Archive for December, 2012


Following the reflections of the great and the good on Twitter I thought I would have a go. I find it hard to look for the positives but will do my best.

1. Twitter. I joined up at the beginning of the summer term after a recommendation and being a non believer couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. So for a long time I sat on the sidelines and listened and watched, slowly I started to make some comments and joined in some conversations, people started to follow me; drawing me in to my new love affair with Twitter as a support system, advice centre and general source of help. I finally feel I became part of the gang when I was included on the Tweachers Tube map created by the magnificent @Pekabelo.

2. Kev Bartle. Twitter resulted in me spending a laugh filled night, drinking wine, eating great food, over looking the beautiful bay that is Torquay with the wonderful Keven Bartle @kevbartle. I was worried that he would be disappointed in meeting me in person. But he was gracious, generous and insightful with his time and has inspired and supported me to look outward on my journey of self development. Plus his advice for that dreaded OFSTED is one I share with everyone who encounters them now.

3. OFSTED. I survived my first two day OFSTED with two back to back obeservations, and came out with a good, I jumped through the hoops and it was one of the most stressful things I have experienced during my very short career. The support of Twitter sustained me through this and this continues to support all of those who encounter the “death eaters”. Bring on the playlist!

4. Teach Meet. From my meeting with Kev I signed up to TMClevedon5 and persuaded my Assistance Principle for teaching a learning to come with me. This was the first time I’d been to anything like this and it was hosted by the amazing @ICTevangalist. I was honoured to be in such great company even though I was completely exhausted by my OFSTED experience the two days before. The positivity in that room sustained me. I got to meet some amazing Tweachers and authors of many of the books I’d been reading.

5. Big Day Out. I attended the Independent Thinking Big Day Out where I got over excited and made a fool of myself. But hey ho, I truly felt out of my depth, some of the best educationalists were there and I got to have conversations with them.

6. Blogging. I had a twitter conversation with Zoe Elder in the car park while waiting to go into the BDO. She gave me some wonderful advice about finding my own voice. Which I have started to try and do. I was nervous at first about whether I would be able to put my ideas and thoughts down, and now find it quite cathartic. Thanks to the help of @musicmind they are reading like real pieces of writing, rather than just the disjointed rumblings of a science teacher. One of which has been published in the ASE Newsletter, thanks to Helen Rogerson.

7. My children. My amazing, resilient son, who for reasons to long to go into, struggled with mainstream education. He has settled into college this term, receiving two certificates for excellence and effort. Sat his first maths GCSE and has four to go this summer. The world is now open to him and he has really found himself. Long may it continue. My daughter whose sunny disposition, eternal optimism and general loveliness is a beauty to behold. She doesn’t realise how amazing she is and how unnerving it is for us as parents. Lets hope the world contnues to treat her kindly.

8. Spinning. I rediscovered my love of spinning managing at least one 45 minute class a week plus a 90 minute one every other Sunday. This has been a way of me maintaining a bit of my sanity and a small amount of balance in my life.

9. Qualifying. I passed my NQT this year and was made permanent full time in my school which gave me a sense of security and belonging. I feel like I now can take ownership over my space. I also got a new role in school as Literacy co-ordinator, so feel that maybe I do have something I can contribute to the wider school.

10. Cross department work. With the DT department on SOLO Taxonomy and having people being interested in something that I was trying to develop in my own room and thinking that I had something interesting to say about education.

11. Filtering. I am managing to employ my internal filter to better effect and remembering to temper my opinions and not being too overpowering. It’s only taken 44 years to get to grips with this and it is still a work in progress.

12. Belonging. I believe this year is the year where I have started to find myself and accept me for who I am and not what I think others think I should be.

So what does 2013 hold for me.

1. Balance. This is something I have struggled with ever since I started out. I am the type of person who believes if a jobs worth doing then you do it well. But sometimes that takes over everything. So I need this year to get that ever elusive Work/Life balance that many of us struggle with. Less of an obsession with cleaning might have to factor into that as well.

2. Belief. I need to really start to believe that I am a good teacher and that the work I am doing is making a difference. I find it very hard to accept praise and believe it when people tell me good things about myself, as I always think they are just being polite ( my inner voice often wins out in battering me). So this year I need to listen to them rather than her!

