I’m not sure whether this is the same in other schools, but where I am, PSHE (Personal Social, Health and Economic Education) has a certain reputation as being the subject that you read up on 5 minutes before the lesson, right before you ‘wing it’ in front of a room full of unenthusiastic students. Despite it being taught by form tutors, and often being the only lesson that staff have with their own tutor group, a large chunk of teachers – though not all by any means – fail to see the value of the subject, or perhaps don’t value it enough to put anything into it.
Personally, I think this is crazy.
Within both primary and secondary schools, teachers are never any one thing on one day – we wear many hats, to suit different subjects, students and occasions. Out of all of these roles, I consider ‘Form Tutor’ to be one of the most valuable and rewarding, and PSHE is a huge part of that.
I see my tutor group in morning and afternoon registration (20 minutes daily) but our time here is taken up with endless admin jobs, numeracy and literacy challenges, assemblies and quizzes, not to mention the odd ‘serious chat’ about behaviour. Sometimes, I barely have time to breathe.
PSHE is my one hour a week, when I actually get to teach my tutor group, and impart knowledge that really matters –puberty and sex education, drugs and alcohol awareness, internet and social media safety, healthy lifestyles, using money wisely, resolving conflict and so much more. These topics are incredibly important. For the most part they’re underpinned with powerful messages about persevering through tough times, being true to your own sense of right and wrong, standing up for yourself and others, feeling good about yourself without comparing yourself to others, and being safe by making good choices in a variety of situations.
For my own part, I never ‘wing it’ in PSHE and often spend a good half an hour altering planned lessons each week, adding a few clips from ‘YouTube’ or writing ‘agony aunt’ columns based on real-life school situations, to make these messages as relevant and effective as they deserve to be. I’ve often being told that ‘you get out, what you put in’ and for the most part, my tutor group seem to enjoy our lessons together and actually receive the messages that are given.
While I can’t make their decisions for them outside of school, at least I know that I’ve kept them thoroughly informed about exactly what happens to your body if you happen to drink a lot of alcohol; the ways in which your life would change if you became pregnant in your teens; the benefits of eating good food and exercising; and why you shouldn’t worry if you feel like crap/spotty/moody, because secretly, everyone else at your age does and it’s just hormones.
My tutor group is very much like a little family, within the extended family of school. Even when my kids have left ‘home’, I want to know that I’ve done everything I can to help them lead happy and fulfilling lives.