Adam is one of four children who live at home with mum. Adam has ADHD but has no other medical conditions. When Adam was in year 4, he was one of a few children in his class achieving a greater depth of understanding academically especially in mathematics. Since joining year 5 Adam has shown a decline in the work he is completing in class and refusing to sit the end-of-term assessments has resulted in him falling to a below-average academic level. The observer has known Adam since the start of year 4. The observation was made from part of the room which did not disturb the lesson taking place or interfere with the interactions between Adam and the class teacher (Mrs P). Adam was sat at his own table which is next to Mrs P’s desk. The lesson was mathematics, the teacher had just finished explaining the task, using examples from the previous day and had given the children the appropriate level of work to suit their ability. The children appeared to be engaged, listening to and following the teacher’s instructions. Adam had not shown an interest in the lesson opener, instead looking around the classroom, attempting to catch the attention of his peers. Mrs P saw Adam was not listening but ignored this.
‘Come on Adam’, said Mrs P, ‘open your workbook and get started. Adam sat at his table, arms tightly crossed, avoiding eye contact by looking down at the floor. He did not respond to these initial instructions. Some of the children who had already started their work were distracted by Mrs P talking to Adam and began chatting amongst themselves. Mrs P shushed the talking children and tried engaging with Adam again, ‘Come on mate, I know you can do this work’, she said, ‘all you have to do is open your book and work through the questions’. I noticed that Mrs P had folded her arms as she spoke to Adam. A few of the children were looking up from their work and whispering to themselves. Adam continued to ignore the teacher. Mrs P looked over to me, raised her arms in frustration and shook her head. I was beginning to feel a mix of emotions. I felt that things could escalate and was anxious others would become distracted from their work. I was disappointed with Adam as I know that the work set should be easy for him to complete. Surprisingly, it really annoyed me that Mrs P had used the term ‘mate’ when trying to win him round.
Mrs P’s attention was then drawn away by another child asking for help. As soon as Mrs P turned her attention to this other child, Adam raised his head and turned to the two girls sitting behind him. He whispered something to them both and all three began giggling. Mrs P had not noticed this and continued working with the child needing support. Adam began tapping his ruler and pencil on the table as if he was playing the drums making the two girls giggle even louder. Adam’s actions distracted some of the children near to where Adam was sitting. One of the children to shouted out ‘Adam stop banging, Mrs P I can’t concentrate!’. This caused Mrs P to react by calling out to Adam. ‘Adam, why haven’t you started you work yet, your book isn’t even open’, she now sounded angry. Adam shouted back at her, ‘I don’t know how to do it, I don’t know what to do!’. ‘Yes, you do as it the same as the work we all did yesterday’, she replied while she walked over to Adam, opened his book and pushed it nearer to him. At last, I thought, Mrs P has become Adams teacher again, he needed to be told. Adam smiled, not so much of a happy smile, it was nothing like the smile he gave when he and the other two girls where giggling earlier. It was more of a smarmy, victorious smile, a smile which said Adam had got Mrs P attention. Not only that, she had opened his book for him.
Mrs P left Adam to see how some of the other children were getting on. Immediately the smile disappeared from Adams face, he closed his book and pushed it, so it fell to the floor. He folded his arms and slouched back onto his chair and began kicking one of the tables legs. I really wanted to call over to Adam, telling him to sit up and get on with his work, but I didn’t. I was feeling so angry with Adam that I felt like stopping the observation, I mean, he is refusing to do his work so why should I bother. I took a few deep breaths and continued.
Adam slouched in his chair for another 5 minutes before disappearing under the table, arms still crossed. Mrs P returned to her desk and noticed Adam under his table. ‘If you want me to work with you, you must come out from under the table and sit on your chair’, she said while picking up his book. Immediately climbing out from under the table, Adam sat on his chair with a huge smile on his face. Mrs P sat with Adam for the next 13 minutes, working through the questions with him. I could see that Adam was fully absorbing the one-to-one attention yet still not doing very much of his own work. Mrs P was pretty much doing all the work for him. She was prompting, pointing, giving him clues to what the answers should be and even writing down the answers for him, Adam look very happy. The other children were becoming more and more disruptive, talking, moving around the classroom and throwing objects such as pencils and erasers at one another. Mrs P seemed to have sacrificed control of every other child in the classroom by giving Adam her sole attention. Each time the noise levels increased, Mrs P told the class to quieten down. Some of the children were out of their seats wandering around the classroom.
It was now time for morning break and Mrs P sent the children out of the class. Adam refused to leave the classroom completely, hugging the doorframe as if he was glued to it. Mrs P asked why he had not joined his friends outside and Adam replied it was because he had not finished all the questions. Mrs P then agreed to sit with him during the break time so he could finish his work.