Wednesday, 21 October 2009

C'est quelle couleur?

We're learning about the colours:
Red is rouge, blue is bleu and so on.
I give them 'colour sums':
rouge + bleu = ?
jaune + bleu = ?
blanc + rouge = ?

The activity is engaging and they get all the answers right: violet, vert, and rose.
So far, so good.

The next one pops up onto the slide:
noir + blanc = ?
M's hand shoots up: marron!
Odd. He's got them all right so far. Why does black and white make brown? I don't get it...

It took me a while to understand, but he's not wrong.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Boots. Too. Big. Their. For.

An odd phenomenon's a-rising,
And I have found it most surprising.
It coincides with the creation
Of special 'Learning Conversations'.
For every child, a certain time,
A different day, quarter to nine,
They meet and talk, discuss and chat,
About their lessons, this and that.
Their tutor does not sit and judge,
Their tutor's not to bear a grudge,
But is instead required to ask,
"Why do you think you go off task?
Why do you find this class is bad?
What are successes that you've had?
Do tell me, Bobby, how you feel,
I'm paid to listen to your spiel!"
The child talks, says that and this,
Explains detentions that they've missed,
Thinks up excuses for their work:
"This teacher really is a jerk.
I don't get on with them at all,
So if I fail it's not my fault."
The problem comes with tutors who
Just shrug and say "what can you do?"
And leave the kids with the impression,
That having made a weak confession,
They are absolved of doing work,
For teachers they think are "a jerk".
Then when confronted in a lesson,
The student spits back with aggression,
"Allaaaii! I don't get on with you, you know,
My tutor says you go too slow,
You gotta challenge me, yeah mate!?"

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Losing it

Sometimes you can't rise above it. It's impossible to avoid feeling genuinely angry, disappointed. I swore at my GCSE class today. "I don't feel like fucking teaching this," I said quietly as I sat down in my chair. How was I meant to muster up the energy, the charm, the enthusiasm for something when every time I began to explain the topic, every time I tried to introduce an activity, every time I made the effort, students who are sitting their exams in 6 months time were chatting, throwing paper, out of their seats and shouting out? Not little eleven year olds, but 15 and 16 year-olds. Every time I asked for silence it lasted no more that 30 seconds. I was ill (alright, not ill as such, more 'man-flu'-ill) and tired. I'd spent several hours that week planning the lesson, ordering in the revision books they would need, trying to plan a trip for can be a thankless job!

The proverbial cherry on top was that I was being observed. My 'thinking' self detached from my 'teaching' self and spoke to it: "What the hell are you doing? How could this get any worse? Why don't you just cry and leave the room?"

It's the combination of factors (under the weather, tired, nervous, being observed, losing your voice, no breakfast, rude children in the class...) that can lead to a crisis point such as this.

I wait to find out what my feedback is. I'm sure I'll learn a lot, but it hurts nevertheless that this class, this exam class!!!, is not fully under my control.


And Finally,

FS, Year 8, today wondered whether the 'Kinder transport', which saved some 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi occupied Europe, had anything to do with the train in Narnia.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Heimlich Heroics

AY was choking. Shit! The classroom has banks of computers and little Year 8s are mostly screened from view. I hear the commotion and look up. He's bent double in his chair, hand clutching at throat, startled friends backing off in surprise, turning to call out to me: "Sir, he's choking! Sir, he's choking!"

"He's choking on his gum!" someone shouts out. I make a split-second decision. Heimlich Manoeuvre. No question. No choice. I grab him from behind, make a fist with one hand and push it into his solar plexus with the other. He coughs in my grip, but carries on choking. I do the same again. The kids are shouting louder now: "SPIT IT OUT!", "COUGH IT OUT!" "Go and get the nurse!" I reply and press my fist once more into his stomach.

Suddenly CA steps forward. "He's not choking, Sir. I think I might have pressed his neck when he grabbed me."
"He grabbed me, so I pushed him back, so I put him in a headlock and I pressed his neck when he was in my headlock."
"You mean he's not choking, he's just coughing because you hit his windpipe?"
"So I just performed the Heimlich Manoeuvre for no good reason?"

To add to my embarrassment, it so happened that I was teaching in a room with two glass walls. The staff on reception had a clear view into my classroom and were looking on with bemused and distrustful expressions as I appeared to manhandle a child in my care by violently embracing him and punching him repeatedly in the stomach.