3. Dance and laughter. I need to dance more, not the formal kind of dancing that people do in ballrooms and dance studios but the jumping around to crazy music type in the safety of my own home. I love to dance just don’t do enough of it. I need to laugh more as well, both at myself and with others. It’s so good for the soul. I think we forget to see the funny some times.

4. Visits. This year will be the year where I make those long promised visits to friends and family who I haven’t seen for far too long.

5. Spinning. More spinning I want to go at least twice a week this year as feel this will help with getting the balance back and give me the space I need sometimes away from home, kids, work and all those other demands on our time.

6. One thing at a time. I must try to focus on embedding into my teaching one thing at a time, I am reading massivily, like I haven’t read for ages but all the ideas fly at me like a barrage of machine gun fire and now I must pick out the ideas and apply them, embedded the and evaluate their success. Trojan mice is the way.

7. Teach Meet. Attend more of these to ensure that my reservoirs are filled and replenshined on a regular basis. Also encourage others to experience the willingness to share and friendships that can be developed in a mutually beneficial way.

8. Organise a teach meet. Maybe this is the year I’ll get brave, put my neck on the line and organise a Teachmeet in my own school. Am I brave enough? would people come? don’t know until I try!

9. Time. I need to give my children and fabulous husband more of my time, not just physically (homework, reading etc) but emotionally as well, the last couple of years have been hard on all of us for reasons too many to go into (too many daemons) but these are past and now is the time to look forward and seek out the fun again, before they get too old to want to have fun with their boring old Mum. And we forget how to enjoy each others company.

10. Health. This year I hope that my parents remain healthy so that they can finally do all that travelling they want to get to, now that they are freed up more from the constraints of looking after my grandma who passed this month. Plus Dad has his new knee so no more sitting around!

11. Me. Somewhere in this year I need to work on giving me a break!

12. Outstanding. I want to continue to work with some of the amazing people I am working with at school, to develope our teaching and learning to help move our school from good to outstanding. We need to smell like a outstanding school. New projects need to be developed, shared, encouraged. We need to look outward and choose the best from others and apply this to our school. This will involve visits I hope to,some of the amazing teachers’ schools who I have met through twitter, who can share their journeys with us, so we can get there as well. I think this will be a bumpy ride but I’m all strapped in and ready for it.

13. Twitter. Finally I want to contniue my affair with twitter and get to meet more of the amazing people out there that I have come to rely on in times of self doubt and worry. If they want to meet me that is!

There I have finished, it was hard to start but I’m glad I’ve done it. Lets hope 2013 is the year that bring the professionalism and respect that we teachers need both in and out of the classroom. Plus some balance, fun, laughter and dancing. Bring on the crazy tunes.

Finally after the final lesson with my 9B4 and their science of cooking, the time had arrived for the ‘Big Dawlish Christmas Cook off’.

We spent two glorious lessons researching some of those amazing Christmas Dinners that were produced by the great chefs of our time, Heston, Jamie, Delia, Gordon and of course Nigella.
The kids had great ideas as a result of the seasonal inspiration; however the practicalities of a one hour lesson to produce three courses seem to be lost on them, it was as if we had all the time in the world, which was wonderful as they were so keen and excited about the whole venture.

So, with some careful encouragement and gentle prodding, they managed to create three courses in their groups and then generate some menus to go along with the food. These menus consisted of not only the delights but the science behind the menu. Which they seemed too managed without too much trouble, my goodness they had learnt something! and so much, never underestimate the powers of the learner I said to myself quietly – they’re very good actors and actresses pretending they hadn’t learnt much!

Strangely enough ice cream featured heavily on the menu, wonder why? And we had ‘mains’ ranging from Chicken wrapped in bacon to turkey pizza with a seasonal twist.

After many reminders sent home in planners and letters to parents, the day arrived. It was a lot like waiting for Christmas. The excitement and trepidation of wondering how it would all go nearly gave me a ‘funny turn’ in a nice way. Would they manage to control themselves in the kitchen? Work as a team? Manage their outbursts and produce something that would be remotely edible?

Period 3 arrived and they queued up outside bags at the ready, cooking ingredients and a lot of excitement. (I optimistically thought they had deposited their cooking ingredients at the Food Tech room.)

