Sunday, 24 March 2013

I'm still here. Will I be in another 3 years? #blogsync 3

This post is a response to the 3rd #blogsync topic of 'Wasted Investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?'

To see all other posts on this topic go to

I'm still here. Will I be in another 3 years?

I would love to answer this question with a whole hearted 100% YES! However, I have no idea what the next 3 years of my teaching career are going to present me with and as other posts on this topic have suggested, some teachers may have left the profession after their teacher training year and NQT year due to the sheer amount of work just not easing off. Sure, we all know it's hard work and that the first few years are tough, but then should we also expect things to get easier as we gain more experience and get used to the pressure and workload, perhaps this isn't going to be the case?!

What I do know is that this IS the profession for me, I love what I do and I'm constantly inspired by those I work with, the people I interact with on Twitter, and most students. There's a number of reasons why I haven't left yet (and why I'm pretty sure I won't be leaving anytime soon)and I think these reasons lie in my background coming into teaching:

1) I failed Uni 1st time round.
2) I worked abroad.
3) I've had so many different jobs I can't remember them all.
4) I did 2 years as a Cover Supervisor.
5) I completed by degree part time whilst doing 3) and 4).

Back when I was at college it got to the point in my A2 year where everyone was starting to apply to University. I still didn't know then what I wanted to do, or even what I should do. So, inevitably I followed the crowd like the sheep that I had become - merely following a path that essentially was what I was told I should be doing given by GCSE grades and A-Level predictions. It was almost as if college and University were expected of me. So, I applied to Universities and chose a course (Information Mathematics BSc) that I had little idea about, but fitted with the subjects I was doing at University. No wonder, towards the end of the 2nd year I decided to leave. This was a pretty low point as I had no idea where I was going next.

So, naturally, I became a holiday representative for a '18-30' holiday company. I lived and worked abroad in Ayia Napa, Cyprus and then Kardamena, Kos, Greece in the 2 summers I held this post. The reason I mention this is that this job was relentless and the hours I worked this role are pretty similar to those that I currently work as a teacher. You were under pressure constantly to hit sales targets and got very little sleep in entertaining your customers and ensuring they had the best holiday of their lives. This, alone, stood me in good stead for what I was to experience in my GTP year and now in my NQT year. The lack of sleep I managed to get working as a holiday rep has definitely benefited me in the sense that, since 2007, my body clock has not adhered to normal social conventions; very rarely am I asleep before midnight and I hate mornings. In addition, being a holiday representative gave me confidence, resilience and the ability to stand in front of hundreds of teenagers and not be afraid to make a fool out of myself.

However, during my year in Kos I decided enough was enough and I needed a 'sensible' career. So, I returned home and looked into what it was I was going to do. I had always had in the back of my mind the desire to become a teacher, being inspired by my form tutor that I had at school (Mr Dearsley) and so this was really the only thing that I thought of doing. Now, what did I need to do this...oh yes, a degree (at least I did back then)! So, I started to do my degree around the '9-5' jobs I held over a 2 year period. Luckily, a family friend was the manageress of an employment agency and so I was able to get a good amount of temporary jobs falling back on my GCSE/A-Level results. These jobs were very limited in the amount of time they took up past the point where I left the offices at 5pm, nothing like what I currently experience. This worked for me. I was able to get home and do my course reading, essay writing, research and essentially get my degree completed. At no point was I thinking about the job I was doing at the time and these ranged from doing customer service work to doing statistical analysis for holiday companies.

I was still missing something though - I needed to get into teaching somehow! The chance came at the most inopportune of moments, I was at a birthday party and one of my old MFL teachers was there. Naturally we got talking about school, the fact I was doing my degree part time to eventually become a teacher, and then that proverbial door opened...I was invited to take part on the school's year 8 Germany trip. Following the trip I was then offered a job as a Cover Supervisor.

This is the reason I'm still a teacher today - the experience I gained and the enlightenment as to what it was actual like to teach in a school when I was working as a Cover Supervisor had me under no illusions as to how difficult the job would be. I saw the worst of the worst when I was covering lessons. Behaviour in some of those lessons was awful. I had days when I thought 'why on earth do I want to be a teacher'. I had days where nothing seemed to make sense in terms of what staff where being asked to do one minute and then what they were being asked to do the next. Nonetheless, I survived, and in some respects I thrived too. For every bad moment I was able to find at least another 2 good moments to counter-balance the negatives. This, I feel, is (for some teachers) what they are missing coming into the profession - reality. No romanticised version of what school and teaching is like, but a real idea of what goes on, how to deal with it and what to do when things don't go exactly as planned.

