Talking the talk but what about the walk?

As you may know, I’m the founder of 100 Word Challenge. It is a weekly writing challenge for youngsters under 16. I set a prompt of a few words or a picture and they have 100 words to produce a creative piece of writing. This is posted on their class blog then linked to where a team of volunteers (Team 100) comment and support the writing.
It has had a huge impact on the standard of writing in some schools across the world as well as providing great motivation for some of our reluctant writers. Linking with blogging as it does, adds a kudos to it which really engages the children.
In previous years, the team of volunteers has come from a variety of places, mostly via tweets from me that persuaded and bullied folks to give up an hour a week. Each team member is given a set of guidelines and 10 numbers to comment on. The numbers are spread across a range of 1 to 2000 so to have 10 numbers to comment on would mean a huge response, well over the maximum the challenge has had. If you were to have 10 to do, they can easily be done in an hour. Volunteers do not have to be teachers or even connected to the schools.
As it has been shown that the comments are what makes the difference to the children, and, in an attempt to provide at least one comment per entry, when classes signed up this year they were asked to put forward the name of someone to join Team 100. The challenge is free to enter and can make such a difference, (in one case as much as 5 points score improvement in two terms), I don’t think it is too much to ask for one person to be prepared to give a little time to leave a supportive comment. Most schools have just one class entering 100WC which is one person per school!
I had assumed that most class teachers would automatically comment on their own classes entries so, on the form, it asks for someone other than the class teacher. There are still some classes who have yet to find someone and today, in response to another grumble from me, I received this from a class teacher:

‘ I know it is not supposed to the classroom teacher, but I am not sure any others will make that commitment at my school. ‘
I had to read it a couple of times and found myself feeling so sorry for this teacher, sad for the children and then angry! How many school visions and mission statements include a line about ‘all the children in our school’? How many espouse support and aspiration for all?
Now this is not a foot stamp because people don’t want to join my game. This attitude seems to explain why our positive wizards in school – you know the ones who take up new initiatives and ideas that schools thrive on – get so downhearted. Surely SLTs need to nurture these folks and not assume they will just get on with it. Schools are about community and initiatives like 100WC can help unite members of it. I do know that the school will gladly use any improvement taking part in the challenge brings to their results!

Am I really expecting too much that schools share in the encouragement of pupils? The joy of 100 Word Challenge is that it provides an extended audience from around the world. It appears that some schools are not prepared to back their words with actions and become part of that audience and that makes me very, very sad.

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  • Hi Julia
    As a lapsed 100WC commentator, I understand your frustration.
    The point about SLT nurturing teachers is very important and goes a long way to explain the situation.
    Schools are all consuming and for those teachers willing to go the extra mile – even more all consuming. Give up more of your free time; yes please. Weekends, yup and what about evenings till 10pm – of course.
    Those great teachers feel this even worse – and the real problem is that once you go down that route SLT begin to expect it. You end up working extra hard, just to maintain the status quo.
    I’d love to see an episode of “undercover boss” where a Head Teacher goes to another school and works as either a supply teacher or NQT for a week. I wonder if they could keep up?
    Back to 100WC – the success of this great initiative relies on people “playing it forward”. Sure you don’t comment on the 30 kids in your class – but you comment on another schools.
    (I know this is rich as I dropped out of the 100WC team as I could not find the time – a lame excuse I know — but I don’t put my class up for someone else to comment)
    I really must sign up again and fly the flag for you in Wales.

    • 5sc1

      Many thanks for your support Glen. As with many things folks don’t understand the power of that interaction until they (or their pupils) have experienced it.

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