But sadly the disappointment that so often comes with Christmas happened; only 5 out of 11 had brought the ingredients, the excuses ranged from “I forgot”… “Mum said it was too expensive and didn’t see the point for science”! It’s bad enough we have to bring the stuff in for food tech” too. “I had a row with Mum last night and she threw me out and I stayed at a friend’s house”. This was my reformed lad who was completely gutted and almost in tears when he was talking to me. So now here is the dilemma, what to do? Sadly there wasn’t really much I could do but give those who didn’t have their stuff book work to complete while I managed the other 5.

I came to a compromise as my EAL lad had brought everything for his ice cream so I let reformed lad manage his group. This allowed him still to be involved with a position of authority and he once again stepped up to the mark, kept both the mains and pudding makers on task and he excelled in this role of responsibility. Commenting on how hard it was to keep everyone on task. (Welcome to my world I wanted to cry out) but I just told him what a brilliant job he was doing and don’t give up.

The other two who were also some of my more ‘literally lively’ characters who worked tirelessly to produce chicken in bacon, all the trimmings including Brussels and an amazing attempt at Baked Alaska.

 

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My reflection on this experiment is one of highs and lows. The end cook off didn’t quite go to plan but that is what happens when we are dealing with kids whose lives aren’t as stable and secure as we would like.

Their feelings on this has been that they have enjoyed it more than normal science lessons, they have learnt that there is much more to cooking than they realised, they also noticed that the lessons are calmer and more focused.

So where do we go from here that is the question for the New Year? How do I create project that links the content that I have to cover in order to meet the requirements of the exam but in a way that they will engage with it or do I stick to the current scheme of work, but will this break the relationships I have forged with one or two of the group?

Next year is a beckoning, my mind and body is tired now but I am sure with a rest I will find away to keep their interest, our journey isn’t over we still have a long way to go, and I am sure there will be a few more twist and turns, with some dead ends and one way streets to go down, but it’s the learning journey where the inclusivity aspect takes place and the fun happens rather than reaching the final destination.

Upon reflection I am very proud of my ‘upside down, inside out curriculum of inclusion’ so that I could build effective relationships with my learners, build trustful and respectful learning environments and getting me to think things in a different way. I think I shall reward myself with an apron which says…..’Keep Calm!’ and Rock on with Science Cooking’. To New Beginnings in January.

Now, four weeks have passed since I started my epic journey on the topic of ‘The Science of Cooking’ with my 9B3.

They had been primed to expect a change to the topics and were somewhat skeptical about whether we would be doing food tech or science.

So, I introduced the topic with the view that we would learn some interesting science that could help us cook a three course Christmas dinner.

I started with ‘How do we Cook?’ We looked at the joys of convection, conduction, and radiation. The group had to set up the circus of pots, pans, spoons and utensils according to their instructions. They had to then carry out the practical, record their results then move to the next experiment. This was my first full blown practical with them, up till now I had done very small demonstrations, with lots of paper based activities, cutting sticking, making and the like.

This was a challenge as they are not very focused or independent, so the usual “What do I do Miss?” was the common cry however I refused to give in to the plaintive kitten like cries and referred them back to the instructions and praised those who managed to get some results.
The moving around and the joys of fire from Bunsen burners and radiant heaters proved too much for some, as the smell of burning paper wafted across the lab, resulting with me having to stop the practical and reminding them of the safety aspects needed for sensible practicals.

The next lesson took us to particle diagrams of conduction et al, however I was surprised by how much they had remembered from the previous lesson and that they had made links using the ideas of cooking using pans, grills, and ovens to the three different methods of heat transfer. We had an excellent discussion about the pros and cons of grilling vs frying bacon. This lesson they were calm, and focused which showed how they realised the practical application of science.

Lesson Three: This was the first one in the DT room, where we looked at cooking pancakes, with various ingredients missing. Well, to say that it was like ‘herding cats’ was an understatement, because I had made it very clear that they had to be organised, work as a team to ensure that they got the required ingredients, this was a shock to the group. Many of them couldn’t focus on what the instructions were, couldn’t get themselves organised to who was going to do what, hence they didn’t have enough of the ingredients and consequently pancakes didn’t cook as well. This led to almost toddleresque tantrums, of “it’s not fair, mine is rubbish”. However this was the lesson where those who got themselves organised were successful.