I'm glad things didn't go as was initially planned for me, I'm glad I didn't go School --> College --> University --> PGCE --> Teacher, I needed more than this. I've come into the profession at a later point in life than I perhaps would have, I have far more experience than the typical NQT has, and I truly believe that without it I wouldn't have the strength to deal with everything the job entails.

So now I'm here what could put me off?

1) The workload?
2) Expectations of the job?
3) Further responsibilities?
4) Behaviour?
6) Other Staff?
7) *
8) *
9) *
10) *

*add as appropriate

As the above suggests, I can't think of 10 reasons - I've struggled to think of 6 and some of them are more as a consequence of the other posts I've read on this topic.

The workload could be a finishing factor. Like in a 'Mortal Combat' battle I could become so burnt out by the never decreasing workload that I'm stood dazed, weak and waiting for someone to respond to the 'FINISH HIM' cry.

The expectations on me as a teacher to do all those other duties beyond actually teaching my classes could cause me to end it all (my teaching career that is, not life itself); I'm talking mainly about all the meetings here I think?

Further responsibilities. This may be the most appropriate one for me personally I feel. I'm keen to improve and develop as a teacher, this inevitably will mean at some point I will want/look to take on more responsibility. Whether this be as a key stage coordinator or a 2nd in department, perhaps as an assistant head of house, an AST (or whatever they're being called now). I'm cautious about not diving into these positions too soon, for fear that the extra work will become the factor for wanting to leave. Being ready is essential. Am I ready - I'm not sure yet. Is it a reason some teachers leave the profession within the 1st 5 years? I'm sure it's at least someone's reason.

Behaviour. It could be that the deteriorating behaviour of students gets to me. But I do feel this is one for the more inexperienced. Those that perhaps were guarded away from the more difficult classes in their training year/NQT year. Those without the experience I had as a cover supervisor. NQTs are apparantly not to be given the most difficult classes to teach. I don't know how much this is true but I know I've got some tricky ones - has it affected me, no. Do I moan about having some of these classes and are they difficult to teach, oh yes!

OFSTED? They've been mentioned in the vast majority of posts in this month's #blogsync, and perhaps this is due to the fact that they are the pressure; the people for whom school's are 'performing'. I've experienced them come into my school when I was a cover supervisor and put the school in special measures. The effect they had on staff moral was shocking, the atmosphere they leave in the place when they're gone is edgy at best and there is definitely a fear of them. Personally, I don't believe that someone coming into one of your lessons for 20 minutes on one particular day in the school year can have any real judgement as to what goes on in your classroom throughout the whole of the year, or even since the last time they visited you and/or your school. The process, of course, needs to be there, but by no means would I get hung up on the fact that someone's opinion of one of my lessons may not be same as mine. In my opinion the only opinion that matters is that of the students I teach. Do they feel safe and respected? Do they enjoy our lessons? Are they learning? Am I doing the best I can for them? They (OFSTED) are not a reason to leave.

Other Staff. In a recent INSET session hosted by @vicgoddard, Vic spoke about radiators and drains. Radiators being those enthusiastic NQTs that are inspired by and inspire other teachers (I got a few dodgy looks from my table at this point). Drains are those people that seem to suck the life out of the place, moan about everything, sometimes just for the sake of moaning, and essentially bring everyone else down. I don't like these people, and have little time for them. I'm lucky to be in an office where everyone is a radiator. Sure we have moments where we are drains, but for the vast majority of the time we are discussing ways to improve, sharing ideas and generally enjoying our work. My advice to anyone starting teaching is to avoid the staffroom or the particular corner of the staffroom where these 'drains' reside - they'll suck you in and you won't like the person you become and neither will other people!

Who knows what the future has in store for me and my teaching career. As I suggested in the opening statement to this #blogsync I don't think I will be one of those teachers that leaves within the first 5 years of the profession. I'm here to stay.

So, there's only one thing left to say really, one resounding thought I've had in my head whilst writing the last few paragraphs...I'm still standing!

'Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I'm still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind'

Saturday, 16 March 2013

An 'apeeling' lesson from @Maths_Master

Last week I saw a tweet from @Maths_Master (Will Emeny) linking to an 'apeeling' lesson on his 'greatmathsteachingideas' website. As soon as I saw it I was waiting for a reason to do this lesson with my Y10 class - I loved the idea!

It can be seen here...

