All entries for November 2011

November 15, 2011

A novel gas test for oxygen

A few weeks ago my mentor demonstrated that if hydrogen peroxide and liver were mixed together a copious amount of foam was produced which contained oxygen. She showed that the gas produced was oxygen by exposing a glowing splint to the foam and it relit the splint. Today I was asked if any foam would cause a glowing splint to relight because apparently one year 8 girl had tried it with her dad's beer but it hadn't worked. I love that she had tried and I just wish that I could have seen her dad's face when she was poking matches into the head of the beer! It's funny to think that at the time I thought I had explained what was happening in the experiment well, but really this young girl had gone away thinking that any foam was flammable!

November 14, 2011


I've spent 5 hours producing, checking, re-writing and finally printing out and photocopying 70 copies of my research questionnaire, only to find that I've missed out a word on the first sentence of the first page. Ironically, that word is "read".

Don't like to brag but….

....I've finally completed, printed and photocopied my questionnaire! I have also decided on a final idea for my intervention! yes yes I know it's about a month late but it's a HUGE weight off my mind :-D

November 13, 2011

The 'Vile Child'

well, what CRAAAAZY week!

They said it would be difficult and that we would undoubtedly shed a tear at some point or another. I am still yet to cry, indeed I'm feeling surprisingly upbeat about everything at the moment, despite my ever-growing list of thinsg to do. However, I do maintain that this is by far the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I'm no stranger to hard work; I got my first part-time job at thirteen and held down three part-time jobs during the second year of my full-time degree. Yet this course really takes it out of you both physically and mentally. It's my own fault really for being a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to lesson planning. I just cant leave the plan until it's absolutely perfect and all my resources are sorted. I also like to create my resources from scratch, which only adds to the workload. Then there's the ordering of equipment and photocopying and printing which can take up to an entire day if I'm not careful. I feel confident in that I know what I need to do and how to go about it. The problems arise when I realise that there are only 24 hours in a day, and unfortunately only seven days in a week. Especially this week, when I've been trying to complete all my lesson-planning early so that I could have the weekend away with my family, I have been surviving on six hours a night of sleep. This is manageable for a couple of days but when you're snoozing with your nose in a plate of sausages and mash at your big family get together lunch, you realise that perhaps the colour coordination of all your powerpoint slides could have been ignored. And maybe even the smooth transition from powerpoint to excel was not fundamental to your pupils' learning. And yes, that smiley face clip art picture does look cheery and does make you feel happy inside, but will it influence the children in any way whatsoever? Or, as I'm coming to notice all the more often, will they simply ignore the instructions you've spent a hour writing on the board in size 20 comic sans (perfect size to see from the back of the classroom and supposedly the easiest font for children to read), carefully deciding the best phrasing so as to keep the instructions clear and to the point? Instead, will they just individually ask you to explain the task to them, despite explaining it once to the whole class and then again when the stragglers finally arrived? So yes, despite my best intentions I am still sat here in the hotel on a Saturday afternoon, furiously typing away at the smallest laptop known to man, desperately trying to get down any words I can for one of the many assignments due in over the next few weeks, whilst my family enjoy themselves in the pool and luxury spa. Although let's face it, there are worse places to be sat writing assignments. Like at home where the bed still needs making and the washing up will disappear if I ignore it for long enough.

Anyhoo, I had my first "vile child" encounter this week. I've been lucky so far to have avoided such children that are just plain horrible. Yet this little devil reared his ugly head in my first full year 10 lesson. I had planned a lesson in the computer rooms which would ease me in quite nicely with a higher set group that are know for being disruptive and requiring firm handling. They were to produce a powerpoint presettion on a particular topic which was then to be printed out and stuck into their books. They had been given key questions to guide them and were required to complete at least the fourth question if they didn't want to stay behind at lunch. This wasn't a particularly difficut task and the majority of the pupils produced some very nice work with little input from myself. A select few required some gentle prodding and poking but generally did as I had asked. And then there were two lads who point blank refused to do the work as they were unable to see the relevance to their future careers; well at least that is what I think they were trying to say in between the grunts and groans and humphing. One of the lads was a 'charmer'. He's brilliant at manipulating people (myself included) so tht he can distract them with his witty conversation and interesting stories but succesfully avoids work for the entire lesson and doesn't even get told off for it! The other lad was just plain rude. When it came to the end of the lesson I reminded them that they were to stay behind and instead they just walked out. So I sent a message to their tutors asking them to come see me during registration with their diaries. Surprisingly, they did! Both were red-marked and while the charmer just accepted his fate and slouched off to go distract other unwitting colleagues of mine, the other was less than impressed. My red-mark had been the third one this week and so had automatically given him an after-school detention. Despite me having already told him why he had got his red-mark he demanded that I explain why again as apparently my first explanation was not satisfactory. He kept trying to draw me into a verbal argument but I said that if he wanted to discuss the matter with me anymore he would have to wait until after registration as I was taking a tutor group that day. His response to this was to throw his diary at me, kick the door open that I had to just shut behind me as I came out the tutor room to speak to him, and run off down the corridor. Now be prepared because this is where I'm going to moan about our society.

