Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A good lesson!

Let's celebrate! A good double lesson, no (or at least, very little) writing, a bit of reading, but mostly heated discussion, with almost all involved for the whole double lesson. A topical and controversial topic, with about two thirds of the class present and listening to each other. Great!

And then an interesting meeting in the afternoon with teachers from other schools. Always good to get together and swap ideas. So a nice day today! Which makes me feel quite happy for once!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What's going on?!

I sometimes ask this question, especially at times when pupils come and disturb my lessons and destroy any possibility of learning. The last couple of days have been noisy but fairly good-humoured, other than a few moments, for example when a group of Year 7s, a few Year 8s and a couple of Year 10s, came to disturb my lesson with a small group of Year 7s. It had been a good opening fifteen minutes, and we were trying out different physical positions - standing, kneeling, bowing etc - to see how they made us feel before beginning our study of Muslim prayer. The pupils were quite enjoying the physical activity, and some of the pupils who occasionally don't find it easy to join in were getting involved. Then two difficult pupils arrived late, followed by this disparate group of truants, who proceeded to sell sweets, or packaged plastic enumbers, to my Year 7s, and this was obviously more interesting and colourful than anything they could learn in my lesson. Another teacher came and moved them on, but they came back later and danced and rapped to the tinny mobile music that they "illegally" carry around with them, completely wrecking any chance I had to regain the lesson. So, yesterday's lesson was spoiled by an unnecessary and pointless assembly telling them to behave themselves and today's lesson was spoiled by a bunch of truants who hadn't listened to a word that was put to them yesterday. Which leaves me one lesson to explain the intricacy of Muslim prayer before we move on and begin to prepare for the assessment.

And that's just one incident ...

Sunday, January 27, 2008


An up and down sort of week. Behaviour still appalling from some students in Year 9, for example, on Tuesday and Wednesday - but interestingly, not from the "usual suspects". It may be that the phone calls I had made earlier impacted on the behaviour later in the week - I hope it works for this week's causes for concern, since I made four calls on Friday.

I have been trying to send lots of letters home about homework, something which is a real cause for concern among some classes. Sometimes it seems to help, sometimes it just causes consternation and argument from the pupils. However, the high point of the week came midway through Friday lunch. I looked out of the window and saw a couple of students whose homework had not been handed in, and who were therefore due letters home. I called over to them and said that if they wanted to avoid that letter, they could come in and finish their homework then. So they made the best decision, came by, and I helped them with their homework. Then they asked if they could come every week for help with homework, and extra teaching because they want to do well! I don't know if they will come or not, but at least that desire to do well makes me happy!

It's been a busy week outside school as well, with doctor and dentist appointments, and a visit to see Doris Lessing at the Southbank Centre. That was enjoyable - especially with Doris' reactions to the questions that she was asked! She sounded a bit grumpy, but in a positive sort of way, biting off the questioners' heads as if she thought they were the most foolish questions she had ever been asked - I would have been scared to have asked her a question! But perhaps that's because some of the people asking questions were sort of showing off their own knowledge, so she was cutting them down to size!

On Monday we went out for dinner with an old lecturer of H's. Another nice meal at Galipoli. Then another Wagamama lunch yesterday followed by a trip to Camden Market and a nice relaxing evening. Hopefully we'll get to see Sweeny Todd next week...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekend Catch up

What a packed week! We have been so busy in the evenings that I haven't had time to update my blog ... so I'll do it now!

Wednesday's notable incident was when SMT came into my lesson, and decided to show me how to teach a class. Think he meant it in a supportive way, and I've decided he probably occasionally misses being a classroom teacher, but it wasn't at all appropriate ... after he left the pupils were obviously not too impressed with the way he'd spoken to me, and said that I should have stood up to him more and told him off! Didn't feel too able to do that in front of the class. However, I went and spoke to him at lunch and he apologised for the way he had come across - he was only reminding them how to behave or something. Anyway, very bizarre, not too great, but was glad I spoke to him about it. Let's hope it doesn't happen again ...

H and I went out to an opening during the week. Interesting to see paintings. But the best bit was going to The Orange Room Cafe afterwards for dinner. It's a Lebanese restaurant that does delicious takeaways. Yum!

One amazing moment ("almost Biblical" as a colleague described it) midweek, came at the end of a busy day. I was tidying up the classroom, and noticed that it had become very dark. I presumed it was just that winter darkness, forgetting that it's beginning to still be light around 4pm these days, before realising that it was raining. I happened to look up at one point, and thought I saw a flash like a huge living room light being switched on and off. A thunderstorm? Then, a few minutes later, a rumble of thunder shook the room, growling its way across the skies, moving me to look up and to speak to myself: Wow. It was one of those truly amazing deep belly rumblings. The rain splashed big, heavy drops outside, and I was glad to be in, but a bit worried about leaving the room.

