Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Summer Haiku

How did I survive
coming, leaving in the dark?
I love the sunlight.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Monsieur est plus rapide que les garçons de la classe.

I'm teaching Form a topic called 'La Santé' and under the tenuous link of healthy living I took my Form out of the French class and onto the school playground and we did some running. First I split them into two relay teams and they raced each other. Then when they had finished I raced some of the fast boys across the length of the playground and beat them all. It looked something like this:

I admit the amount of French learning was minimal at the time, the 'intensity' of the lesson somewhat low, but I think it's worth it. Firstly, it's good to show a relaxed side to the class that they don't always see in the classroom. Secondly, it's an experience that I can bring back into the classroom to illustrate many different aspects of grammar:
1) Past tense (Monsieur a gagné)
2) Imperatives ("Cours!"/"Allez!"/"Arretez!")
3) Comparatives (Monsieur est plus rapide que les garçons de la classe.)
Finally, Sports Day is coming up on Friday and this lesson was of immense value in sorting out what our Form relay team will look like.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Creasing the spine.

Excuses made today to avoid reading:

It's boring.
It makes my head hurt.
The words start spinning.
I look at the words then the page goes white and I can't see.
I want to listen to music.
He threw crisps at me.
Can I make a PowerPoint about my book instead?

Some students find reading difficult, it's true, but other perfectly literate students spend too much time playing computer games and watching TV. Their brains aren't trained to concentrate on a page of text. 


I saw the cartoon below and thought it sums up well what I felt when I walked into school for the first time. To a certain extent I still do aspire to this!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Grow up!

Yesterday T put his hand up to ask me if he could go out of the room to fart. He asked the question during a quiet lull and yet no-one laughed.

Naturally, I thought it hilarious.

For a moment time stood still and I realised that I was more immature than a class of Year 7s.

Monday, 11 May 2009


I asked my Enterprise class to review a book that they had read.
Here is a particularly interesting entry from one student:

Title: Man U
Author: Man U
Date read: --
What you liked: It was Man U
What you disliked: Wen they losst
How did it make you feel?: Happyness
Negative points: Non

MH is of Somali origins and wrote about a Darren Shan novel:
"I liked this because it is British."

I asked him why he liked it in particular for its Britishness. He replied in a jokey voice:
"Because it's not stinky Somali but it's British and I like British things because I like it here". 

Sunday, 10 May 2009


Today I read the entire School Policy document. Boy is that a lot of jargon! They never tell you that when you get into teaching. You think it's all going to be about opening fresh young minds to beautiful truths, and then you spend most of your days trying to figure out what Mastery Learning is, or Critical Pedagogy. 

I spent a good few moments trying to figure out why pupils are still talked about as 'low' or 'high' ability, when the school's philosophy clearly states that 'ability is not is cumulative'. I then had to enter grades into the school data system. At Key Stage 3 (11-14 year olds) all their work is marked in terms of 'levels' (e.g. In French you'd get a Level 3 if you can express an opinion, a Level 5 if you can use a past tense and so on). The problem is, however, that once a student has been awarded a level, he or she cannot then be moved down. It's yet another illogical feature of the current education system. It's a twisted logic: 

Premise 1: Ability is not fixed, but cumulative.
Premise 2: Levels are based on ability.
Conclusion: Levels are cumulative.

Where's the small-print like we get in bank adverts saying something like "The value of your ability can go down as well as up"!?

It's the same sort of illogic that led to the current timetable (and hence why we often have 2 hour lessons):

Premise 1: Lesson time is valuable and should be maximised.
Premise 2: Pupils mess around at breaktime which leads to loss of lesson time.
Conclusion: Limit the amount of breaktime available to students and keep in them in class longer.

Or why our lunch hour begins at 1.45 pm by which time the whole school is on edge with hunger.

Premise 1: Lesson time is valuable and should be maximised.
Premise 2: Lessons after lunch tend to be less productive than normal.
Conclusion: Make lunch as late as possible so that all lessons (bar 50 minutes) happen before lunch.

Worse still is the results-driven, league-table pressure that is forcing schools (thankfully not mine, although it manipulates statistics in other ways), to consider sneaky ways to get their students those magic 5 A*-C grades that help the school move up the national rankings. I heard recently of a school that is considering scrapping History, Humanity and Geography GCSEs in favour of only 1 RE GCSE (since religious education is compulsory) and offering an ICT qualification that is equivalent to 2 GCSEs. Together with the other 3 compulsory GCSEs (English, Maths and Science), that gives the students their 5, saves the school money, is easier to teach (since ICT is nearly entirely coursework) and looks good in the stats charts. Unfortunately it means that no student from that school would be able to take a History A-Level or become a historian.

Anyway enough about schools. Have a taste of something different.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Learning Conversations

Every morning before registration I host something called 'learning conversations' for members of Form. My form are divided into groups of 4 or 5 and each group is designated to come on one day of the week to discuss their progress, difficulties and learning. Needless to say Form's attendance is patchy, but it's a chance to catch up with them more individually with the aim that none of them 'slip through the net'.

WS was particularly infuriating this week:

Me: Have you been doing any revision for your SAT exams?
WS: Yeah.
Me: What have you done?
WS: Revision.
Me: But I mean what subjects?
WS: I dunno.
Me: Maths? Science?
WS: Yeah.
Me: So what do you do when you revise?
WS: I dunno.
Me: Do you do revision at home or at school?
WS: I dunno.
Me: What revision techniques do you use? How do you make sure you remember everything?
WS: I revise.
Me: Yes, but what concrete things do you do?
WS: I do some revision.
Me: Do you read your books? Write notes? Do practise questions?
WS: I dunno.
Me: Are you sure you do anything?
WS: Yeah. I revise.
Me: Do you have a Maths textbook for example?
WS: No.
Me: Do you take your exercise books home?
WS: No.
Me: Do you draw mind-maps? Or do practice questions?
WS: No.
Me: So how can you revise if you don't have your textbooks or your exercise books?
WS: I dunno.
Me: So how are you preparing for your SATs?
WS: I revise.