The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sorry for not writing for a while – it’s been…well, not hell exactly, fun but exhausting.

Last week I started my first full hour teaching all by myself. The first couple of lessons went as well as could be expected – even better maybe – the kids behaved and whilst I didn’t make it all the way to the end of my lesson plans, they did at least learn something.

The third lesson was a disaster – I took everything that an good, well behaved year 10 maths class knew about Trigonometry and mangled it out of all recognition. They left doubting the last three years of their schooling. My mentor said that she would have cried had she given a lesson as bad as that. I realise that makes her sound horrid, she isn’t at all – she then spent ages going through with me how to do it right and today I shall try again. She’s incredibly supportive and I am really not sure what she is getting out of having to mollycoddle students.

This week I have repeated the mangling job on a year 8 class – this time how to teach the subtraction of negative numbers. See, when we were in school we just learnt the rules – learn, apply, get a tick. I instead have this silly liberal notion that the children should know WHY two negatives make a positive – making a rod for my own back many would say. The reality is – it’s bloody hard to explain without getting into concepts of buying back debt and international trade financing and reinsurance! Poor loves – they were so confused. A class of angels disintegrated into babble and gossip and getting up and walking around just because they weren’t remotely engaged in what their rubbish maths teacher was trying to tell them. This time I did cry (not in front of the kids).

The other time I struggled to fight back the tears was at the Remembrance Assembly where Y11 read out poems written by soldiers little older than themselves and a boy played a heart rending last post…

So, today as well as redoing the trig lesson I need to redo the negative numbers lesson. I am not looking forward to either. It feels like last chance. Do or die. I so want to be a good teacher, I care, I just never thought it would be this hard.

Two days later...

Well, the negative numbers thing worked. Holes. That's the answer - that a hole makes a negative and filling in a hole makes a positive...hey, it works for maths teachers!

Today I gave my first detention! One of them didn't turn up - it was only meant to be 10 minutes at lunchtime too, so she'll be in tomorrow for half an hour, and if she doesn't turn up then it'll be half an hour after school...escalation...the power!!