By Helen Wilson
Back in September 2014 we set ourselves the task of raising awareness amongst our year 10 and 11 pupils of the need to Be Persistent. It was the beginning of what we saw as “Phase 2” of the Skills for Success Programme. As explained in this post, we launched the idea through assemblies and through the “envelope activity” which both pupils and staff took part in. As the term progressed, we talked about “Being Persistent” in lessons, persevering even when things are hard, being prepared to start over and try again and again to achieve a goal. We heard teachers in the staff room talking about the challenge they had set themselves in their envelopes; pupils were heard reminding each other to “stick at it” and “Be Persistent”. In form rooms, posters appeared celebrating the successes and achievements of pupils who had met personal goals.
Towards the end of the term, there were two things we wanted to do to continue to raise the profile of this important skill:
1. Open the envelopes
2. Reward those who had really shown what Being Persistent meant in some way over the term.
Pupils opened their Be Persistent envelope in the last week of term and tutors were given this guidance to help lead a short reflection as the envelopes were returned to their authors. The important idea was to let those who had met their goal feel that real sense of achievement which comes when you have to work hard at something, but also to encourage discussion of strategies for the future to help those who needed more encouragement to continue with persevering to achieve their goal.
As staff we realised that just simply rewarding pupils who had achieved something over the course of the term did not really fit the bill. We wanted to reward and acknowledge the pupils who had persevered, sometimes against the odds, even if they had not yet achieved what they were working towards. We felt that the people who would know best who had been really putting in the effort, were the pupils themselves. Hence we set up the Be Persistent Ballot at for year 10 and 11 pupils at the end of term.
We advertised the ballot through assemblies and posters; made ballot boxes and set up a polling station; gave each pupil their own personalised polling card; set a date for pupils to go and vote at break time and lunchtime; and then waited nervously – would they “get it” – the fact that they were the ones who knew and could tell us who had been persevering? We needn’t have worried – the turn out was 72% of both year groups – better than any recent UK general election. The comments made on the nomination forms were touching and showed how much the pupils really understood about persevering even when it’s hard. Certificates and rewards were given out to pupils with the highest numbers of nominations in end of year assemblies – to enthusiastic clapping and cheering, and all pupils who were nominated by at least one other member of their year group will receive certificates in the new year. Hopefully the process will have highlighted that the perseverance is as important as the goal achieved.