Michael

Written by Michael

I am an Irishman living and teaching in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. After many years travelling I am now in my third year as a maths teacher. I love teaching, discovering and exploring with students. If there are two ways of doing something and one is more fun I will take that route every time. Work hard, be happy and be awesome, always be awesome! For more stories from the chalkface see my blog; http://goddividedbyzero.blogspot.co.uk/ @Chuckieinalba

So much of life, it seems is determined by pure randomness…

It’s been a good week so far: the rain came but the sun shone; I, unlike Hibernian football club, managed to get my hands on the Scottish Cup (if only for a few moments); the Primary 7’s arrived for a three day visit; I have nearly managed to remember all the names of the students in my new classes and we are all making progress and having fun.


I don’t find it easy to learn the names of new students. It always takes a while and this time around I have made a rod for my own back called randomisation. (Randomisation is an important teaching tool for any classroom. Every class has students that are extroverts and eager to respond. They also have students that are shy and reluctant to raise their hand and participate. Without randomization techniques the quiet students might be left behind and they will miss out on gaining valuable feedback. Every child should be potentially assessed during your lesson. If you begin using randomisation techniques as a norm in your classroom you will create a standard and an increased level of awareness and content retention with your students. Once students begin to realise that they may be called on at any given moment they generally will actively improve their levels of awareness and interest.) During my time studying for my PDGE we were introduced to Dylan William and his seminal book on classroom assessment, Inside the Black Box. It’s like the Bible for teachers. It goes on about proven benefits of formative assessment and is, in my opinion, spot on.

In response to this I use playing cards and lollipop sticks. Each student receives a playing card at the door and this guides him or her to his or her table. All four kings will work together, as will aces etc. The benefits of this for are two fold; Students get to work with absolutely everyone in the class, learning to tolerate and even get on with other students they may not be ‘best’ friends with; a skill needed for the workplace and life or at least until they marry rich or win the lotto. The second is that best friends don’t sit beside each other very often and as a result there is a lot less unproductive chat in the classroom.

The second technique is the use of lollipop sticks to choose the pupil to ask a question. A stick is chosen at random with the name of the pupil and they get the question. The ‘deck’ can be stacked for differentiation purposes in both cases.  The ‘Quadruple Chocolate Cookie Pot’, which holds the sticks, has assumed an almost God like status with some classes. Such is the euphoria surrounding the aforementioned box that when the supermarket chain changed it from a cylinder to a cuboid an angry S1 class wrote thirty letters of complaint. The best one being (in my opinion) from ‘Joe’ who went on a rant for two pages, insinuated that his life was over, ‘neither he nor his unborn children would ever shop there again’ (direct quote, you could not make some of the stuff they wrote up) and then signed off ‘love Joe’. The downside is you cannot associate any student with a seating plan; it’s impossible to give out to a child if you don’t know their name and higher students can pretend to have new names! All adds to the fun though.

The week was going so well it was time to throw a spanner in the works. Today was the day I let the students know that our paths would be separating as of the end of next week. It was a sad day in that respect but it had to be done. In my opinion you need to be honest about these things and just tell them how it is. It would have been really easy to hand the blame to the PT or the Head teacher but that’s not the way forward. I was offered the job in my new school on Wednesday last week. The interview for my current job was last Monday. The students found it hard to understand that I could not interview for my current school and if successful just tell the other school to jog on six days after accepting the post. I won’t lie, I had considered this option but quickly dismissed it, even though I love teaching in my current school I could not change my mind and go back on my word once given. It would be the world’s worst example for children and if your word means nothing what does? It would probably also leave a black mark against your name and education is a small world. They did understand though that a job is required to live and you should not look a gift horse in the mouth. The reactions of the students ranged from crying girls (this is heart breaking let me assure you) to boys who thought the best course of action was to go punch someone (this not so much!) Now how punching an English teacher is going to get me a job is beyond me but I think that was more of a reaction to a punishment exercise wrapped up in a fake cloak of morality but who am I to judge?!

Their reactions could be summed up by four categories; 1. Protest emails (snail mail is dead to the youth of today*) 2. Protest (I think the idea more than actually doing it appeals but anyways) 3. Violence (again the idea I think)  4. The few daddy’s girls who will tell their fathers and they will fix it (I want to be this innocent and idealistic again). All beautiful sentiments and its good to know that you have made an impression – the best kind of feedback to get is from the students; they are the ones at the sharp end, after all. Letting pupils have a say is empowering and, if handled constructively, is highly enlightening and can also have a certain entertainment value!


Next Monday I go into my new school to have a look. I won’t lie: the students in my current school were not overly complimentary about it but why would they? I am getting more excited now I have to admit but today was as the Scottish would say ‘Nae easy pal’. Anyways, onwards and upwards..

* Today in class we were talking about 3D shapes, the conversation went from Pyramids -> Egypt -> sand -> beach -> swallowing sand -> a story about a cousin called Farquhar & a starfish -> Nicki Minaj’s Starships song -> Youtube V Google and it turns out 10 out of 15 students in this S2 class would Youtube a query before they would google it! I found that very interesting, I don’t think I have ever considered using youtube as a search engine, could be the way forward.

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