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Moving on

July 4, 2014 2 comments

Three years ago today I started my job, and life as a qualified teacher, two years ago yesterday I wrote my first post on this blog while waiting for a staff meeting to start, it was my daughters due date (she didn’t come for another two weeks!) One year ago yesterday I wrote this post reflecting on the blog and my year. Today I’ve been in to my new school, ahead of a start in September. It seems like a good time to reflect on a few things.

The three years I’ve spent in my current role have been great. I’ve worked with some amazing people, both colleagues and the students I’ve taught. I’ve been amazed time and time again by the students.

The school takes from a deprived area, and has a much higher than average number of “pupil premium” pupils. That doesn’t deter them. This week I have seen a phenomenal production of “Return to the forbidden planet“, which was put on by the foundation school (years 7&8). I was blown away by the talent and confidence they showed and can only imagine how brilliant they will be by the time they reach year 11!

Yesterday I attended North Leeds Schools vs South Leeds Schools rugby league challenge. Where the top 40 players in the city from the U13s (Y8) and the U14s (Y9) fight it out for the PIMS Trophy. We had six representatives in Y8 and three in Y9, and they all played brilliantly well.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a six form production of “For love and glory”, a play penned by two colleagues of mine. Again I was blown away. It’s been quite an emotional ride these last few months, First saying goodbye to Y13 and Y11, both of whom I will miss immensely. To be honest, I already do. Then I had to say goodbye to departing colleagues who I have loved working with. Now I have two weeks left, over which I will be saying goodbye to the rest of my classes and the rest of my colleagues. I’ve loved working here, and am sad to be going.

I’m also excited. Excited at the prospect of a new challenge. My new school is also in a challenging area, and the role is one that is perfect for me and fits to my strengths, giving me responsibility for KS5 and Gifted Mathematicians.

As for the blog, each month the number of views increases, and I have found it (and twitter) a great place to reflect, share ideas, find other blogs and discuss education. If you are a teacher reading this and you are thinking of writing one, I would say go for it. It’s helpful in itself, and has led to me attending events like ResearchEd York and Northern Rocks. It’s helped me improve my teaching, and helped me with my studies towards my MA.

The blog itself has grown, it still focuses on the four strands of writing mentioned last year, Pedagogy, Resources, Education Policy and Commentary, but now includes a number of blogs based around puzzles! (And, of course, plenty of mentions to triangles!)

Is it helping them learn?

May 11, 2014 6 comments

Yesterday, I happen to bump into one of my old Chemistry teachers. In conversation I mentioned that I remembered him blowing up hydrogen balloons in the classroom and saying he wasn’t allowed to so don’t tell anyone!

This got me thinking about memory and the things that stick with you. Was this lasting memory useful, or was it just an explosion in a science room? I thought about it, and in this case it was useful, I remember the explosion and the claim not to be allowed to do it, but I also remember the lesson attached. That was that hydrogen was lighter than air and quite unstable, always looking for a couple of oxygen molecules to combine with. That’s why they use it as rocket fuel, that’s why the WW2 barrage balloons blew up and why we use helium, not hydrogen, in balloons for children’s parties.

Similarly, in this post from last year I discussed another chemistry lesson (different teachers, it turns our my chemistry lessons were pretty memorable!) where the teacher used simile to explain ionic and covalent bonding, again I remember the humour in the lesson, but I also remembered the lesson and still to this day know the explicit difference between ionic and covalent bonds.

This isn’t always true though. I remember in year 8 spending weeks in English creating a game show, but I don’t have a clue what it was about or what learning was involved. I just remember having real fun with my friends doing it. (We called it, “They think it’s just beginning”, and it was a bit like a cross between “They think it’s all over” and “Shooting stars”!)

I remember in geography being set a homework project to build a volcano. I enjoyed playing win paper masche, I enjoyed painting it. I even remember my mum coming up with the great idea of using nail varnish to put lava trails down the side. But I don’t remember learning anything about volcanoes or volcanic activity. I learned that in science later on.

I think this is important when planning activities in lessons. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making lessons “fun”, but we need to consider the content, and ensure it is that, rather than just the fun activities, that stay with our students. We need to ask “Is it helping them learn?”

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