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A Scientific Scaffolder joins the team - Mona Adams interviews Mr Jegede

posted 19 Apr 2018, 05:45 by Michele Colt
At a time when a scarcity of science teachers is sweeping the nation, Richmond Park Academy's science department is now fully staffed, thanks to the arrival of science graduate and experienced teacher Stephen Jegede last year. He has joined a subject trained,
experienced scientific team who are, under the direction of science lead Emma Swift,  already in the process of reinvigorating student learning and capitalising on scientific ability.

Stephen was familiar with RPA science students before he joined the staff. He had been invited to work with them last summer to improve their GCSE prospects at the Principal's Saturday School where he recalls, he met students eager to work hard to raise their predicted grades. The students, he says, were innately capable so what he set about doing was to reinforce learning levels and plug knowledge gaps so that exam performance could better match ability.   Although he was impressed by the students and their determination to improve, he didn't immediately jump to join RPA when a vacancy occurred.  He was aware that, because of the scarcity of science teachers, he could afford to pick and choose.  But, following a discussion with Principal Paul Mundy-Castle about the academy's scientific vision, he knew that this was the school for him.   His application was successful and he joined us last May.

Because of his KS3 experience, he quickly spotted that he needed to strengthen student perseverance and resilience, those all-important ingredients necessary for success at all levels.  He introduced his students to a programme of self-awareness - 'Learned Helplessness' - enabling them to understand why it was so important to rid themselves of the perception of  'can't do', to embrace 'can try'  and then discover the pleasure of 'can do'.   'My students are very capable when given sufficient scaffolding', Stephen says.  'One of my prime tasks will be to re-write their minds to expect more of themselves, to raise personal expectation so that those who thought they were bad at science to discover that they are just weak in certain areas. By embracing positive mindsets, they will be able to focus on improving those weaknesses, which will enable them to become better scientists.   And, as teachers, we need to be more aspirational, in our target setting, moving away from just getting by. Exposing the hidden is a very exciting breakthrough experience for both teacher and student'.   

Stephen is particularly keen to make his students so familiar with past test papers that the prospect of being tested ceases to be that monster lurking in the corner. He is also set on perfecting the availability of lesson resources across the department to avoid precious teaching time being lost chasing or photocopying. 'As a department, we are working to put in place a half-year lesson schedule' he says, 'so that all resource support is immediately on tap, thus allowing us, as teachers,  to use our time to focus on individual student need. We must make sure that all, regardless of ability, are up to speed. Work is not play but it can be fun.   We will work together to make sure we unearth the fun in learning for all so that no one finds themselves standing still. Where's the fun in that?'