Diary of a subject leader
Issues in the life of an anonymous Subject Leader
Wow! What a week it was at the end of last term. Many years ago, when I started teaching, I never imagined how stimulating my job would be. I enjoy the thrill of not knowing exactly what each day will bring.
The last week of term was only three days – 1 April was a disaggregated INSET day and as a faculty we had decided to do two ‘twilights’ instead of being in school with no students. Therefore, on Monday after school we started our faculty meeting as usual with ‘Sharing good practice’ – this is when we show and talk about some things we have come across that have inspired work in the classroom.
I decided to do something explosive that I had experienced at a Texas Instruments conference in Atlanta last month. (Yes, teach mathematics and travel the world – schools will let you out if you ask and can justify it. I can always find something in our Faculty or School Improvement Plan that will justify attending conferences.) The work links science and mathematics and looks at the surface area and volume of smaller and smaller pieces of Alka-Seltzer and the speed of their reaction with water. By adding the water into a small container with half a tablet in it (broken into 2, 4, 8 or smaller pieces) and then putting the lid on you can time how long it takes for the top to blow. If you build a large cube using small unit cubes, and note the volume and surface area; then break it into smaller cubes, noting the total volume and surface area of the cubes that you now have; then break up each of the smaller cubes in the same way; then do that again and again, you can graph the results using hand-held technology – which is far more portable than a suite of PCs. What the graph shows explains some phenomena in nanotechnology (a nanometre is a billionth of a metre, and nanotechnology is the study of matter on an atomic and molecular scale). Working through that took an hour and then we spent another 90 minutes discussing people’s ideas for September relating to the new style GCSE – we have just been given another hour per fortnight with Year 11 and will be changing our KS4 scheme of work for September.
Tuesday started well – a request for someone to come and observe before starting their PGCE in September. No problem there – just needed to sort out a suitable date and give them some idea of our dress code. That makes two visitors for the first week of next term. It all helps us get used to having observers in the classroom. Then, the Assistant Head emails me regarding a meeting to go through the applications for jobs we have advertised – including an AST and two mathematics teachers, since the faculty is expanding and some staff are moving on. We agree to meet tomorrow afternoon. There’s an incident with an awkward student to deal with who is disrupting a class, so I go to see what the matter is and remove the student from their audience to find out what it is about – gives everyone a bit of time to cool off. The day finishes and it’s off to see our grandson for an hour, home for tea, then out to play bridge. There’s a reference to do when I get back, but it is just one that requests numbers for certain qualities, so that does not take long. However, that doesn’t reflect the true worth of the teacher, so I add a few sentences to clarify.
Wednesday starts with our faculty briefing: 10 minutes to remind the team about deadlines for marking the Y10 exam, tell them about the visitors, and let them know about the faculty ‘do’ at my house the following week. We’ve had some babies born into faculty families this year, including one set of twins, so they will be coming also. Nobody can accuse the faculty of not being able to multiply! I sign letters to some parents whose children need to improve their statistics coursework over Easter, letting them know when I will be in school to help.
I meet with the Assistant Head to look at the application forms for the jobs – a good field with enough applicants worthy of having references taken up. Interestingly, only one person has mentioned that they are registered with the NCETM! Our entire faculty registered two years ago, so I wonder how many of them will read this diary.
Well, the day finishes and its sunny and the students are streaming home so I go out and help clear the site, then it’s back to my room to thank each teacher for their sterling work this week and this term before scrolling through the emails that have built up in the last hour. I take some books out to the car knowing that they will probably not mark themselves this vacation, but one can always hope!