I have come to learn that you have to pick your battles in this job and only go for the ones that you can win. Firstly, it's sad that we have to have battles in the first place. Secondly, we are trained to be non-confrontational and diffuse situations before they get out of hand which I agree with completely because our job, first and foremost, is to teach and if we spent all our days correcting the minor but sadly very frequent behavioural problems then very little learning would actually take place. However, I think it's sad that we're having to allow children to get away with rude behaviour in the classroom simply to avoid confrontation. For example, yesterday at uni we were given a hypothetical siuation where a pupil comes into a classroom and is asked to remove his hat. He doesn't, so is asked again. He protests by walking to his chair slowly and still refusing to take his hat off. Now I would like to tell him to stop being such prat, take off his hat and sit in his chair within 3 seconds otherwise I'll waste his time during lunch time. However, this is confrontational and will only make an already unwilling child even more rebellious and unlikely to do any work at all. Why is it that he can't just deal with the confrontation (after all, he's going to have to deal with it at some point in his lifetime), accept that I have the authority in that classroom and that if I have asked him to do something then he is expected to do it immediately or else face the consequences? And why is it that he is allowed to sulk and protest in his own way rather than just accept that he is the one responsible for his actions and therefore if he has been reprimanded for his behaviour, it is entirely his own fault and nobody elses. Unfortunately, it seems we are producing a blame-free culture (you only have to count the adverts for no-win, no-fee lawyers to know what I mean) where teachers are unable to so much as put their arm out to stop a child in the corridor, they cannot take a child's hat off his head even if he refuses to take it off, they have to ignore the minor behavioural problems so that they can continue with the rest of the lesson and at least most of the children will be able to learn something, it is the child's word agaist the teachers and, what I believe is becoming most apparent, the children know all of the these things and are more than willing to use them aginst the teachers for their own benefit. Some schools insist that books are marked in green pen as red is associated with being a negative colour. During my primary school placement I noticed that "every child is a winner", which is a nice idea at primary school but these kids are going to have to lose at some point in their life and they're going to have to accept criticism at some point in their life. Also, the criticism isn't always going to be presented in conjunction with a reward and it's not going to be phrased so nicely as being called a target. And sometimes these kids are going to have to just do something because they've been asked, not for a learning point or a privelege or to leave the lesson first. And one day the sulking and slouching and aggressive behaviour is not going to be accepted and unfortunately that is probably when the police will get hold of them. However, they know their rights and the police can't touch them either so where does it end??

Anyhoo, I've had my moan about society and please don't think I don't enjoy working with these kids because often the most difficult ones are the most fun to work with. But I do question what will happen to the ones who have no excuse for their behavour and are we letting them down by not solving problems which perhaps their parents are incapable of?

P.S I'm no great believer in God but I had a packet of skittles to calm my nerves after the "vile child" incident and someone was definitely looking down on me because I had a higher than average proportion of purples.

November 06, 2011

Doors; they are a literal barrier to my learning

So, we're back into the swing of things at school after half-term. As usual I had good intentions to blast through my first masters assignment and portfolio assignment and lesson planning and organising my folders and marking books and marking end of unit test papers, completing my QTS skills test, oh, and playing netball, eating, sleeping and catching up with friends. But yep, you guessed it, it didn't happen. I tried, honestly I did. I got quite a bit of reading done for my masters assignment and I completed (a VERY rough) A4 plan for the research project. I took AND PASSED my QTS skills test (pats on the back welcome). I did mark the books and test papers and get my lessons planned for the next week. I did play netball and I did eat...... ALOT. I enjoyed a fabby day mixing with giraffes and lemurs at West Midlands Safari Park. I tried my hand at being a dental nurse for a day. I enjoyed a couple of lie-ins. I cleaned the flat and it stayed clean for all of 2 days. Essentially, it was a jam-packed, fun-filled week of joy, but it was nowhere near enough! So I'm back at school and that literature review hasn't written itself, the research questionnaire is just a flickering glimmer of light at the end of the brain tunnel, the third portfolio assignment has made it to my 'To Do' list which is more than can be said for the fresh pile of books sitting on my table, next week's lessons plans refuse to wait for me to catch up on my other jobs, oh and I had to bake cakes for a netball club fundraising stall this weekend. Luckily, Betty Crocker is only a car drive away in the local Sainsburys.

