Sunday, 20 December 2009

Headline news

Well Christmas is finally here. I made it. A very festive end to the term too with snow and ice and mince pies at every turn.

There were also flurries of amusing moments to cap off the year which was much appreciated.

I made up a couple of quizzes for the last lessons with certain classes. One on food that I did with year sevens and eights and one general knowledge that I did with year nine and ten. Like most of the anecdotes in this blog their answers are half funny half terrifying.

"Who was the second man to set foot on the moon?"

"Steve Martin" was one guess.

I also overheard another boy in year ten say...."Oh I know this one. It's that Muslim guy. The terrorist......Osama Bin ladin!"

I suppose it would have been a reasonable hiding place for him.

The marathon has also apparently been re calibrated and is now set at a challenging 2400miles. Phew. Best get in training now.

Frankly their general knowledge was appalling all round. One boy said "why on earth would I know the capital city of Australia or Argentina or wherever. That's a stupid question. I would just have to remember them all!"

The google generation have no use for memory it seems.


More food lesson mirth this week. Students need to bring in some ingredients from home to cook with when we do practical lessons. We were making french bread pizzas and I had the ingredients on the board for them to write in their homework diaries and then bring in:

"Half a baguette
A small block of cheddar cheese
Tomato puree
2 extra ingredients eg. sweetcorn, mushrooms
I container to take the food home in"

The class were all filing out after having written in their diaries but one boy remained and was still writing in his diary.

"Sir?" he said.

"Yes Ahmed?"

"Do I need to bring in an egg?"

"It's not a normal thing to have on a pizza but you can have it on Pizzas. I don't think it would work in this circumstance though."

"Oh. It's just that it says it on the board"

I looked again at the board confused. "No it doesn't"

"It does. Look" He pointed at the board.



We have lots of teaching assistants (TA's) in our school and they do an amazing job for bugger all money. We have one in particular who helps in the technology department more than anywhere else. He is great with the really needy troublesome kids and knows our subject very well.

The nature of his job means that he is much more in amongst the kids and gets to be much closer to them every day, often following one student round all week. He has some brilliant stories about what the kids are really like and one that he told me last week cracked me up.

There is a boy in school (who I will call Jurgen) who has a great deal of special needs. He is almost completely mute in most of his classes and only nods or shakes his head or points at things. He is very creative in technology and is good at making things. However in private with our TA he doesn't stop talking. The problem being that it's an endless stream of lies that leave his mouth. Stories of blowing up car tyres with cd lasers and other tall tales.

In one of his citizenship lessons the task was to create a story that could have been frontpage news, write the article and draw some pictures to go with it. Out TA had to spend ages coaxing something out of Jurgen.

"Come on. What could be a big story that would get onto the front of the paper?"

Jurgen picked up his pen and wrote...


"Erm...I'm not sure that would have made the front page of a national newspaper Jurgen. Try something a bit more serious.

The pen came out again.


"Ok that's a bit better but we still need more of an attention grabbing headline."

The pen.


Thinking he better quit while ahead the TA went with that headline and Jurgen wrote the article. It told a tragic tale of a hairy boy. A boy so hairy that when he spent an afternoon licking his own arms he eventually choked to death on a hairball.

I really wish I could have seen the picture that went with the story.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Cover this

Our school has an online tracking system for behaviour issues and rewards for good students. It's meant to make our life easier but it becomes a tool to check up on what teachers are doing and generally adds about three hours of work a week onto your schedule. That's another story though.

Pupils have their own "rap sheet" which shows up all teachers comments and any sanctions that they have been given during the year. Rap sheets can be extremely long for some kids and it is often very useful to see that the student you are having trouble with is basically causing hell throughout the whole school. Some amusing entries can be found there and let's face it that's what this blog is all about so here's a note from a cover teacher having trouble:

"I was covering Product design in xx, Steven was silly by making fun of me i wasn't actually sure what he was saying but he did apologise and said he was joking i ignored it then he called me Tomato head in front of the class and everyone else was laughing and he was too, he didn't show regret and didn't apologise for his actions."

