Subject Leadership Diary
Things never seem to go exactly to plan – but good planning helps things run as smoothly as possible, and minimises crisis management. Good communication helps all the time, for example when I’m receiving information about changes to personnel, or just letting people know when something will reach them.
In the middle of the month I did a mathematics master-class for more than 50 Y9 students in Buckinghamshire. I was told in advance who would meet me and at what time, and that all worked a treat. The students, from many different schools in the area, were responsive and worked well together in threes. I like them to work with students from different schools since this helps develop their communication skills – and students from different schools often bring different skills to the workshop. It is an opportunity for students to develop, alongside other skills, Personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) that are essential for good teamwork. My initial feeling about PLTS was one of scepticism, but as time goes on I’m seeing the benefit of specifying these skills. I thought it was a ‘given’ that students would develop such skills naturally, but becoming more aware of exactly what they are helps me focus that bit more on making sure that they are developed. It is always a delight to see young people discussing ideas and helping each other mathematically – that ‘buzz’ helps to keep me young at heart! (My brain still thinks I’m in my very early 20s, but sometimes my body does not respond that way – doing an Indiana Jones roll on the grass a few years ago as I was setting off with my daughters to see him in a film, resulted in a cracked rib!)
We had an Open Evening recently. The school was open to anyone concerned: students, both present and prospective, and their parents or guardians, governors, neighbours and partners. This involved much planning, which built on the success of a similar event last year. We had the mathematics prefects helping with some of the rooms, where they supervised mathematical games and puzzles, or helped explain how our system of electronic homework works together with other methods. Of course there was plenty of display up on the (working) walls - get some ideas about what can be done to make the most of your walls! This was a long day, and it took time after it finished at 8pm to wind down at home – I’ve cut out wine during the week as I find I get more done in less time by replacing it with cups of tea!
I spent some time working with PGCE students – our country’s future. It was a sheer delight seeing the enthusiasm of this pedagogical partnership. The PGCE course is a rigorous year of practice and theory designed to give them experience of what the career is all about; observing the students working and discussing together raised my (non-alcoholic) spirits tremendously and knocked another few years off my psyche.
I also worked with some existing teachers looking at enhancing an already good department. We worked through some different types of activities seeing how these could replace what the teachers normally did in some lessons. Since everyone has a limited amount of time to teach mathematics we need to look at what can be done to replace existing material with valuable learning activities – not add in new tasks on top of what is already being done. In my own school, we have made more time by eliminating a lot of the ‘testing’ to which we used to subject students every half term. Not only have we thereby increased our mathematics learning time, we have improved our GCSE mathematics results by seven per cent over the last two years.
I found time this last fortnight to see Ross Noble live – sides still aching, though very little there I could repeat in the classroom! I also spent a Saturday at the British Sundial Society’s Newbury Conference. It is amazing how much mathematics can be taught through a sundial. For more details see the sundial case study in the Bowland maths DVD. Of course ‘dialing’ was once part of the national curriculum in mathematics - note the dialing fruit on the trigonometry branch of this tree showing the mathematics taught by John Draper in 1772.