Diary of a subject leader
Issues in the life of an anonymous Subject Leader
Phew! GCSE Mathematics done and dusted for this year now and a fairly relaxed weekend with the family, including my eight-month-old grandson. I seem to have the magic touch in getting him to eat by singing all the numbers from one to a hundred in order, throwing in many interesting facts along the way – 54 is twice three cubed, 28 the second perfect number since it is the sum of its factors apart from itself, and so on…the tune just seems to flow and the bairn troughs well to the sound. We examine the barometers on the wall, with me talking about the circles and squares that we see in the surrounding glass. With 42 barometers – all of which we count every week – this keeps us both out of mischief.
Faculty meeting on Monday and the new head of mathematics attends since she is taking over next term when I move on. As part of our sharing good practice, I show the faculty members the latest pieces of hardware and software I’m using with my students – the Texas Instruments Navigator and handheld (TI-Nspire) that goes with it. Everyone logs on through their own handheld and I send out a wireless quick question to check. They reply and seeing their answers added to the results stimulates further exploration. I wire them a small file of statistics problems that they work on in pairs, and I collect in their files wirelessly. All the screens are shown on the IWB, so no slacking! The potential of this tool is mind-blowing – so I look forward to the next day when I will have a visitor looking at some of the ways in which I’m using this technology with my Year 9 class of low-attainers.
The visit goes far better than I expect. The students pick up the technology like they’ve been using it every day, yet this is the first time we’ve dealt with the wireless aspect. They keep asking for more ‘quick polls’ since they are desperate to get their (correct) answer in first – the times are recorded so that’s an added bonus since we review the way time is written and they work out the time difference between the first and last correct answer.
The lesson revolves around Galileo’s pendulum work – ‘Galileo’s swingers’ as they call it. The file I send the students is simple, giving a short summary of Galileo and his pendulum discoveries and challenging them to check out some of them. This way it is cross-curricular with science and history. They decide first to investigate if there is any connection between the length of the pendulum and the time of swing. They can see there is string available and a variety of items to tie to it, so their first question is ‘How much weight should I put on it?’ ‘Why?’ I reply. ‘Because it might make a difference.’ ‘Then what would you do to see if it did make a difference?’ ‘Oh – OK – I’ll try some different weights’. I had deliberately tried to free this up as much as possible, since I wanted to address a number of PLTS in this lesson. And we sure did that! – independent enquirers, creative thinkers, team workers, self-managers and effective participators…. tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tock (well, it is about pendulums after all!). The students collect their data and enter it on the handheld ready for analysis. This was a lesson to remember.
The next day, Wednesday, was a day to forget. I attend one early morning meeting on reviewing the policies for the Governors. I then find I should be at three simultaneous meetings after school. One is directed time on IT training about Word, another is a revision session with the Y10 GCSE Statistics class preparing for an exam on 25 June – and the third? – it’s my turn for after-school detention! Due to the directed time meeting there is nobody to swap that with, but there is a volunteer to do the revision class, so I go and do the after-school detention.
On Saturday I catch an early morning train for a small meeting planning a conference in York. We meet at the London Mathematical Society and have an enjoyable time planning the programme. I meet up with my younger daughter and we go for a meal, then on to see the standard measures at the back of Trafalgar Square. Visitors look up at the very large ship in a bottle (HMS Victory). We look down at the foot, yard, chain, pole and perch in brass, taking pictures. At least it gets some others looking!
Then we take in a film – Sean Bean in Black Death. Not much there I can use in the classroom, though some of the punishment scenes give me ideas.
The next week goes quickly. The Heads of Mathematics meeting at a local school is always a stimulating event, and there is another governors’ meeting.
Then Olympic Day! We have invited in Natasha Hunt, a mathematics teacher, who is now training to be a pentathlete for 2012. She has rotating groups of students spellbound – the four groups spend 30 minutes on each of four different activities over two hours. This includes a javelin event - throw a straw as far as possible, and each team works out the mean throw length for their group. The discus is a paper plate! There are other Olympic questions to answer to gain points to decide an overall winner. Mathematics was the overall winner of course!