June 18, 2012

Light. Tunnel. End of.


May 06, 2012

Master and Commander

Two weeks in, and Head of Physics role is going ok. I am now called Bunny at work. If you can work out why, I'll give you a prize.

No major changes really in my working life so far, just the odd extra meeting to discuss data of year 10 and 11 students in particular as we approach the majorly busy time of the year. Morale is not so good in science with a redundancy having to be enforced within our department. It is sad, but a reflection of how difficult it is to run a school I guess in these current economic and competitive times. I am still considering what my first major decision will be to leave my mark on Physics. Lego robotics is on the way; I cannot wait for it to arrive! Anything I can do to get Lego into lessons, I will. And at some point, I ought to focus on passing the NQT year too.

My MA in educational innovation has been a tad crazy so far. Issues with assessment module has unfortunately gone a little off track with the resignation of the course leader. Lectures have been cancelled, deadlines extended, and generally a lack of communication brought it to farcical levels. However, the ship is steadied and things have been sorted.

The last lecture that was run was based on e-assessment methods. It was a really interesting topic, and a lot of my personal views were shared by the course leader that day. I am a big advocate of mobile phones being wonderful tools to have in lessons. As a science teacher, the majority of students have access in their blazer pocket to a scientific calculator, a stopwatch during experiments, video / camera facilities and internet search engines. I am looking at developing the use of mobile phones in lessons for my essay hopefully, and if I can find the correct formula to aid formative assessment during lessons, then it will benefit my teaching no end.

Have spent a good chunk of thos evening reading through the FRM module notes. It is a really interesting topic, though currently, I cannot decide what I want to research for my assignment. I have plenty of ideas I guess, but nothing jumps out as something I really want to do. My GTP action research was based on peer assessment, so I guess I'll avoid that!

Anyway, got loads to do, hope you're all good!

Come on the Chels! Freshwater, your boys took a beating on Saturday.


February 15, 2012

Homeless Man – May not be a stakeholder, but he does know the 'Big Issues' with assessment

This week was quite MA-rvellous. Now I was questioned by a member of the class on Saturday why the devil I am doing a Masters considering I have an MPhys and a PhD already...

Well there are a number of reasons. Firstly, you do not spend as long as I did in education if you do not have a yearning to learn as much as you can. I enjoy learning, and I want to test myself. Going into an MA is a whole new challenge for me. In this seminar-esque system, small groups, lots of discussion, forming opinions etc. It is a whole new way of learning for me. I got a good taste of it during my GTP and having earned 30 CATS towards one already (confirmed in a letter this week) it is an opportunity I cannot turn down.

I left a successful post-doc life, which was in many ways a dream job as it was very flexible, with numerous opportunities and perks, for perhaps a more stable, but more importantly in my opinion, a more rewarding career in teaching. Now I am not very good at settling for being ok at something. When I take up a hobby, a sport, a job, my competitive streak doesn't let me be second best. I see the MA in Educational Innovation as a stepping stone to help me improve my pedagogy and my understanding of the education system.

Which brings me to 'Issues in Assessment'. Now I am in my NQT year, and in charge of probably a disproportionate number of GCSE groups compared to others in my position, my exposure to the cut-throat nature of summative assessment and people's interpretations of them is extremely high. The session on Saturday was really interesting, and I think a few of the cohort heard a couple of my gripes I have with the application of 'assessment' by some. I can safely say I am in the teaching profession to make a difference to the lives of the students I teach, and to hopefully promote a subject in physics which has given a lot to me. I guess as a consequence, my employers will benefit with improving 'league table' position.

It is a shame, but because of the external pressures from stakeholders (and from this, we can deduce that means every single person, bar a homeless man deep in the woods), the general concencus suggests the emphasis of making a difference is the other way round. 'Improve the school, and as a consequence the students' prospects will improve'. So in effect, do what is best for the school, what makes the school look good, and then worry about the students second. It is a fine dividing line, and I appreciate it must be ridiculously difficult as a senior member of staff to make decisions. My experience as a student at school was not amazing and is a case in point.

