It is 11pm on a Bank Holiday Monday, the last day of my christmas holidays :-(
But I'm not ashamed to say that I have enjoyed them to the full. I have deliberately done absolutely NO WORK!
The last term was so manic that on the last day of school my Thursday evening went as follows:
5:00pm: arrived home, had every intention of making dinner because I had a netball match at 6pm but unfortunately I sat down on the sofa and got stuck. Fell asleep.
5:30pm: woke up to a phone call from my team captain saying the match had been moved to 6:40pm. Fell aleep.
6:00pm: woke up to another phone call from the team captain saying the match had been cancelled. Fell asleep.
7:00pm: woke up to the doorbell. A friend from netball was dropping round an christmas present. Fell asleep.
9:00pm: woke up and decided I was going to have that bath that I had been planning for weeks (don't worry, I do wash. Just in the shower.) Ran a bath with candles, smellies, the works! Read a few pages of a book. Fell asleep.
10:00pm: woke up. Dragged myself out the bath and flopped into bed and stayed there until 7am the next morning. I woke up in the exact same position that I fell into bed in.
So yes, it is fair to say I was a little pooped and was unimpressed to find myself in voice coaching lessons at 9am the next morning when I knew that my school were having a jam-packed day filled with fun and festivities. We had been sternly told in every staff meeting in the run up to christmas that we were not to just stick on DVDs and make christmas cards for the last few lessons, so that last day was the chance for all the pupils and staff to let their hair down and get into the christmas spirit. But no, I was laid on my back making cat noises.
So anyway, back to last term. It was fabby. F.A.B.B.Y. I enjoyed every last minute of last term.
Despite the increased workload and extra formal observations and masses of form-filling and researching and writing the first part of the dreaded masters assignment and collecting data for the second part of the dreaded masters assignment; last term was the dog's.
I felt like a real life teacher. Yes I had bad days, but these were often greatly outnumbered by the good days. And yes, the assignment was a killer. Not because I found it particularly difficult, but because I was so interested in the topic that I was struggling to get in just the main points and discussions in the word count.
Last term definitely taught me to prioritise, that's for sure! And to become much more efficient with my lesson planning. I scrapped writing up the lesson plans except for those lessons which were being formally observed. The whole 'writing up a lesson plan' procedure was adding so much extra time to my workload that I just didn't have and by then I knew all the gifted and talented and SEN pupils in my classes and was attempting to build in differentiation as a matter of habit rather than having to be prompted by the plan. I became much more efficient with my beloved powerpoint presentations by creating a template which meets the requirements of every lesson such as learning outcomes, starter, main, dessert etc etc but I have also learned to be alot more flexible and to adjust my lesson to how the class is coping with a topic. For example, I had set an assessment homework for a lower set year 7 class which was based on a practical we had done in lesson. They simply had to draw a bar chart of their results and write up a conclusion and evaluation from their results. And I wasn't expecting much as this was their first assessment homework and they were predicted low levels anyway. They were shocking. And I mean, SHOCKING! I'm pretty sure they all had it copied down in their homework diaries and understood the task because I had put alot of emphasis on this in the lesson and had given them, and dicussed in detail, a guidance sheet that pretty much told them exactly what they had to do to achieve each level. Now, I remember being in primary school and every single science experiment we did had a equipment list, prediction, method, conclusion and evaluation written up for it; so I know that when I was a kid we were able to write up a simple experiment. But these kids certainly couldn't! But probably the most confusing thing was that a select few, about 3 pupils, did a fantastic job! I could not have asked for better work; and on these few the praise was bestowed abundantly! But why could only three out of thirty pupils do a task which I had (incorrectly) assumed to be easy? And it wasn't just a case of getting back rubbish homework, perhaps one-sentence conclusions and graphs drawn (heaven forbid) without a ruler. No, in the majority of cases large sections of the homework were missing, the entire graph for example. Some had not even got a copy of the data collected in class so had no hope of completing the homework. But not a single pupil came to me in the following seven days to say "Miiiissssss, I am struggling with this..." or "Miiiiisssssss, I don't understand the homework...". These kids have absolutely no initiative and are not doing homework yet their parents are still signing off their homework diaries to confirm that everything has been completed! So, the next lesson after I had got the books back and marked them (the few that I could mark anyway) I decided to devote half of the lesson to getting the homework sorted and giving them a second chance. In that lesson we spent an embarassingly long time just sticking in loose sheets and making sure every pupil in that class was up to date with work. This exercise was mind-numbing. Glue is like gold is schools and I had ferreted round all the science labs trying to collect as many glue sticks as I could thieve so that every pupil in my year 7 class could have a glue stick, in a desperate effort to speed up the laborious task. Here's how it went....
ME: Right, I would like everyone to stick every single loose sheet into your book. If it's not stuck in, I want it stuck in now. You have ten minutes. GO!
JIMMY: miiiiiiiissssss, I don't have any glue.....
ME: It's right there in front of you. You see that glue stick shaped object that clearly says 'GLUE' in capital letters on the side? Yes? That's glue Jimmy.
SUZIE: miiiiiiiissssss, I don't have any glue.....
ME: okay, class, I would like your attention for just a second. I have already handed the glue sticks out. They're on the desks in front of you. Many of you were gluing your hands together when I expressly told you not to touch the gluesticks. Some used them as missiles and/or lightsabers. Whatever your preference for the gluesticks' alternative use, I would like them now to be used to stick in the loose sheets.
SUZIE: miiiiiiiissssss, I don't have any glue.....
ME: (sigh) again, it's on the table.
FREDDY:miiiiiiiissssssssss, do we stick the homework sheets in?
ME: yes, all sheets need to be stuck in.
BETTY: miiiiiiisssssss, do we stick last week's sheets in??
