6 Tips to Teach CAFS to Reluctant Students

Apr 17, 2024

1. Relationships are key.

You can be the most amazing teacher in the world, but if you can't connect with your Community & Family Studies students they won't work WITH and FOR you. This looks like connecting with them in terms of what they enjoy, what they do on the weekend, what their family make up is. Then bring those aspects into your teaching plus simply connecting with the kids about these things.

Get the Community & Family Studies students to work in collaborative/cooperative learning groups. This worked in the 16 years I taught PDHPE and CAFS. Despite being at a school with an EALD, we were always above the State Average with a high number of Band 4, 5 & 6s. My kids worked together, they mostly didn't sit with their friends and the class worked as a cohesive unit. Not all the time, every year- but the majority of the time because I set that precedence from the start.

I remember having a student who was rude, didn't really enjoy CAFS and was a pain in the bum in all honesty. I started to really listen to her. Involved her in class discussions and persisted. At one stage she left her assessment to the day before and I sat with her at recess and lunch to just get it done. Despite her leaving it to the last minute, she said to me the next day that she tried the hardest she ever had that night. From that day I had 'won' her over because instead of giving up on her, I persisted when she pushed me away.

2. Bring the course to life.

What I mean by this is to make it relevant. Throw the Google Slides out and the note taking. Get rid of the American shows like Mean Girls and Modern Family. Instead look at ways to connect with your local community or ask the reluctant kids if they know anyone who has experienced xyz and if they can think of examples from their local community.

The Community & Family Studies syllabus is there to guide us, so are the resources- but again if we bring it to life through exposing the kids to real life examples it makes it so much more relevant.

Cut out the fluff though. It is an academic course and should be treated as such. No simulated babies - save that for Child Studies and EEC.

3. Meet students where they are at.

If you Community & Family Studies students are struggling, they probably have struggled most of their schooling. Show them that you care. Check in with them throughout the lesson in different ways, not just through writing but verbally.

We had a student who struggled- like really struggled. She couldn't really write in paragraphs, but she could talk. I told her to whisper to herself in her exams without anyone hearing. Despite getting in the 40s for most assessments she got a raw mark of 64 in the HSC!!!

4. Scaffold and model responses.

You mentioned that you do this which is amazing, but many kids need longer to nail it. Break it down for them, give them step by step. Provide sentence starters. Work with them one on one. With time, they will build the confidence to give things a go.

Write samples on the board, in a Google Doc, get the kids to highlight, annotate, provide feedback to you, to each other. Make your classroom a safe space for the kids to feel comfortable with each other. They will learn to trust you and their peers.

5. Consistency is Key.

Set high expectations with the whole Community & Family Studies class. This goes with the flow of your lesson too. I start with a hook to get the kids in, then do some direct teaching with content, then application through case studies/scenarios/hands on learning then check for understanding though formative assessment and finally exam prep questions.

In terms of NESA and N-Awards, they are most concerned with the kids submitting assessments.

If the kids don't show up to school- that's a system thing. As long as they hand assessments in, it is very very very hard to N-Award them.

6. It is not about you.

Finally there are just some kids who don't want to be at school, but because of their age and lots of other reasons including parents they have to stay.

Some don't want to face the reality of the world and get work, they see being at school as fun as they are with their friends.

In my last year in Sydney before moving to the Central Coast I had a student who didn't do much at all in my class. She was a great kid, but just didn't care about assessments.

I N-Awarded her multiple times for non-serious attempts, but got nowhere as she still handed her assessments in. She didn't want to go to uni, but her friends were in my class and she enjoyed CAFS. She got a raw mark of 21 in the HSC and although it was so frustrating I didn't lose sleep over it.

The thing I learnt when I was Relieving HT PDHPE was to have courses for the kids to fall back on. Develop a pathway for non-university pathway kids who struggle. So offer EEC if they struggle in CAFS on the same line for them to go into and SLR and PDHPE/HMS on the same line so they can transfer across into those courses for one year in Year 12.

Think of it on the flip side, try to be positive that you have students in your CAFS class rather than wishing them out of your class. You care, you are doing your best and that is all that matters.

Learning from many issues I experienced with staff, make sure you document every conversation with kids/parents/DPs etc etc so it doesn't come back to bite you on the bum.

Most of all, be kind to yourself. Teaching is a hard gig and clearly I left because some parts of it (mainly staff) got to me.

You can make a difference in the lives of these kids.

I remember seeing one of my more difficult students as an adult about 8 years after she left. She was studying to be a counselor and told me that if it wasn't for me, she wouldn't be here.

Don't give up!

P.S. If you're looking for ongoing strategies and support in CAFS, our next cohort of The CAFS Collective opens in 4 weeks. Join our mailing list here to be the first to find out when doors are open!