Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Deez Kidz!

Today SR and XP taught their year 8 Enterprise classmates how to count in German as part of a project whose aim was to encourage pupils' presentation skills. On their introductory PowerPoint slide they kindly gave us a brief summary of the language:

"German is spoken in Germany and nearby areas and countries. It is mainly spoken in the back of the throat."


My year 7 French class were thinking of ways to help them memorise the French numbers 1-20. FC put up his hand:
Me: Can you see a pattern? Have you got the hang of it?
FC: I know how to remember eighteen.
Me: Dix-huit? How?
FC: It sounds like These Wheats.
Me: This Week?
FC: These Wheats.
Me: How will that help you remember that dix-huit means eighteen?
FC: Because it sounds like These Wheats.

It reminded me of that great bit in Series 4 of The Wire:

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Meet the Parents

Today Form had 'Progress Review Day' - a chance for me to meet their parents and discuss their lessons. From 8am to 8pm. Ugh.

High points included:
  • conducting a conversation in Slovakian. (I assumed from his furious nodding that M's father understood me perfectly.)
  • slipping into the vernacular in an overt attempt to 'relate' to a kid and his mum while simultaneously covering a lie: "C, the only reason teachers put you into detention is because they give a toss. If you were stupid they wouldn't bother."
  • discussing the ins and outs of a day release clause in the contract of a tutee who has just been signed up by a Championship football side's Youth Academy.

Low points mainly included cringing at my own choice of phrase:
  • "Hi, welcome, do take a seat. Let me get the paperwork out of the way and then we can have a chat."
  • " need to buck up your ideas"
  • "'ve made a solid start, but you need to maintain it"
  • "I'm running just a teeny-weeny bit late, sorry."
  • "I'm running just a wee bit late, sorry."
  • "I'm running just a tad late, sorry."
I might as well have been wearing my tweed jacket with leather patches and read from the book of Teaching Clichés.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Last lesson on a Friday ain't so bad no more.

Me: (On a roll) Je prends le petit déjeuner. What does petit déjeuner mean?
Year 8: (Enthusiastic, engaged) Lunch
Me: (Happy with their enthusiasm and engagement.) Almost, but petit means little, so what does it mean?
Year 8: (Hands waving, thinking, learning.) Breakfast.
Me: Well done!...incidentally, has anyone wondered why breakfast is called breakfast?
Year 8: (Ramadan has recently finished.) Oh yeah! It's cos you break your fast!
Me: That's right!
Y: (Out of left field. Thinks he's caught me out. Finger raised and eyebrow craftily cocked.) But Sir, isn't it called breakfast because you eat breakfast cereal!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Justice is not blind. She texts with fake nails on.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a teenage girl in possession of a mobile phone, fake orange nails with tan to match, chewing gum and bad attitude must be in want of a sense of injustice.

I find it the hardest nut to crack: a chavette on the warpath.
Me: Time for you to do your coursework. You have to learn your draft off by heart.
Her: I can't be bothered. I'm too cold, Sir open the blinds!
Me: Just learn your coursework - you have half an hour to learn a paragraph off by heart and you will be finished.
Her: Ugh, Sir, you're so moody today. I'm too hot. Someone shut the blinds!
Me: You're in my lesson so you must do some work. What you write today will affect your final grade.
Her: I'm not going to do work if you're so moody. Just cos you got vexed at your last class it's not fair that you take it out on us!

"It's not fair." That easily tripped 'fairness'-alarm. As easily tripped as the fire alarms which seem to get tripped when it's most convenient for a student that they are tripped and least convenient for a teacher. Tripped. It's a powerful retort that seems especially popular among the girls. In their warped minds, they immediately feel wronged, and therefore in the right, and no amount of reasoning/shouting/bribing/ignoring/cajoling etc. can bring them round to just getting on with whatever it is you've got planned in their best interest.

"Could you please go and get some paper, Billy?"
"That's not fair! How comes you always choose Billy!?"

"Could you please go and get some paper, Stacy?"
"That's not fair! How comes you always pick on me!?"

Monday, 21 September 2009

Venn Diagram

Sometimes you realise that a teacher, and school in general, is only one of a series of influences on a child.

AOB came to my class a week ago - last lesson on the Friday. He is the school's most notorious 12 year old. A year ago the school received a phone call that he had been chucked out of a pub down the road. He was found with the keys to a stolen car and a bag full of new mobile phones. One day he'd missed school and when a teacher rang home to check up on him, his mother retorted with something along the lines of "oh yeah, I've not seen him for a couple of days either." He smokes and hangs out with criminals. I was determined that he should not get wind of the fact that I'd heard all about him and that I was wary of him, but instead should have the opportunity for seeing his new French teacher as a fresh start.

I was not hoping for the best, however, when as he came in he announced that "I only went to one French lesson last year, Sir. I'm shit!" Usually when students think they're bad at something they don't bother trying. Others make it their mission to ruin the lessons for everyone else as well. But to my surprise AOB was polite and enthusiastic for the whole 100 minutes. He put his hand up and gave everything a go, gave me the opportunity to reward him, listened to others and moved seat when asked.

What's the problem? This teaching lark is a piece of piss. Even the criminals respond to me now that I'm in my second year and a seasoned pro.

I left a message on his mother's answer-phone praising her son, and wrote an email to the Learning Support teacher who has spent the most time with him and knows him best. She replied asking me to come up and see her.

It turned out that AOB had earlier that day been suspended for five days for threatening to stab a teacher, that it had been presumed that he had run out of school at lunch time and that he had been expressly forbidden by the Principal from attending any lessons. His good behaviour and attendance in my class had not only been against the express instructions of the Principal and her Deputies, but had also been a carefully calculated 100 minutes of excellent behaviour.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Too true.

Am explaining the concept of gender to an eager class of Year 7s. Exceptionally, I switch into English:

Me: Who's heard of 'grammar'? What does 'grammar' mean?
G: It's like your mum's or your dad's mum.

Boom goes the dynamite.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Heard outside the school gates

Little Year 7 boy leaves the school gates.
Met by his older sister (?) in grey, white and gold matching hoodie and tracksuit, big hoop earings, muffin top, Croydon facelift, aged perhaps 17.

Sister: Y'aright!?
Boy: I got a merit today!
Sister: You're a right little geek! Well done! You gonna become a proper bod then?
Boy: (shrugging off her pinch to his cheek) No!
Sister: (to her mate) He makes me laugh!
She takes out a key.
Sister: Now listen, you've gotta take this key and let yourself in yourself today. Don't fucking lose this key cos I'm trusting you with my life. I've gotta go to the pub. When Mum comes home you have to fucking tell her that I brought you home first before I left, but me and Stacy have to go to the pub now so you make sure you go straight home yourself now, OK?
Boy: OK.
Sister: There's a sandwich in the fridge. Oh, and don't open the door to anyone, OK?
Boy: OK.
Sister: Give us a kiss then. (Hands him the key and walks off with her mate.) He makes me laugh!