub of celebration and feedback. There is nothing better than a teacher sharing their pride in the work you have done; I can vividly remember my own Year 6 teacher 20 years ago, taking me aside and telling me how proud he was of the work I had done. Using voice notes throughout the children’s marking and feedback meant they could hear my excitement and pride in the work they had done.
The Weekly Class Check-In with Blob Trees.
By utilising a number of images from ‘Blob Trees’ to Emoji’s, I can use the quick marking feature to quickly and effectively scan through a visual carousel of how my children are feeling at that particular moment. Having also used the assignment scheduling tool, I am able to open and close these at the beginning and end of the week – meaning that children start each week with a fresh start. Lastly, using the ‘copy’ feature, I can then share this with all the other year group teachers, resulting in a reduced workload, giving them more time to teach and respond to children’s needs.
Through these weekly check-ins, I have also gained a greater understanding of my class. It has helped me learn about other problems like fallouts between students, home circumstances that a student may not have felt comfortable talking about in person and even students with low self-esteem; Showbie enables us to keep a log of growth, achievements and successes of which they were proud.
This continues to be the hub of communication in and outside of school. I receive pictures of pets, completed Rubix cube videos, work completed at home and many things in between! Children love to showcase what is important to them and I’m yet to have a week where there isn’t something of value that I can then utilise in a conversation or bring into the classroom conversation. This ‘hybrid learning’ approach both at school and home has continued to accelerate learning outcomes.
Voice Note Feedback
This remains the most powerful teaching and learning tool at my disposal. The ability to use voice to not only increase the speed and impact of marking but allow children to truly hear my enthusiasm or determination to improve has significantly more impact than written comments alone.
Showbie has become the hub of academic success and emotional wellbeing for the children I teach. This leaves them in a better place to learn and make progress to succeed.