It was here that I had my first epiphany, one young man, who up to now had been difficult, recalcitrant, noisy, argumentative and generally disruptive shone like a star. He was calm, focused, pleasant, and polite plus worked like a Trojan. He produced a stunning pancake, beautifully browned on both sides and cooked to perfection. Not only did he achieve this with the mayhem of the rest of the group, he then proceeded to wash up huge amounts of detritus left behind by the other team members. He did this without complaining or nagging.

At the end of the lesson, I took him aside and told him how amazed and proud I was of him and that his level of focus was amazing, with one I hope to see again. I made an extra point of contacting anyone who had dealing with him to tell them much to their surprise how incredible he was.

This resulted in other members of staff especially those in the SLT commending him on his success.

So it was with trepidation I went on in to lesson four. We started with a discussion on the pros and cons of team work and how it was important to get ourselves organised which they all agreed on and then this was a lesson that just ended up with discussions. Not those ‘shoutey-out’ type ones, but where they were polite, respectful, inquisitive, and responsive. Truly amazing, a lesson where we went from pans and what they were made of, to space and the joys of Teflon and back again. No writing, no practical, just talk.

The Technician that had previously wondered about my journey with this class asked me at break whether that was ‘the group’ and I responded it was. She was amazed and said she couldn’t believe it. “They were eating out of your hand”, she commented, and on reflection I guess they were. Was this the light at the end of the tunnel? Had I finally turned a corner and they saw the need and application of science, time would tell.

A couple more lessons progressed with me now having to cover the essential curriculum bit for the test! (Don’t get me started, see previous blog) and here I thought things would get hard, but once again proved wrong! Tests were carried out on metals, with water and acid, pop tests were carried out safely, periodic tables were coloured in and patterns of reactivity were identified, and somehow I managed to keep the links with cooking alive.

We looked at why pans made of sodium wouldn’t be a good idea and conversely those made of gold. Discussions ensued and general pleasant times were had by all.

Wow, I am getting closer to the end of that tunnel and I feel we are coming into the light, (She says with some caution). I now believe that this smashing group of young people just needed ‘real live learning links’ to everyday objects in order to make connections rather than the invisible fantasies of how things that might work on that dreaded word Paper ! ! Maybe this has been the best thing for this class?

Still my learning star is shining; he is working, thinking, taking part, and encouraging others to listen. I am praising and praising him and others and ClassDojo is taking a back seat for a while.

Now on to solid, liquids and gases, and the creation of ice-cream in the lab. A sensible discussion took place about ice-cream and why it doesn’t taste so good when it’s been refrozen. We then set about making ice-cream in the lab in twenty minutes. Much fun and laughter was had in this lesson with more success on creating our own vanilla ice-cream. (See below for pictures)

By now you must be thinking well this is all fine she’s cracked it. But, I had to go on a course! This meant a cover teacher for one lesson. Set the work, ask them to reflect on what we have done and create a presentation of the areas of science we have covered.

I return and wham that light was an oncoming train, the train had been derailed. They were back to the old group. It’s amazing what can happen when you are gone.

Upon reflection it shows how consistency, boundaries, care and support can mean so much to vulnerable children who don’t get that at home. My star learner, once he knew I wasn’t going to be there didn’t even come in! Was that because of me or other issues? Don’t know. But maybe I have got through to him and he now trusts me to be there, and when I’m not his world is slightly rocked. It definitely rocked those that were there, and I have now to start again to repair the cracks. Is it worth the pain and tears? I think so, will it take as long? Probably not. But has their trust been broken a bit? Maybe

I am wondering if I have the strength to get to the Christmas bake off or whether to give it up for a bad lot and go back to the scheme of work!

Never been the kind of person to give up when the going gets tough so “ When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and that is what I shall do.

So, in short, they’ve learnt, I’ve learnt, we’ve learnt together, ‘Merry Christmas Year9’ you are the best CPD course I’ve had this term. You made me think, think again and think some more. You set me a challenge unlike no other – now I want you to tell me whether I have succeeded. I will ask them and I will celebrate the relationships we have developed this term and realise that teaching is a partnership – much like a marriage – you’ve got to work at it all the time – keep the spark !

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