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Hot air

Teaching product design to my GCSE groups has been hard graft. It's a tough thing to get across. Lots of different skills and attributes that need to be tapped into at the right time to create new things. The students find it remarkably difficult to retain lessons on certain topics if they have to use those skills out of context. It's perhaps the hardest challenge. Equipping them with a toolkit of skills that they can use when required.

The subject exam is a six hour designing and making challenge with breaks for reflection and evaluation. As a department we need to provide inspirational products for the students to examine and handle. We also provide objects relating to the specific theme of the exam. The students are guided through the process with timed teacher comments. As six hour exams go its a lot of fun.

Anyway the evaluations the students make about their work generally cause me most concern when I'm marking them. The students answers are one part arrogant swagger and two parts clueless buffoon.

"My design is absolutely unique" is the most common perception.

Get you.

Another notable inclusion from the last round of exams was:

"There's no doubt my product will stand out. In the 1930's everything was dull, not much colour. Most things were black and white i.e tv's. The 'white skull' will sort that out."

I'm not sure what colour the "white skull" was going to be but I'm sure it would have blasted those crappy 1930's colours out of the water. Oh and be unique.

Some shocking things come up from time to time. I recently set a past exam paper question as homework. The question tested students knowledge of features of products by comparing an old hairdryer and a modern one. The first part of the question asked students to identify four features of the modern product that were different from its 1930's counterpart.

The second part of the question went as follows:

Explain why two of the features you have identified have made the modern hairdryer more successful compared to the old hairdryer.

A girl in my class answered:

Point 1- "when you need to go out and you wont your hair dry"
Explanation- "If you actually need to get somewhere a hot air balloon is a fairly impractical vehicle and it will only be as fast as the wind blows"

I'm not making this shit up.


This term has seen a change. An ill wind has blown in from the sea and brought with it an abundance of food lessons to my timetable. Each lesson is small military operation. Get the kids in. Register them. Get their coats and bags off and out the way. Get them to wash their hands. Get their ingredients out. Get the equipment out. Make the food. Cook it. Clean up. Tell them again to clean up. Stop them eating the food. Get them to clean up properly. Clean up some more. Get them out on the hour then welcome the next class in...

I'm knackered just typing it.

It's tough going. I do really enjoy it though. The worst kids who are normally a nightmare seem to behave like angels (mostly) in the food room. They respond well to me when they realise that I can cook. It's a nice feeling.

Some year nines on Friday were impressed by my fairy cake making. Cracking and whisking eggs, creaming, folding all that jazz.

"Sir are you a professional chef?"

"Erm...well I have worked in a restaurant kitchen"

"Like materchef?"

"Sort of yes."

Hehe. God love them.

The format of the lessons is one hour cooking next lesson evaluate and plan, then cook again fade to pass out on the worktop. The students evaluations are an essential part of the learning process but its a bit laboured at times and they don't really enjoy it for the most part. Some of their answers are quite amusing though. I have to stress to them that they need to use sentences and adjectives and try to use creative language to describe their cooking and tasting experiences. Not easy i can tell you.

In the "My (insert food item) tasted blah blah blah" section of their evaluation one boy had written when describing his fairy cakes:

"My fairy cakes tasted disgraceful."

I love it.


A year eight boy, who I get on well with and see as quite a mature and old head on young shoulders type, had a big bandage on his wrist in class. During the class I went up to him and asked what had happened. He said that his brother had fractured it.

I was a bit concerned about this and asked him how old his brother was.

Nine years old was the response. Now this lad was 12/13 and so it's a bit of a strange scenario. It turns out his brother ran up behind him and surprised him by pulling his hand back and snapped his wrist. Nasty and unfortunate incident. However he was chuckling about it as he told me so I wasn't so worried anymore. I pictured myself back as that age and what it would be like with a brother.

For some reason unknown to me I asked him "So have you managed to get your own back yet?"

He laughed and said "yeh. I made him a cup of tea and cracked an egg into it so when he got to the bottom he got to drink this slightly cooked runny egg."