This week we’re hearing from Joseph Casey, a teacher at a secure unit in Scotland who believes determination in young people is the first step to their success. This article was taken from the General Teaching Council for Scotland‘s publication, Teaching Scotland, and has been edited from the original by Evelyn Wilkins.
‘Many of our pupils have suffered from abuse or neglect and have gone through life without people telling them how amazing they are or about any skills and talents they have.’
Joseph Casey has been teaching for 9 years in a secure unit in Scotland where the majority of pupils live 24/7, having arrived through the Children’s Panel or court system. He explained that the majority of his pupils have barely attended secondary school at all.
‘It can be a difficult task to get them to sit in a class, let alone actively engage in lessons.’
Encouraging Positive Change
Joseph participates in a programme run by Character Scotland called Inspire>Aspire. It aims to support young people, aged 10-18. A template is provided to take pupils through a series of tasks focusing on their values, what they need to work on and who and what inspires them. They then develop a statement about the type of person they want to become, their vision for a better world and what they will personally do to bring it to life. This ‘arc of destiny’ is completed with a poster. Teachers choose five to send to Character Scotland in a national competition.
It is not possible to teach character and personal values, but Inspire>Aspire can help to elicit self- belief and this can lead to positive changes in behaviour and engagement with education. The programme is not for everyone. ‘I might have 14 out of 26 that would actually give it a go, and from that I might only have eight that would complete the piece of work. But those eight feel fantastic and when I read the work I feel fantastic too.’
Success built on confidence
One particular pupil stood out for Joseph. ‘Before beginning the programme his behaviour was terrible in class. Then all of a sudden he produced this brilliant piece of work. It had the effect of bringing everybody else’s quality of work up too.’
This pupil began producing work every time he came into class, started getting qualifications and made it to the finals of the Inspire>Aspire competition.
Joseph summed up the impact of the programme. ‘For our kids to be able to identify the skills and values that they have, to have the courage to say “I’ve got that quality” and put it down on a piece of paper, is a massive thing.’
Are you in the teaching profession? Does Joseph’s story resonate with you? Let us know about them in the comments!