The school I attended were on a downward-spiral results wise, and as a consequence, the decisions made when I was in year 11 were a tad ludicrous. I, along with 30 others, sat a double GCSE Science at Foundation level in November, got our CC grades, and then sat two single science GCSEs in the June. Awesome. Except for the fact I have no qualification above a double C grade in Chemistry now. Stopped me being able to take all the Sciences at A-Level. Made my degree in Physics more difficult as a consequence. Meant I spent a lot longer understanding X-ray crystallography during my PhD, and appreciating surface polishing methods. Also means as a teacher, I have had to complete refresher and subject-enhancement courses, and prove continuously I can teach Chemistry in particular. So a rash decision by a head of Science to boost the number of C's the department got that year has shaped my future somewhat. As a teacher, I am determined that I will endeavour to give every student I teach the best possible opportunity to achieve after school.

Anyway, am starting to so some research for our group presentation. Methods of Measuring Standards. Have a nice group, though one is choosing to spend the presentation day at her Gran's 98th birthday. Unbelievable :-)

See you on the 3rd.


February 10, 2012

Masters Blogging

To the current GTPs and last years cohort, I have begun the MA journey. The first session was a couple of weeks back, with contact day number 2 tomorrow.

With the courses on offer that are eligible for an Educational Innovation MA, I think the Issues in Assessment will provide me with the best opportunity to improve my practise, and also to develop a much deeper understanding of how education works from all perceivable view points.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. I have a number of current 'Issues with Assessment' within my current job, concerning my own personal use of summative assessment data, and also my department's. How much students should know etc etc.

I am aware a case study is required for tomorrow, though I am not so sure where this should be pitched, but guess I'll roll with the punches as always.

In other news, had another observation this week. It went well, and am finidng hard to comprehend I am already half my through my induction year as an NQT. Half term is busy, revision day on Wednesday all day with year 11. Also, the Head of Physics job has just come up at my school. Now do I apply or not?

Anyways, MA people, look forward to seeing you tomorrow, might even get there on time and actually meet some of you properly. To all others, happy half term.

Steve


January 03, 2012

TIP NUMBER 6 – Be observant

Starting a GTP year, you have little experience of standing in front of a class, let alone, imparting wisdom. It is therefore imperative to find out who the awesome teachers are in a school (best way to find that out - ask the students) and go and observe them. I had 3 ASTs at my school last year, and another 4 at my complimentary placement, and I managed to see all of them at least once. One thing that struck me with all of them, was their awareness of what has occurring at any given point. Simply brilliant, and now something I want to aspire to.

Pupil tracking is a great way to start. and you fully appreciate the school day as a whole. Observing teachers in other subjects is imperative. I learnt so much last year from an English and a D+T teacher in particular. The English teacher even made taking the register useful, asking each to answer with a key word from the previous lesson. One thing I wish I would have done, and aim to do this coming term, is go and observe an IT teacher. My computer based lessons have been hit and miss, as it so much easier for a student to go off track. Getting some key ideas in how to maintain their on-taskness (it is a new word I've invented) is a priority for me.

I had one of those mini-essays on observing 5 good pieces of practice. Maybe it would be a good initiative to write the same essay each term, but using different examples. 15 good pieces of practice in the bank seems like a solid foundation to build a career in teaching upon.

So, watch as many people as possible. If you are in a department with a number of sets all doing similar things, observe a couple of teachers teaching the same thing. It is so interesting seeing how colleagues approach things differently, what they emphasise in lessons as important.

So watch, watch, watch.


January 02, 2012

TIP NUMBER 5 – DON'T BE SCARED TO BE YOU

It became apparent that each teacher, as they went through training, their NQT year, and established themselves within their schools, developed their own method to teach specific topics within their subject.

All I can say is, when observing a lesson, take everything at face value, and reflect on whether you, and your personality, could do the lesson like you have just seen. During my GTP year, my mentors were amazing, offered tonnes of great advice and some wonderful ideas, shared some resources and a few tricks of the trade. As a trainee, use them when stymied. But if you are teaching a lesson about a topic you know well, then develop your own way of doing it. Put your own slant on it, and most of all, enforce your personality on it.