Luckily, on Thursday, it was Pi Day. Naturally I started my lesson on Thursday by showing my class my Pi Day '4 pics 1 word' resource I had created especially for that day. My resource can be downloaded from the TES here. This lead to a discussion as to what Pi was and then gave me a natural link into looking at finding the area and circumference of circles and then looking at areas of sectors and lengths of arcs. Near to the end of the lesson I had given some of the students who were ready to move on some volume of cylinder questions to attempt. Having looked over the METHODS of Mathematics SoW for the Unit 2 topics I remembered that the volumes of cones, cylinders and spheres were near to the end of this and would be needed to be taught too. So, rather than waiting til the end of the SoW to cover this I decided to do this in our next lesson, building on our work involving Pi.

The start of our next lesson began with the class working out the volume of cylinders picking up from where we left off. I had a picture up at the start of the lesson too, to hint at what we would be doing for the bulk of the lesson, here was the pic I used (you've probably seen this before, I was reminded of it at our INSET session last Fri, which was delivered by @vicgoddard!)

Here's where @Maths_Master's brilliant lesson idea came into play. I went through the answers to the volume of cylinder questions and then referred the class to the formula sheets in their mock papers they had just completed. I highlighted on here the volume of a prism and then the formulae for the volume of a sphere and cone (I purposely, at this point, left out the curved surface area formulae out). I gave the class 3 questions of each to apply the formulae too and then checked, as they worked they were able to use their calculators correctly. After the answers were displayed and learning checked I got out the oranges I had rushed to Tesco to get the previous evening!

I then explained to the class what I wanted them to do in their pairs - and followed the details as per @Maths_Master's idea linked above. The class then, in pairs (after I had read the riot in terms of ensuring I wasn't going to find orange peel in all crevices in my room later that day) starting to draw around their orange and then peel their orange and sculpt the pieces into the circles they had created. This then proved the curved surface area of the sphere being 4 x Pi x r x r. Here's some of the class' work as they were doing it...

Students started by filling, as completely as they could, one of the drawn circles with the orange peel

 They then continued to fill in as many of the other circles that they could. They drew as many circles as they could on their pieces of paper.
 Eventually, students found that the orange peel fitted 4 of their circles. So 4 x the area of one of the circles = 4 x Pi x r x r. This works as the radius of the circles is (practically) the same as the radius of the sphere (orange).
One of my students managed to peel the orange in one go - this I found rather impressive!

The class then worked out the curved surface area of the spheres they were asked to work out the volumes for earlier in the lesson - this formed the plenary for our lesson.

Note to self...make sure you remember some kitchen towel next time to clear up the small amount of juice that will end up on the tables, oh...and for those kids that will complain that their hands are 'sticky'.

Packaging Pringles...(other snacks are available)

This past week or so my Year 7 class have been looking at 3D shapes, nets, and constructions of shapes.
In order to give them a challenge/purpose for looking at 3D shapes etc I decided to set them a task of creating the packaging for a mini set of Pringles crisps. I set them the context that the manager of Pringles wanted to create a 'lunchbox' sized pack of Pringles and that he was looking for designs for the package of this box.
I got the idea from this resource uploaded on the TES.

Like the resource suggests the packaging must have been made using a single piece of A4 paper - to ensure the package is small enough to fit in lunchboxes and also saves on production costs etc.
I started the lesson by using my 3D shapes '4 words 1 pic' resource that I blogged about here. Then, having tweaked the above packaging resource slightly, gave the class a matching activity of some common 3D shapes and their relative nets to give them some ideas of what sort of packages they could create.

I naturally got some Pringles out then to model the sort of thing they needed to create and told them the basic measurements of a single Pringle, and then a stack of 5 Pringles for the 'mini-packet' they were creating.
The class were then given free reign of the type of packaging they wanted to create. I did however keep a list of success criteria on the board with the all things I wanted to see from their packaging (very much like the list in the resource but tweaked to include the number of edges, vertices and faces of their package).

As the students were working I went round the room checking the accuracy of their net designs and reminded them of the size of the Pringles they needed to package/house. I was impressed by how many students decided to create challenging packages - some were attempting cylinders, pentagonal prisms, trapezoids etc. There were a good amount of students that were doing cuboids too (differentiation by outcome here).

When the class got to the point where they were ready to build their 3D shape from their (checked) net I discussed with the class the need for tabs and how they would then stick their package together. I then gave them a Pringle each to use to ensure their 3D package could fit the crisp!

Here are some of the class' finished packages (some Pringles included!). As you can see I was mainly focusing on the class having a go at create a net and then creating their 3D shape - I wasn't too concerned with them actually designing the packaging, colouring it in, putting the logo on them etc etc.

