Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Facepalm Friday

March 21, 2015

I’m a Chemistry teacher, and I’ve started preparing my students for their exams. I get the students to do past papers, so that they can understand what’s expected.

A particular question asked the students to design an experiment that checked how solubility changed with temperature. Will more solid dissolve if the temperature goes up? How do you know? Prove it.

Anyhow, this student I teach understood they needed to pick a temperature, and add this chemical to a fixed volume of water till no more could dissolve, repeat 2 more times, then change the temperature, and repeat for this new temperature.

The scary thing was that this 18 YEAR OLD student didn’t grasp that the mass goes up when something dissolves. He genuinely asked “How will we know how much we’ve added?” I asked him to describe what we would do at a certain temperature, “We’ll dissolve a solid into a liquid till it can’t go in any more.” Then I asked about what dissolving meant. “It means the solid goes into the liquid in really small bits.”

It was at this point I waited for a sign of “Oh ah we’ll have more stuff so we can look at the mass”, but no. He looked at me as if to say “Ok… next step?” When I asked him to think about what we could measure now we know what he’s just told me, he carried on looking at me, clearly thinking “I’ve got nothing, help me out here.” I then changed tacks and asked “Is there more stuff in the test tube before or after?” and he continued to look at me as if to say “Seriously, I’ve got nothing, you’re going to have to help me out some.”

So I’m not sure who my facepalm moment is for, my student (who doesn’t realise mass goes up when some you dissolve something in a liquid), or me, who managed to get a kid to 18 (with great grades) and not know that.

I know I’m not the most naturally funny guy in the world, but come on…. really?

January 9, 2014

It’s exam season at our school at the moment, and (as usual) we’re getting a crop of humorous answers in our exam papers. This isn’t surprising, given our kids aren’t native English speakers, but it always gives us a smile when we get comments like “a white prostitute would be made” as an answer in a Chemistry exam (we assume he was going for precipitate, but it speaks volumes for this particular teenaged boy that his mind alighted on that other word instead).

Anyhow, the response of a lot of teachers I know is “Blame the teachers.” It’s a sort of.ironic dig at people who blame teachers for everything from the way 5 year old’s behave, to the rise of teenage mums, to increasing knife violence. It’s a way for teachers to acknowledge that we seem to get blamed for the the fact that that we don’t live a land of picket fences, warm beer, cricket being played on the village green, and the poor knowing their place.

I’ve used it when a kid’s done something dumb, and had it used against me when kids I teach have done something dumb. It’s POSITIVELY NOT supposed to be criticism of something where you (as a teacher) actually did something wrong (I’d let you know privately about that), it’s just an ironic recognition of the fact that all criticism isn’t justified.

Anyhow, we got a particularly silly answer off a student (he’d been asked explain something in pictures, and not used them), and jokingly said “I blame the teachers.” One teacher took issue at this, and assumed I was having a dig at him. Now let’s just disregard, for a moment, the fact that the guy’s got a tonne of experience. Let’s disregard the fact he’s been selected by the firm for potential future advancement, Let’s disregard, finally, that I asked him the yesterday to show a new teacher how to build relationships with students (surely a sign I have some regard for him), and ask what sort or person do he think I am? Does he really think I’m the sort of idiot who’d publicly undermine someone who was being a a sound individual?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d support your honest efforts to improve if you were bad. This might involve talking to other people about you, but I’d NEVER, EVER publicly throw you under a bus. I just wouldn’t.

There are times when I get embarrassed by my fellow countrymen.

August 30, 2013

I was at a work conference at the weekend. In it they ran a bunch of sessions aimed at making you a better teacher in the “Chinese Environment.” A lot of it’s common sense, but I go and “give it some” at those sessions because “Da Management” is always watching you, it’s nice to have an idea what works in other classrooms, and what they’re looking for when they come into yours.

Anyhow, they had this Chinese teacher come to one of our sessions. Now the Chinese in general aren’t naturally forthright, and this guy looked about 12 and a half. In short you could tell he’d be a wallflower if you didn’t involve him. Yet I watched group after group pretty much ignore the guy, and that irritated me. I mean he wasn’t prefect, but they could have done better.

To make matters worse, they have quality control managers working at my company. They pretty much assess teacher quality, and the husband of one of these quality controls was in this session. The manager has always impressed me as someone who knew her stuff, but this guy couldn’t have made any more effort NOT to involve the guy if he tried.

There are times when I can’t understand myself.

August 29, 2013

I was looking at my results today, and there’s a bunch of reasons I should be proud. More that 50% of my kids got an A or better. I got more A*s at A Level than I’ve got in my career to this point. More kids got A* to B than I’ve ever got before.  85% of the kids I taught got A* to B at AS. The figure rises to 93% for iGCSE. In terms of A*-B scores, I did 33% better than my closest rival at PAL. At A2, I was 1.5 grades better, on average, than my nearest rival.

Can somebody tell my why I’m still ticked about these results, telling myself I need to do better next year?