I am quite the showman, I don't mind singing and dancing to entertain the crowd, making a fool of myself etc. This of course, would be a night mare for others. I also love sport, Chelsea til I die, Frank Lampard is my dream man (don't worry, the wife knows), and I have in the past achieved quite a lot in Badminton, Cricket and Golf. To really showcase your passion for a subject, introduce other things you are passionate about also.

Now there are things I would struggle to manipulate to include any of the above. But there is 1 thing students love to do: build models. My obsession with Lego has never diminished since the age of 3, my Lego watch is my pride and joy, and really helps develop a rapport with the class. In my classroom, I have a good stash of Lego models set up: cars, planes, boats, bikes, buildings, space shuttles..... and they make great props.

I would hedge a bet, if you were to ask any student I have taught so far in 4 terms, what my hobbies were, Chelsea, golf and Lego would be mentioned by the majority. Of course, the giant Frank Lampard poster in my classroom is a major give away!

Anyway, in conclusion, what I am trying to say is, do not be scared to put your own slant on things, make lessons your own, and even if you have an unusual hobby nobody else has ever done, well it might make a good starter, show a video of you doing it (I love making videos for lessons). This is the year to fall flat on your face in a lesson, because we are all here to train and develop. To be honest, your NQT year is even better, as you are on your own. If a lesson doesn't go to plan, then only you and 30 odd kids know. And as long as you've put some effort in, they'll appreciate it.

So in a nutshell: Be yourself.


January 01, 2012

Ho–Ho–Holy smokes, more marking?

Christmas - 'tis the season to be jolly.

Absolute tosh!

Well it is really, and I have had an awesome time so far. Back to school Wednesday, so nearing that dreaded time when I have to fight with the ironing board and rid my shirt collection of those creases (which after Christmas takes me up to 15 shirts (3 week supply - boom (not including the tux shirts I have, and 3 Hawaii style numbers - incase of a real emergency))).

My last post mentioned I had 135 pieces of coursework to mark. Sweet odours raven (in the words of Ron Burgundy), It has been a dull few nights on my own once wife and daughter have hit the hay (anyone understand why hitting hay would make a suitable metaphor for sleeping? What has hay ever done to us). Talking of hitting Haye, Klitschko bottled his last fight didn't he?

I have come to the conclusion that marking is the single least fun thing in teaching. However, I do appreciate its importance, and from what I saw from ofsted inspectors, they spend as much time looking at books and asking them questions as they do observing teachers teach. So it is something I, and we, must get on with and do properly.

Guess I am not really allowed to tell the world how my classes have done in this coursework assessment, but I have at points been surprised, confused, delighted and angry when marking them. I would also say it has given me a much better perception of each student, on how mature they are and their ability to listen to instructions, never mind their fundamental science and exam skills. It will inform ones planning and intervention no doubt.

Hope everyone has had an awesome Christmas, and may 2012 be super duper.


December 08, 2011

IAA really monotonous 2 weeks.

Internal Assessment Activities are the bain of my life. Now there is many a positive of having a subject specialism which is in short supply and high demand. Coursework is not one of them.

Having been earmarked to run all Physics internal courseworks at my school for years 10 and 11 who are doing GCSE, there was a murmuring from some senior people that that was unfair. So instead of doing it continuously with all 6 GCSE groups, it is now down to 5.

There has been an IAA rota in place for 2 weeks now, and I feel like that is all I have done. One thing I can say, I am getting much better and efficient at delivering the lessons, doing the practical, making the mock exam time beneficial so they are well prepared for the real exam they take at the end of the 4 hours I have with them. But it has been hard work. It has been pretty rough in that I am consistently setting cover work each day, and I won't have seen my year 12s for 3 and a half weeks...

And then there'll be about 135 exams to mark over Christmas. Which means I have to mark 7.1 papers a day to have them done for next term.

I best be on Santa's nice list!

In other news, had my second observation last week. Got a 'Good' with lots of outstanding on there, though progress was only 'good' so that was the best I could do. What I discovered on my GTP last year was one persons opinion did not necessarily replicate in the next observer. This is still true now. Acting on feedback from my first observation, it seems I went 'too far' with the challenge aspect of the lesson. Anyway, I was happy with it which I guess is the important thing.