A nice attempt at a triangular prism here

A cuboid, complete with an 'openable' lid

 The student who decided to attempt the pentagonal prism. There were slight problems with this one when they cut the net out as the widths of the rectangular faces were not the same as the lengths of each side of the pentagon. I had a discussion with the student about this and he then 'trimmed' the pentagon as best he could to make it work.
 Another cuboid example

 A cuboid with Mr Pringles on it! This student finished a bit earlier than others and so was able to start putting his designs onto the package.
 The students were very excited about actually using the Pringles to help them build their packages, oh...and getting to then eat them was a bit of a bonus for them.

 An attempt at a trapezoid here, not as accurate as it could have been - again, issues here to do with the lengths of the sides of the faces when drawing the nets! Something I can go over with the class next lesson.
Here are all of the 3D shapes that were made in the lesson. Those that chose to attempt the cylinders were the least successful designs as the students lacked the knowledge in terms of the circumference of the circular faces and the relation to this and the length of the rectangular face. However, the fact they were accurately constructing the circles built on what we had done in previous lessons and they used the length of a Pringle to determine the diameter/radius of the circles they needed to draw.

 After these 2 lessons looking at 3D shapes and their packages for the Pringles we looked at creating more polyhedra by using my class set of Polydron. With the exception of the polyhedra that used the pentagons and hexagons (I didn't have these in my polydron set) I used this resource from the TES to get the students to discover Euler's relation between the edges (E), vertices (V) and faces (F) of the polyhedra they created.
I made good use of the website suggested in the description of the resource to print off the nets of the polyhedra mentioned on the w/sheet. This meant that students were either a) using the Polydron to create the shapes and identify the F, E, V b) making the polyhedra from the nets and then identifying the F, E, V or c) looking at the images on the w/sheet to work out the F, E, V for each.

1 of the students then managed to correctly identify Euler's relation between the F, E and V - I was extremely impressed here and lot of VIVOs (my school's rewards system) were given! At the end of the lesson, and for the plenary, I asked said student to tell the class what he had found, I wrote it on the board and then asked the rest of the class to see if it worked with the F, E and V they had identified themselves. Cue LOADS of 'oh yeah' moments from the rest of the class - this moment in class was one of those moments I have had when I feel the whole class have just 'clicked' or had that 'lightbulb' moment - great stuff!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Mathematics 4 pics 1 word - Pi Day!

In order to celebrate Pi Day 14/03/2013 I have created this 4 pics 1 word resource to use as a starter with my students and open up a discussion with them about what Pi is, its' origins etc.

see my previous post on my Mathematics 4 pics 1 word here.

The TES website are currently doing a couple of competitions centred around Pi Day. They are as follows...

1) Bake a Pi Day pie - tweet a picture, and you could win £100 M&S vouchers

2) Upload a Pi Day Maths Resource, tweet a link, and you could win £100 M&S vouchers

Mr Craig Barton will be announcing the winners at 3.14pm on 14th March.

So, here are a few print screens of my resource and you can download the full resource on the TES at

Mathematics 4 pics 1 word

Over the past few weeks there have been a few tweets going round about the popular (free) app '4 pics 1 word'.

I have seen tweets from @reflectivemaths, @srcav and @El_Timbre all showing their own Mathematical versions of the app. So, taking inspiration from them I have started to create and use my own versions of these.

I created a 3D shapes version of the resource first of all for my Year 7 class and used it as follows: I created the resource on SMART notebook. I included all the aspects of the app on the slides including the 4 pics, the dashes ready for the word and the letters to choose the word from. In addition I added the 'can you define this word in a Mathematical context'. This, in my opinion, has been the greatest success of the resource as the definitions my students were coming up with were fantastic. We have a big literacy across the curriculum push at our school and so by having this activity at the start of our lessons the students not only know how to spell correctly the key words for the lesson, but they also write definitions for the words and share ideas with one another.
I run the activity using mini whiteboards, reveal each picture intially with the letters to choose from hidden by the SMART blind. Then, to differentiate, I would reveal the letters if the class were struggling to find the word from the 4 pics. This worked well as when I suggested if I should reveal the letters, some students were keen to not have them displayed before they had a chance to guess the word first, then after a little time a few would ask for the letters (whilst the others were writing their definitions).

Here are some print screens of the 3D shapes 4 pics 1 word:


I have since created the 2nd of my Mathematics 4 words 1 pic (on circles vocabulary) and here are some print screens of these:


I have uploaded both the notebook and the exported powerpoint files of these resources to my TES resources and you can download these below...

In the notebook files I have included a blank template slide for you to create your own. I find these quite fun to make and the kids respond really well to them. Activity takes 5-10 mins to go through each key word.
I will continue to upload these to the TES as and when I do them! Thanks to @reflectivemaths, @El_Timbre, @srcav & the people that made the 4 pics 1 word app for the inspiration.