Archives for category: teaching

This is a shout out to all girls everywhere. We are awesome, listen to the good stuff and stop being so hard on yourself.

This is something I have and am still trying to work on. As a gender we are generally predisposed to be “perfect” and “good” and as a young girl I can remember being really preoccupied with getting things perfect. It often stopped me from trying things out as a kid and made me question what was the right decision.

I regularly see this in my students.

Lets look at different levels of ability.

One class, top set and very confident independent learners. However as I have noticed in my classroom, they are often scared of any imperfection. Their books are incredibly neat and tidy (great for marking) but as a maths teacher I can tell you that you need to use paper to do your working out and try out different concepts. In this article the author explains how this perfectionism can lead to girls giving up much sooner than boys. I would argue this is true for all girls regardless of their perceived intelligence.

One argument put forward by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck is that intelligence is not fixed at birth through genetics but can rather be developed. It is a simple idea that makes all the difference and I have seen it in action.

A different class that need more support in their learning. I worked with them last year, building their confidence and encouraging them to take risks and to ask questions. This year I was asked if I wanted to teach them foundation or higher tier GCSE maths. I have chosen to adapt the higher tier syllabus to ensure they are better equipped to take the higher paper in year 11 and are more likely to obtain their grade C or higher at GCSE. As it stands at the moment they are consistently working at a Grade C at the moment. Last year they made on average 4 sub-levels of progress, which is two above the expected level of progress for any student. This is absolutely wonderful and I am incredibly proud of them.

One key tool that encourages my students to try out questions is mini whiteboards.

mini whiteboards

This simple thing means that my students are more inclined to try something out. I asked them on Friday, why do you enjoy using the mini-whiteboards? The reply was that they didn’t want to mess up their books. Such a simple thing, but it allows them the freedom to experiment and build their confidence in maths.

The lid is off the jar…

flea jar

This week was one of highs and lows. It started off with tiredness.
The previous Saturday had been an open day at school so with only one full day off I was back at work. Happily the kids were great and things were ticking along. However, as this is quite an emotional job the key to being successful in the classroom is to take care of yourself and to rest. Not always possible however at the start of a new school year. By Tuesday I was pretty tired and marking, planning, teaching, displays, homework, meetings (just to scratch the surface) were taking their toll.

The final straw hit me on Wednesday whilst teaching year 10 about linear graphs. The lesson didn’t work even though it was well planned and differentiated. The students were not independent and drained my energy with their lack of thinking for themselves. At moments like that all teachers look at themselves and think what on earth? How did that happen and I must be such a bad teacher. What I have learned though is that the best teachers suck it up, regroup and come back with a plan.

So with a battle strategy Churchill would have been proud of I went in next lesson armed with card sorts and worksheets. The lesson was better and the students had what they needed at their disposal to complete the task. I didn’t intervene and I left them to it. My role was to facilitate. This is to reduce their constant insecurity and build their own confidence to do it themselves. It seems paradoxical at times that the less I help them, the more I actually do help them.
Everyone ultimately wants to work something out for themselves as it builds our self esteem and helps us develop the reasoning and thinking skills to solve a whole host of problems. Life is problem solving.
We read reports in the media of better results for students and I have experienced schools that push students and feed them the process to pass the exam. If teachers always give students the information they will not develop into the individuals they could be. The more skills you enable a student to develop the better they will be equipped to contribute to society.
Big thoughts in the middle of a tiring week.

out·stand·ing (out-stndng, outstn-)
1. Standing out among others of its kind.
2. Superior to others of its kind; distinguished.
3. Projecting upward or outward; standing out.
out·standing·ly adv.

This is the word that every school and teacher wants to be graded as. It’s a word that before I embarked on my teaching career I had never really spoken or come across. Now it is in my everyday vernacular.

If we examine the word itself it means to stand out, superior i.e. a step above the norm. This week a lesson I taught was graded outstanding. This is a cause for celebration and rightly so as it shows how much thought and energy I put into my lessons. The students learnt new concepts and made progress and did it for themselves. All fantastic components of any lesson. The difficulty for me is that I don’t think that was one of my best lessons that I’ve taught and I know how it could have been improved further. The grading of lessons is somewhat subjective but also it depends on the students, the relationship you have with them, and even the weather.

Fun Facts about students and the weather

1. Wind makes them go


2. Rain and cloud makes them (especially teenagers) like this:


3. Sunshine makes them


4.But if it is only slightly higher than room temperature then we have


5. Thunder and lightning is frightening


6.And finally snow makes everyone (teachers included!) go


Now, where can I write that on the lesson plan?