However, when I did leave the classroom in order to do some photocopying in the staffroom, I was again stunned, this time by the contrast. The sky above me to the right was a clear, lucid, cloudless blue, bright and hopeful. To my left, the now purple thickness of the storm clouds rolled away like a carpet. I stood and gazed at the sky for some time. Wow, again.

The key sight on Friday waited until I was almost home. I had stopped at lights by a roundabout, when I noticed a young man, in his early twenties, walking along the pavement towards my road. Nothing special, you might think. But he was wearing a black t-shirt, dark jeans, and was strumming his guitar and quietly singing to himself as he walked along. It wasn't exactly a balmy evening, so his lack of coat or even jumper might have been startling enough, but to be playing his guitar as well ... it was like a scene out of the Liverpool Nativity! I obviously wasn't the only one who was struck by this strange occurrence - as he crossed the road and continued walking, another pedestrian in a green hooded top, turned to look at him as he walked past. Bizarre.

We had a lovely evening out at the home of one of H's friends, along with a lot of other friends. Tasty home cooked food, but more importantly, great conversation. A good (and late!) night.

Saturday I had another of my many courses. This essay is due for the end of February, so that makes two I need to complete, but at least I only have another two or three of these modules to complete and I'll have finished that course. It led to an interesting discussion and reflection on the impact and significance of crosses and crucifixes. I like the empty cross, with its symbol of hope and resurrection - Jesus no longer hangs, being crucified, instead he has conquered death - and have always struggled a bit with the crucifix, which in some ways seems to have Jesus always continually suffering and dying for us, rather than resurrecting. However, the cradle Catholics in the group all felt that the empty cross was a Protestant way of denying Christ, of removing him from the picture in some one, and they saw it as a symbol of emptiness and desolation in some way. It's good that we have shared our ideas and feelings - I think we were both shocked and challenged by each other's perceptions and learnt from each other to appreciate both symbols.

Church this morning was good, although a bit surreal. For a start, we began a bit late (I'm not entirely sure why, but at least I know it wasn't because of me, because I managed to get up and arrive a bit early!). Then the priest almost forgot to incense the Gospel - he started reading, then stopped in order to do that. I was doing the readings and prayers, and the readings were fine, but I remember starting the Creed, then the next thing I noticed the altar server was nudging me - I was supposed to be up and saying the prayers, but I was very far away I don't know where, and there had been a long pause, when the priest had had to motion to the altar server to nudge me to go and say the prayers! Finally, when the Mass was ending, the priest wished us all a good evening - "Oh, sorry, day!". So it was a funny sort of informal type Mass, and Fr D was fine when I apologised, so everything was okay, but I don't know what I was thinking of!

Finally, the big news of the weekend was that H's bound galleys have arrived along with a mock up of the cover, so it's all very exciting!

Right. I've ticked of four of the nine things on my to-do list, and it's now after 10pm, so it's time to pack up for tomorrow and go to bed. Next week is a busy week ... doctor, dentist, Doris Lessing, the African Cup of Nations, writing a lesson plan about Fair Trade chocolate ... So perhaps it will be another Sunday catch up!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Full of energy ...

That's the pupils, not me!! Pretty tired after another full day. However, at least I managed to get most of my Learning Objectives met by a number of pupils in each class. I had Year 9s before lunch - I told them to stay behind and complete some more work before they went for lunch so that they had produced what they thought was a reasonable amount of work for a 45 minute lesson. A number of pupils pushed their way past me - I decided to let them go, since I was not in the mood to be battered about - so it was interesting to see which students stayed. The good ones, obviously, who had not completed enough work, but are conscientious enough to realise that, and perhaps felt a little bit shamed into doing the work themselves. Whereas those that don't really care left, having hardly done anything. I know which ones will be at the top of my list for any special trips.

The Year 10s did frustrate me. I'd planned a nice lesson on Sacraments, but the same group as always were talking loudly and disruptively. Again, I was going to keep them back to complete the work, but a fight broke out in the corridor and a couple of my pupils again tried to get out, and since I had to open the door to try and sort out the fight, the class left.

Some of my Year 7s did a fair amount of work. They are learning the Lord's Prayer tomorrow - I hope they concentrate!

Had a whole staff meeting. Some controversial stuff there - it was feedback about our A*-Cs and our CVA - but I have to admit to being impressed with our CVA (Contextual Value Added). If your students leave school with the grades that they were expected to achieve, bearing in mind other issues such as ethnicity, poverty, attendance levels, crime levels, free school meals etc, then the CVA is 1000 (the standard, average figure). Ours was almost 1030, which is pretty good, even better when we realised we were only a few points behind some top London schools! So we must be doing something right. Feel more positive at the moment.

