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

Work hard, be happy and be awesome…

All is relatively good in the land of jotters, whiteboards and silly cabbages. I am almost accustomed to getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning (officially anytime before 9am); I have managed to memorise all of the students names; all my classes are learning and most importantly we are having fun. All of my classes are making progress and taking on the responsibility of learning on their own shoulders all be it to different degrees.

The first years are progressing at a rate of knots that would make any sea captain happy. I teach two first year classes of 20 and 22 students, roughly balanced between boys and girls and both classes are working at the same level in their broad general education. Both classes have really blossomed and jelled together, though the characters and personalities of the different students make each class unique.

One of the great things about having two similar classes at the same level is that you can plan the same lesson for both, teach it to the first class and immediately reflect and adjust the content to make it even better for the next class. The classes alternate each day so both classes benefit from their teacher improving his craft and toning his lessons. We have practiced algebra every day in our starter questions since we came together and we are making definite progress. As one student said ‘peace, love and algebra is the way forward!’ and you have got to love that! Probably the greatest achievement so far in these classes is how they are well they are working together, how they help each other and how good they are at self and peer assessment. They understand that they will benefit the most if they take responsibility for their own learning and also help each other out.

Class starts with three or four questions on the board, the first two students bring their jotters (copybooks) up to me and if they are of a quality and standard equal to the agreed class ‘gold’ standard they become the holders of the ‘stamp’. Their job is to then go and check other students work and see if they are to up to standard. If they are, they get the ‘gold’ stamp and praise from one of their peers, if not the student will help them out and point out the great, good and what needs a little bit of work. It is a high honour to be one of the stamp holders and they love it. As I have said before, students will climb mountains to get a sticker or a stamp but to be the one wielding the stamp is next level stuff! The other day we had a young lad going around doing the stamping and next thing he starts roaring at this girl, ‘The environment! Think of the environment!! This is great work but the environment!!’ She had not folded her page and thus had wasted loads of space which is not good for the environment and this was against the agreed standard. It was funny because he could see she was a little unhappy so was trying to balance his praise with his environmental message.

Both classes also asked if we could select two jotters at random each day and place them under the visualiser to project onto the board so the class can give them due recognition and also a help improve each others work. To make their independent learning ‘official’ they have each received a licence to innovate permit (as seen in the picture). It is a simple idea I got from another teacher but contains a powerful message. It gives each student the power to make mistakes and suggest or do anything that will help them learn be it to draw something, come up to the board or even act something out! Our new motto is ‘Work hard, be happy and be awesome! Always be awesome!’

 The S2s are happy in their work and they too are starting to love algebra. They are working very well in pairs and have grown to really like tango music, Manu Chao and the Boss whilst doing their starter questions. The S3s, who have been a challenge at the start, have also progressed well. Their behaviour and work ethic, which we chart every day, has got better, though we still have work to do. In the first two weeks of September I had to ask students to leave on ten occasions for behaviour that was unacceptable and broke our learning contracts. In the last two weeks I have only had to remove four students though three of these were the same gentleman.

The vast majority of this class have started working and are responding very well to the strategies that I have in place but this gentleman is just not getting there just yet. He is very immature and is certain that I am being constantly unfair to him and favouring the world and its mother over him. He finds it hard to talk to adults, is not great at expressing himself and often uses unsuitable language towards adults. He is also in my opinion lazy. He also has an amazing ability to be able to judge the difficulty of work at a seconds glance and more than often decides that the work set is too hard. He has good days and bad but finds it very difficult to work on his own. He is making progress though and all one can do is persevere.

We got some sad news today though: the little lady who came from another school and who was with us on a hosting has left to go back to her original school. The sad thing is after two woeful weeks she had achieved a merit in every single class in the last two weeks. She worked really well, helped her friends and her behaviour, even when things were not to her liking, was excellent. She had grown to like her maths class and those in it but sadly the same cannot be said for some of her other classes. She was also a great influence and friend to all those in the class and we will miss her.

My fourth year credit class are slowly coming round to the idea that asking questions along with completing their homework could actually be in their benefit in trying to pass their exam next year. Our work in class is improving, they are loving their education in music as much as maths and have really taken to working in pairs with different partners every day. We even had great fun exploring quadratic equations whilst speed dating. We also learned that Batman is almost everyone’s favourite superhero and Danger Mouse never existed to this generation. They have also started attending homework club every week both during lunch and after school. 70% of the class have turned up twice in the last two weeks so we must be doing something right.

The fifth and sixth year ‘advanced higher’ Finance class are also coming along especially in terms of behaviour and language used in class. We no longer tell each other to ‘shut up’ (banned in all classes, on the first day each class roared shut up as loud as possible to cleanse our need for it and it has not been said in any class bar this one since) and if they do say something that might hurt the feelings of others even in jest they apologise though we decided on a margin of 10 votes to 2 that ‘soz’ was not good enough for an apology. One lad started taking the apology thing too far asking for an apology every two seconds for a week but I think some of the class had a word because all of a sudden it stopped. Another girl turned into a supergrass though and was constantly demanding warnings for people until the smallest girl in the class stood up one day and pointed out that she was hurting people’s feelings, ruining the class and was likely to lose friends if she continued interrupting. I really enjoy teaching and learning with this class. They understand the benefits that are to be gained from learning about basic finance and also how what we say and do can affect others in both positive and negative ways. They too are taking responsibility for their learning and, whilst not yet in the same league as the first years, are not a million miles away either. It’s been a very good couple of weeks and I look forward to what the next three weeks bring; it’s never a dull moment so as always onwards and upwards…

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