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Secondary Magazine - Issue 46: Diary of a subject leader

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 20 October 2009 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 12 November 2009 by ncetm_administrator

Secondary Magazine Issue 46books and journals

Diary of a subject leader

Real issues in the life of a fictional Subject Leader

I’m in what would appear to be the very fortunate position of teaching both a Year 11 top set and a Year 10 top set. I only joined my school last year and am still working with my students to establish their positive work patterns and enquiry skills. My school is small, so there is a large range of ability within the groups. Students’ target grades range from C to A* in both groups. Their CAT scores range from 102-141 in my Year 10 group and 93-128 in my Year 11 group. Not too much to split the groups it seems. However, in the classroom, there could not be a bigger difference.

If I throw an Up2d8, or other open activity at my Year 10 group they are away. They attack (not always where I had hoped but that makes for more thrill). Year 11, they sit. They just about have sufficient manners for me to give a brief intro – no more than five minutes or they ignore. Then they sit. I circulate and ‘gee-up’ each of the six islands I have in my room. When I leave their island, students sit (and chat):
“This is a **** activity – you haven’t told us how to... you haven’t taught us...”, Year 11 will assert.
“Decide for yourself what you want the answer to be... estimate a value... look it up on the internet... can you approximate a method...?” I will reply.
“You’re supposed to be the teacher,” they return.
“And what does that mean... and anyway are you not the learner?” I will retort.
Year 11 sit (and chat and draw cartoons on books).

If I throw ten text book questions at Year 10, they crack on with the first couple of questions and then...
“It’s boring... they are all the same...” they moan.
“Life’s boring... just do the odds... and what would make the question more interesting or tricky?” I might reply.
“Well question seven is a good one because it’s back to front – you have to really get it to solve the problem... or... stop whinging, I like it when we do lots of the same... it helps me practise,” can sometimes happen.
Throw ten text book questions at my Year 11’s and... they sit (and chat and draw and chew). They might open a book. But only two of the six islands will have it on the correct page, unless I go around and turn to the correct page for them.

I gave both groups a mock paper in preparation for a module exam.
Year 10 were instantly silent. We peer-marked so they could see instantly what they achieved. They deliberated at length as to the detail of the mark scheme on the whiteboard, taking care to note exactly where ‘extra-marks’ might be gained. Year 11... you’ve guessed it. They sat (and chatted and drew and chewed and a few tore holes in the paper). When I returned the marked papers (they couldn’t be bothered to mark their own or anybody else’s... they sat and chatted and drew and chewed and a few tore holes in the paper and a few said, “Whatever”). 

I don’t like feeling like Year 11 make me feel. Consequently, I have worked really hard to change that... but whatever I do they just seem to... sit and... I have to make judgements about the quality of teaching and learning in my team. I am very happy to make a judgement about the quality of learning of the students in both my groups. The judgements will be poles apart. Judging the quality of teaching... What would you think?

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