H is cooking one of our favourites - beef and kidney stew with rice. Delicious! Smells great!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday Service

Well, the Year 8s continued to do some good work on Friday, so I have high hopes that this booklet might work. Not so happy with the amount of work completed by my Year 10s though.

Was on another course yesterday, which was enjoyable - it's always nice seeing people I don't see often - and afterwards H came to meet me and we bought lots of clothes at Next - two new suits and some tops. Very exciting! I look forward to looking smart again on Monday! I have to say, I hate sales. There are too many clothes squashed onto one rail, and too many people shoving around the shop. It was so nice to go into Next and see the clothes, have lots of space to move around, and to be able to spend ages in the changing room without feeling under pressure from huge queues. There were many more nice outfits that I decided to leave this time ... I may go back next week!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Year 8s and group work

I think I might try and give them more. They had to sort out some statements about put them in order of most important to least important, then use these statements to write a short essay about going to church. Another quite noisy lesson, but most completed almost a page of their own work, so I'm quite pleased with that!

Had a visiting teacher today. She's really enthusiastic which is great, and got on very well in my classroom with the students, so it will be good to have her again, later in the year. However, she is a bit too eager! Someone more enthusiastic than me! And more talkative than me! So I think we'll need to train her in quiet thoughtfulness as well!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I'll just sit here and wait ...

I did a lot of waiting today. Probably a lot of pulling faces too. Sometimes, my classes can be just so frustrating! All they need to do is look at me and listen ... is that really so much to ask?! I am trying very hard to stay calm. They are mostly nice classes, just talkative and not really interested in learning, so it's not too bad, but it is SO frustrating! And I called to have two boys removed, and was told that the referral room was full, so the boys were spoken to but had to stay in the room - and later annoyed others and myself too!

Had a meeting at lunch time, then had five minutes to wolf down my reheated leftovers of mince and a couple of potatoes. But at least I left about twenty minutes after the bell went and was home by five! (As you can see ...)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Have written a few letters to parents today following simple altercations with pupils. Want to try and keep on top of things. Removed a few from classes and kept one class back for a short detention. Other than that, stayed pretty calm.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Back to School

Nothing too outrageous happened today. Pupils were a bit hyper, one saying that they had talked non-stop over the holidays so they were finding it difficult to be quiet! Excuses excuses!! Busy day, no frees, but fairly straightforward because we were introducing the topics so it was similar for all groups. Year 10s got to see John Pridmore! Very exciting.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A scenario

First of all ... I've finished the essay I had to do for the course I've finished!

Secondly, a scenario ... Imagine you are a professor. You have been researching a particular area for a while, and you are looking forward to publishing your findings since it's an area that there has been no previous research in. At least, nothing in the public domain. You occasionally lecture about your area of interest, as professors do. One day, you open a newspaper and discover that a book, or a display, or a conference, is being published or held, in a month's time, about your area of interest. Can you imagine how frustrating that might be? But unfortunately these things happen, as can be recalled most recently in the case of Colm Toibin and David Lodge, who both wrote biographical novels about Henry James in 2004. Now imagine you realised that someone who worked at that publishing house, or that firm, attended your lectures for a while ... even more annoying, isn't it?! A coincidence or not? You decide ...

Could be a story for a book in there, perhaps? I'll wait until November and NaNoWriMo to find out!


Best think, at least, about getting some marking done ... or else go to bed.

Back in London

We left about 1.30pm yesterday, after shovelling away snow from under the tyres, stopped near Leeds around 6pm or so, then arrived in London about 10.30pm last night. About 500 miles. It rained all the way. Fortunately the traffic wasn't too bad. We were lucky in both directions this year.

We have had a great holiday. Christmas was really relaxed, and we had a fun time at Hogmanay, playing games and singing lots. Then the few days since then have been fun and laid back, and it was great to see all my family again. Hope it's not too long until we can spend some time with H's family as well.

My list of things to do before I go back to work in two days time?

* Finish marking Year 11 Mock Exams
* Mark assessments for Y7, Y8, Y9 and Y10
* Mark books for Y8, Y9, Y10 and Y11 so I'm up to date
* Plan Y8 SoW and put onto school website
* Plan Y7 and Y9 lessons
* Plan lessons for Y10 and Y11
* Put all assessment data onto school data system
* Start writing Y11 reports
* Finish essay for course I've completed
* Start essay for other course I'm following

Not too much then ...! Wish me luck!! (Oh, and I've still to go to the shops - at least I've unpacked from the holiday up north!)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

First snow of the year!

The world looks as if it has been dusted with icing sugar ... and it's still falling now! How beautiful!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

We had a good drive north - I drove all the way! - and have had a very Happy Hogmanay! Lots of delicious food, good singing, poem recitals, a game of Countdown and a quiz - great fun!

Happy New Year everyone!