ME: okay, class, I would like your attention for just a second. Your task is to stick in all loose sheets. ALL LOOSE SHEETS! This includes homework sheets and every worksheet from each lesson. Our overall aim is that, should we shake the books upside down, no sheets would fall out. Zach, don't shake the book upside down. The same goes for you, Oliver. Yes, you will now have to pick all your sheets up off the floor. Okay, class you have just three minutes left so crack on.
three minutes later....
ME: right I'm going to give you another 5 minutes as we seem to still not have finished sticking all these sheets in!
five minutes later...
CLAIRE: miiiiissssssssssss, I forgot my book.
ME: Then what have you been doing for the past fifteen minutes?!!!
After this mammoth task I delivered a crash course in simple graph drawing. I gave them another worksheet (I cannot even begin to describe the trouble that caused) which had step-by-step instructions which they would be able to follow at home when they came to redo their homework. This was a foolproof plan in my head; but I forgot that worksheets are only helpful when they're read, and unfortunately reading a worksheet doesn't appear on the To Do lists of many of these kids. Finally, I gave them a checklist of a list of things they had to do to achieve a high level four. They were directed to go through their homework and tick off any boxes they had already done and the rest was to be done for homework. Some had very little left to do, and some had the pretty much the entire homework to repeat. My downfall here was not checking their checklists. As I found out later, some kids are just very tick-happy. I learnt a valuable lesson that day; NEVER LET KIDS SET THEIR OWN HOMEWORK.
I got a good few homeworks back, but not the tidal wave of high level 4s that I was hoping for.
I am proud to say, however, that my discipline has come on in leaps and bounds in these last few weeks. I hadn't really noticed a signficant change in my classroom management until I took on a new class; a middle-set year 8 class who I had heard a few rumours about, and they weren't all good rumours. To cut a long story short, they were super duper. And I could have hugged every single one of them individually. Even the one that looks like he's walked right out of a casting as the Artful Dodger, although I would have emptied my pockets first because I still don't entirely trust his weaselly grin.
Annoyingly, one of my bottom set year 9 classes still have me wrapped round their slimy little fingers. Actually, only half the class is slimy, which makes it even more infuriating that half the class are slimeless and beautiful little angels and yet the slimy half ruin it for everyone! What is worse, is that I know exactly what they're doing!! They get me chatting! It's so simple! They draw me into a conversation, and I follow that juicy worm on the end of a suspiciously long piece of string like a naive little fish. And Lord knows I love to chat. Then, before you know it, my lesson plan is metaphorically burning like their education and I've lost all hope of ever gaining control of the class again. But I have surprise for them. I intend to come back from this complementary placement with an iron fist. They won't know what's hit them.
Interestingly, I thought I was having similar problems with one of the top set year 10 classes but I did seem to ahve a breakthrough with them. I had a computer lesson planned with them which I thought could mean that very little work would get done and I would become Nagging Nora for the whole lesson. When we got up to the computer room I sighed in annoyance and asked the few students in the room how had I managed to lose half the class between leaving the lab and walking down the corridor to the computer room. They just looked at me like I lost my marbles. I hadn't lost a single person. The only difference today was that a single pupil was off ill; a lad with a larger than life character whos 'wit' and 'charm' got him many laughs from his classmates but an evil glare from his teachers. Well, this unforeseen absence gave me a window of opportunity. I was able to crack on with the lesson. The kids got stacks of work done, all within the allocated time, the usual troublemakers were lost without their leader so just followed suit with the rest of the class and worked, the starters and desserts were lapped up succesfully and I think I won some respect with the pupils because I didn't spend all lesson nagging at them and moaning about how little work they had done and how it was their GCSEs they were risking, not mine!!! By the next lesson, troublemaker no.1 was back but it was a much easier battle to win when he didn't have the support of his classmates.
So before i finish this mammoth essay which was only supposed to be a quick reflection (thought I would slot that one in for you keen bull**** bingoers) on last term, I will tell you some of the funny moments that make this job so fantastically fabby.
On one of the last days before christmas I was chatting with a year 7 pupil and I said how excited I was now that I had the christmas tree all up and the presents underneath. She said "wow, it must be really difficult for your kids to have to see the presents every day and not want to open them!"
I was speechless. Not only does she just assume I have kids but that I have more than one and they're old enough to be excited about christmas! I'm 22, ladies and gentleman. TWENTY-TWO!!!!
I was teaching my bottom set year eight class when I was asked my a group of giggling girls...
"missssssss, what's spooning??"
I thought I would play the innocent card and deny all knowledge of such a word. I'm not going to lie, my acting skills aren't anything to be proud of and they certainly weren't fooled but I simply dished out the old...
"Oh, did you want to ask me something [insert child's name who is furthest away]??" and ignore their shakings heads and annoyance at being suddenly interrupted by a red-faced and flustered trainee teacher.
However, this wasn't as bad as the corker which my head of department dealt with that very same day. An inquistive young mind had declared the need know the definition of a word which I won't tell you what it is but I can tell you that he assured her it was a technique used in glass-blowing. Let your imagination run wild on that one folks.
The scary thing is that these kids are 12/13 years of age. Where are they hearing about these things?!
Another good one was with my bottom set year 7 class. We had been discussing the particle theory and how it can be used to describe the properties of solids, liquids and gases. As a starter for the following lesson I asked the kids to name a state of matter. One, not particularly bright, lad shot is hand in the air so quick he nearly whipped the ear of his friend sat next to him clean off. I was impressed that he was so eager to particpate in class discussions so gave him the spotlight and he proudly exclaimed at the top of his voice....... "LONDON!"
It wasn't even a little bit correct.
So it's here that I end my first blog of 2012. May this year bring fun and good fortune for everyone!