Monday, 17 February 2014

A gripping tale.

We have a PGCE student in our department at the moment on his second school placement. He is taking over some of my classes and teaching the projects that I have been teaching alone for the past two years. It's an unusual experience having to explain the ins and outs of the lessons I have delivered so many times. I am, it is fair to say, less than inspired by some of them these days. The year seven project remains pretty much unchanged since I arrived two years ago. It wasn't that great then. It's a sad state of affairs really.  I work my arse off day in day out and at the holidays and still have never found the time to make it better and more interesting for students and teacher. All of the initiatives, paperwork, spreadsheets, marking and things put in place to make sure that students and teachers progress, take the time away from the most fundamental thing: what I actually teach.

I observe his lessons from the back of the room making notes. He is pretty good. Way better than I was at that stage of my teaching career. However he still has to go through the roller coaster of learning how to control a classroom full of students. Students who's role it is to find your weaknesses and exploit them. I don't envy him. It's god awful. You have to serve your time however and humiliating mistakes have to be made. He'll probably be dreaming of bad lessons and troublesome students for the whole of half term.

One thing that has come to light though is just how annoying the noise of the engineer and wooden vice's in my class are. The metal clanging sound they make as the students twirl them round and drop them is awful. As a teacher you have to tune out lots of annoying noise and most of the time you manage it while in the thick of a lesson (not possible with a hangover mind you).  I spend a lot of my working week telling students not to play with them but they are seemingly irresistible. As an observer however it is too hard to take. It's all I can hear. My observer notes may as well say "VICE".

There is a broken vice which has been on the workbench for ages and should really have been removed as it serves no purpose other than to annoy me. I resolved to take it away the other day while observing but didn't manage to get the time after the lesson (quelle surprise). I'm glad I didn't move it however because one of my year 10 construction students got his finger stuck in it on Thursday. It was hilarious. He is a sort of Victorian chimney sweep of a boy. Very small and incredibly immature and pretty annoying. Not that I have anything against chimney sweeps. Some of my best friends are chimney sweeps etc.

Anyway he had been messing around as per usual. The other students took great pleasure in telling me of his predicament and of course I made a big deal of telling them to fetch me a hacksaw and a chisel etc. He looked suitably scared. Ultimately however he was released from his metallic shackles without the need for amateur surgery but not before we had the following exchange:

Me: "You shouldn't have been sticking your finger in the vice anyway should you?"

Him: "I didn't sir".


On Friday we had the year 7 enrichment fayre. This is kind of like a recruitment drive for after school clubs. I run a DT club on Thursdays after school. I love the idea of having the students come in and make stuff and to nourish their enthusiasm for the subject. Unfortunately it comes after a long hard day/week and I'm pretty tired by that point so recruiting more willing students feels a bit like masochism.

I had limited time to make a poster on Friday morning so came up with this:

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Fix it

Last week was a productive one in terms of fixing stuff for students.

4 x pairs of shoes
1 x watch
1 x laser pen

New sentence

A student asked me today:

"Sir can you laser cut a Rickshaw for me please?"

I reckon that is the first time that sentence has ever been uttered.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Construction gym

Mr. S and I share the teaching of  City and Guilds Construction to year 10's and 11's. It's full of lads who hate all of the rest of school and just want to get on with cutting, smashing up or joining things together. Officially we teach them carpentry, plumbing and painting and decorating. Unofficially we teach them things they need to know about getting jobs and how to be decent blokes in the real world.

There is no exam for this course. It's all practical units but with six hours per week there is scope to take our time teaching things well or going the scenic route now and again. We've taught them for instance one of the most important skills required on any building site. How to make tea. This unit included how to take tea orders, good tea vocabulary, how to make a good strong cup of tea and how often it's required to make it. These lads will go far.

This week Mr. S decided to give them some practice hammering in nails. This then developed into what has become known as Construction Gym. The 20 nail bash head to head race was first. A great competition with some surprising results. Underdogs had a good day and gained loads of confidence. We were practically rolling around on the ground laughing by the end of it.

Yesterday I expanded it with the plywood saw speed test. How many lengths of plywood could they saw in 2 mins with a panel saw. A real arm burner this one. 

Now this is not strictly the safest exercise I have ever done with a class but sometimes you need to relax the rules. So its Friday period five the week is winding down and we are settling down to round two of construction gym. I have a compilation of Rocky training videos on youtube (Getting stronger) on the big screen blaring out to get them in the mood.

The first lad is about to cut and I'm standing there with stopwatch when in walks one of the Senior Leadership team. Dangerous competition to violent movie soundtrack doesn't have a great ring to it so I quickly change plan. I decide that the speed element of this cutting task isn't for his eyes and instead I decide that each person is going to cut a practice length and I give them some pointers on good technique etc. This seems to work as he is smiling as he watches. He does seem a bit confused mind. As I usher the second lad up to the workbench he nearly ruins it by saying "But sir I'm watching Rocky fight" rather than taking the saw. 

Eventually he leaves bemused and we are left to finish the competition in peace. I expect there may be some sore arms this morning...