101 uses of a bionic lady
Way back, in maybe the 80’s there was a whole series of books called 101 uses of a dead cat. Apologies to all cat lovers, it was actually very funny. At about that same time my father and I swapped cat stories, then dun dun dah we fell in love with ‘pet rocks’. Now you maybe don’t know, a pet rock arrives in a straw bed and a carrier box. It even has a book of instructions: ‘Teach your pet rock to ‘sit’ and it will just sit where you left it.’ Dad still has one and so do I. 101 uses of a pet rock is a book I never did write. But it’d be better than cats.
Fast forward some 30 odd years and I found myself in front of 38 little Year 7’s. Usually around this time of year I am the Year 11 ‘bad-boy’ teacher. Hoiking them out of lessons, leaving their poor teachers to teach, and me to instil some sort of maths via football results into them. This year there is a bit of an emergency in the Year 7’s. We have never had Year 7’s before. I tried valiantly to say I could not fit in any more teaching. I am always panic struck that I will be ill and let them all down. But one short visit is all it takes. A bit like seeing puppies. Your head says no, your heart says ‘ Of course I will’.
So there we were, 38 little people, a new and just as uninitiated -as -me, TA, a long monotonous textbook based… learn, test, learn, test, scheme of work ….nooooooooooo….argh. My remit? ‘ Please make them love maths again’.
First couple of lessons were horrendous. They were all over the place, they struggled to find the right chapters in the online text book, got distracted by messaging, could not sit still, let alone keep quiet. Strapped obediently into their seat belts, confined to one place awaiting delivery of education? Nope. Help. I changed tactics. How about I treated them like my 6th formers? Group work, chatter, ownership, thinking skills, responsibilities oh and lots of jokes. Major difference was they didn’t mumble, and they readily jumped up to help. They sorted out the whizzy new screen, the pens and papers and leapt about, generally making sure they were useful. By year 11 I guess they will be the grumpy teenagers I usually teach!
It worked, we chatted away we laughed we dispensed with the online textbooks. Gave up on the regimented seating plan. Found some paper, found some felt pens, worked out our commonalities. Sat on the floor, lay on the floor, walked outside ( for rock foraging) and abandoned all notions of passive injections of education.
And so 2 weeks later, we all, 38 children plus two adults, have devised a project. It is called MathsRocks:
MATHS ROCKS is a project developed and led by Year 7 students. It was sparked by the realisation that some of the students and their teacher shared ‘pet rocks’ and ‘origami’ in common. This led to deeper discussion on how our maths lessons could relate to real life situations. So what did we do? How does this relate to maths? the scheme of work? did it work?(what does work mean?)
We have we have evidence base, we have primary and secondary data collection, we have sampling, random control trials, we have shape space volume workings, we have mass, speed distance time…its all planned, ( in my head), so far so good. We have had a blast. Overheard by the head of year: That was the best maths lesson ever….and we did not even get told off…..in addtion here is an email from one of them:
On 3 Feb 2016, at 18:13, ES wrote: <xxxxxx> wrote:
thank you from the lesson mrs em really fun.
This is a group of children who are coming or going. Some have utterly miserable backgrounds. School is their safe place. Let’s hope I can keep this up My plan is to involve the TA who is brilliant in every way, already we are a team. Then on those days I dread, the days I just cannot get into school because I am too horribly unwell, she, with support, can run the show. The children know what they want to do, so let’s let them loose. Headteacher and Principal are up for it, their unstoppable faith , despite my useless 101 days or more out of school, over the last few years is amazing. They always work out a back up plan just in case. Thank you sirs.
And so once again, I crawled home Friday, body aching , wiring of SNS and Nevro whizzing irritabl
y too, all 101 bionics in the world kept me going this week. Can I keep this up? Well the 101 beers and bellinis prescribed by Jerome should certainly help. Despite the doom slayer Public Health warnings from Dame Sal. Hah. At least she and me are over 55. That seems a magical dispensation from the rules, apparently!. Right. Must get off the floor, straighten back. Bung in gent…..