So, despite my ever-growing 'To Do' list (I haven't even got the essentials such as 'wake up', 'go to the loo', 'get dressed' on my list and it's still massive) I'm feeling fairly up-beat about my first week back after the half-term. By christmas I need to be teaching 10 hours a week and I'm currently teaching about 5, so I will be taking one extra lesson a week until christmas. I've been told that I've cracked the basic skills such as organisation of tasks, control of students entering the classroom and use of voice and body language. My classroom management and levelling still need some tweaking but I'm heading in the right direction. The big aim at the moment is questioning and using Bloom's Taxonomy to guide me with higher level questioning and directing the right questions at the correct ability. This week I had my beloved year 7s who were PERFECT as per usual. I had a bottom set year 9 class who I really enjoy working with because there is a whole range of difficulties going on in that class but they're a really nice bunch of kids who really want to do well but just aren't sure how to go about it. I did testing reaction times with that class and predicted I would have to dodge the light saber rulers. They didn't disappoint. Unfortunately I had to issue quite a few red-marks in this lesson for continual chatting and shouting out but I think they realised that I mean business now so hopefully I won't have to repeat all the red-marks in the next lesson. I experienced my first Think-On-Your-Feet lesson with a year 8 class that I had planned to do testing pulse rates with, only to find out they had already done it with their other science teacher. They had also done my back-up lesson (testing breathing rates). So I ended up making up my own pulse rate practical where they were split into groups and each group had to do a different exercise for one minute (e.g. star jumps, running on the spot, sit ups etc.). They were surprisingly reluctant to exercise. It was the last lesson so I figured they would love to let off steam a bit, but on suggesting my idea for the practical I was suddenly inundated with mysterious illnesses which prevented the majority of the girls from leaving the comfort of their stools. But the stern teacher voice emerged and told them to 'just get on with it'! There were no fatalities so I'm sure it didn't do them too much harm. By far my most favourite lesson of the week was the heart dissection with a bottom set year 8 class. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of it. This is what real biology is about; the gruesome, gory, stinky, bloody side of biology. I practised the day before because I hadn't dissected a heart since school and I wanted to make sure that I knew exactly what I was doing in the actual lesson as there was alot that I had to cover in an hour. The kids seemed really engaged in the dissection and were desperate to have a good poke and squeeze but unfortunately we didn't have enough gloves, which I thought was a real shame because I was really pleased that the kids were so keen to have a feel. I was a bit dubious as to how much they had actually taken in, in the lesson, as when we came to label a diagram of the heart later there were some very dodgy, anatomically incorrect heart diagrams floating round the classroom. But later in the week we labelled a different heart diagram as a starter and the kids did really well and were able to label the arteries, veins, valves, left and right side and arrows to show the direction of flow of blood. The more able kids knew the names ventricles and atria and most were able to explain why the left side of the heart is bigger than the right. A select few could explain, simply, what happens when the coronary artery becomes blocked and that fat is laid down around the organs if too much saturated fat is eaten regularly. All in all, a massive confidence boost for Miss J Roberts. Needless to say, I had a mars bar when I got home that evening.

So next week I've got density with one year 7 class and combustion with another year 7 class, a lung dissection (:-D) and finding lung volumes with my bottom set year 8 class. I'm repeating my reaction times lesson with a lower-set year 9 class and a lesson with year 10s researching salt mining. I've also got my graduation next week (:-D) and a big family get-together at the weekend, so any lesson planning for the following week will need to be done by Friday at the latest. Last week I did my day's work experience at a primary school (it has been confirmed, secondary was the definitely the right choice for me, they're just so little in primary school, they're almost invisible) so now I can get cracking with my third portfolio task. Sorry, did I say 'get cracking'? I meant 'get panicking'. I also spoke to the SEN department last week and feel I can 'get panicking' about the questionnaire I need to prepare for my research project now. So, another jam-packed week ahead. But hey, I can't complain, I knew that 'having no social life' was exchanged for a teaching certificate when I signed up for this teaching malarkey. And to say I'm enjoying it would be a massive understatement. Luckily, I like to be busy!

So, let me briefly explain the reason behind this blog's title before I leave you lovely people to go clean my flat. Again.

The hardest thing I have had to deal with since starting this course is not the countless assignments, or endless lesson planning and book marking, or the difficult kids, or the infinite observations and mentor meetings, or there being one photocopier and printer in the whole school that is working, or the lack of gluesticks or the numerous diary, equipment and uniform checks that need to be done (and now recorded. why, I ask, whhyyyyy????) or that it's taken me over an hour to write this blog, or that the school needs to be at absolute zero before the heating is turned on, or that I can't access my school email account at school because the own school website is blocked (!). Nope, I can take all those things in my stride. The hardest thing that I have had to deal with since starting this course is........................ THE DAMNED DOORS!!!!!

This week I received lab keys for the lab that I work (and live) in, a mere 8 weeks into the school year. Finally I am able to get into the lab early and set up for my lessons without having to scour the school for a real-life science teacher with a set of keys. At least, that was what I thought. But my school thought 'no, that's far too easy, let's make life a little difficult...'

All the external doors have been fitted with automatic locking systems which you need a fob to open. Fantastic idea! Except I don't have a fob. A little, black plastic triangle of freedom. And I don't have one :-( I am permanently locked out of EVERYWHERE. I feel like Neville longbottom when he lost his list of passwords. Luckily, the kids haven't clocked onto this yet but I'm awaiting the day when I have to put up with the old "I can't hear what you're saying" mime from the other side of the door, whilst I'm stood outside in the rain asking the kids to press the green button which opens the doors from the inside, and the little blighters will be stood in the warm, snuggly area of happiness known as Indoors.

November 2011

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