I have also decided over the last couple of weeks I will start an MA in Educational Innovation, and make sure those 30 CATS completed last year during the GTP doesn't go to waste. The workload for the NQT year I am finding absolutely fine so far. This is solely down to the GTP last year and the endless lesson plans that I wrote.

I am lucky that my school are willing to pay for the fees, so I really should take advantage of their generosity, and I thank them here in this most public of forums for it!! Course does look good from the limited information available, and I love the idea of giving it a science specialism. Hopefully it would have a massive impact on my teaching practise, and my aspiration to one day reach the dizzy heights of an AST.

Enjoy the end of term, my year 7 form Christmas party is going to be awesome!

Steve x


November 15, 2011

Plod

So like yeah, awesomeness. NQTism is the bees knees.

I tell you something GTP'ites, it is the way forward. It really has prepared me for this year. Workload isn't so bad, but the added responsibility and sense of awareness regarding the progress being made by your classes is massive. We've just completed the first exam session of the year for my year 10 and 11 classes. There are now grades, predicted grades, target grades, possible grades, challenge grades, predicted grades, wait did I say that already?

In this mental world of teaching driven by a letter 'C', there has been some real focus on me and my middle/lower GCSE set groups to do well in these resits. I look forward to the results.......

Other than plodding along, imparting wisdom, not a lot has gone on. First parents evening next week, I am running science club this Friday and helping with some Physics CPD tomorrow night for non-specialists. I've arranged a couple of visitors to come into school to talk about careers and promote science generally as being totally amazing. I have written 172 reports already in my first 9 weeks at KESH, which is pretty intense. I have managed to be very positive; I guess this is what kids want. I have had some year 10s thank me for my kind words (those reports were based on me seeing them for 5 lessons).

The new school build has started in earnest now. The contractors delivered their portakabins and offices today. My classroom, also a portakabin, shook every time a lorry or crane drove by. Will be a fun two years in my caravan that is for sure.

Take it easy, work efficiently!


October 24, 2011

Bit of 1st term NQT reflection

Well well well.

Really interesting 4 weeks since the birth of my daughter (who is exceedingly awesome).

My two weeks paternity got cut short due to a cheeky Ofsted visit. My being there would have made it a lot easier for the school in terms of cover and enabling the very helpful SLTs who were covering my GCSE classes in particular, so I volunteered. Good Samaritan me.

It was a funny experience. Lots of stress, the pressure to write lesson plans for every lesson seemed to be unbearable to some. Coming straight out of the GTP year however, it was honestly water of a ducks back. Lesson plan writing was as standard for the majority of lessons, and the threat of being observed isn't too bad given as a GTP I was observed once or twice a week formally and informally every lesson pretty much. Only two science teachers were observed in the end, and me in my caravan were spared any judgement. Still, I now have a real idea what the inspection process is like.

During paternity, I popped into my local subway for a bit of breakfast (on my birthday infact), and caught 4 students I teach truanting. What is great is I reported it, and the parents have really got involved and acted upon it. The students also know they did wrong, and have taken the punishments they received in the right way. Guess it is showing my school has developed good relationships with parents, who trust them, and also have the relevant communication channels in place to sort out these problems.

On returning, I found out I had been teaching 2 of my GCSE classes the wrong module, having been misinformed at the start of the year. A tad infuriating, but we have made really good progress in preparation for their exam resits in November. I have a revision day during half term with them, so hopefully they'll be performing awesomely come Nov 8th and 15th.

For those on the GTP, I admit I had my doubts when I took a job elsewhere to where I trained, I guess familiarity would have been a comfort over the summer months. But I am finding it so good being somewhere else which is a total contrast to my training school. I am still learning each day, and having to adapt things I have done previously to suit the new classes I teach.

Chris Foy. Useless. Again Chelsea were robbed yesterday. Stellar display by the 9 men. QPR disgust me. Always have. I did once see Dennis Wise score a worldy there in 1992. Overhead spectacular.

Have a good half term!


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