Tag Archives: teaching

Seven Reasons Why I Hate Graded Observations

This week is the dreaded observations week in the English and Maths department. Everyone hates observation week. Here’s why.

1. It’s so stressful! We find out on Monday morning that we will be observed at some point during the following week. This means we are in a state of anxiety for at least a week and possibly two weeks. I teach about twenty lessons a week and I could be observed in any of them. My anxiety levels rise just before the start of each lesson and then I relax again when it becomes clear that it won’t be this lesson.

2. It literally gives me nightmares; a few nights ago I dreamt I was in a huge open plan classroom with teachers and students all over the room, tucked away in corners and behind curtains, and I didn’t know who I was supposed to be teaching or what I was supposed to be teaching them.

3. It’s so subjective. We don’t know who is going to observe us until they turn up at the classroom door. It could be a subject leader or head of department from any department in the college. Although in theory they are all using the same criteria, there is bound to be subjectivity. Will they even know what an outstanding maths lesson looks like?

4. The outcome affects our pay. If I don’t get a grade 1 or 2, I won’t go up a point on the pay scale this year. That seems unfair when I might be observed with a lovely, compliant, enthusiastic class or it might be a group of unruly reluctant learners. (Thankfully I taught my big group of boisterous rugby boys today and I wasn’t observed!)

5. It wastes so much paper. Normally my lesson plans are kept digitally, but in observation week they must be printed out to give to the observer along with a scheme of work, class profiles and other paperwork.

6. It wastes so much time. Teachers spend hours writing lesson plans in minute detail, remembering to indicate where they have embedded English, maths, Equality & Diversity and now also British Values.

7. It does nothing to improve learning or teaching. Even a bad teacher can pull it out of the bag for one week and then go back to teaching badly the following week. And good teachers teach well whether or not they are observed once a year. There are better ways of improving teaching than stressing teachers out for a week.

So wish me luck. It is Tuesday evening now and I haven’t been observed yet but it will happen at some point over the next three days.

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Four Christmas Maths Activities

Here are some Christmas maths ideas for all of you who are maths teachers or who just like doing maths.

  1. This picture shows two Christmas tree shapes. The first shape has eleven corners. How many corners does the second shape have? How many corners would the 11th shape have? Can you write an expression for the number of corners on the nth shape? Would there be a shape with 100 corners?P1090213
  2. Santa is buying clothes for his elves. He has trousers, jackets and hats in red, blue and green. He wants all the elves to be different. How many combinations of the three items of clothing can he make with the three colours? (They can have two or three items the same colour.) What about if he had some yellow clothes too? Elf Clip Art
  3. There are approximately two billion children in the world. If Santa has to give each child a present in 24 hours, how many presents does he need to deliver each second?
  4. My friend collects toy cars. They come in cube shaped boxes with length y cm. I have bought her 32 of them for Christmas and I want to wrap them. What will the surface area be, in terms of y, if I wrap them individually? I could wrap them all together in a cuboid shape to save wrapping paper. How many different ways can I put 32 cubes together to make a cuboid? Which way would give me the smallest surface area? What would the surface area be?

 

Six Things that Maths Teachers in Shanghai Do

Teaching for Mastery

I was privileged today to observe a maths teacher from Shanghai teach a maths lesson to a year 7 class in Cheltenham. This was organised by the GLOW Maths Hub for teachers from Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Worcestershire. After the lesson we talked about some of the differences and similarities between maths teaching in Shanghai and the UK.

  1. The answer is only the beginning. In Shanghai, maths teachers put more emphasis on how a student arrived at the answer, rather than the answer itself. Students are encouraged to discuss and explain their reasoning and their methods, thus deepening their understanding and clarifying their ideas.
  2. Variation in examples and representations are used – pictures, numbers, diagrams, and symbols.
  3. Mistakes are encouraged. “Mistakes are good for us,” says the teacher, “because we can notice something and avoid doing it again.”
  4. Homework is set every day to practise and consolidate learning. Because this is done every day at home, it means that all the time in the lesson is used to introduce, discuss and explore the ideas rather than for mechanical repetition.
  5. Teachers introduce “wrinkles and confusion” into their lessons – deliberate mistakes which address common misconceptions and explore the students’ understanding.
  6. Key ideas and rules are repeated and recited by the whole class. “Keep the denominators the same and add the numerators,” they chant.

For more information about the work of maths hubs click here.