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Further Class Observations II

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020, 17:37

Diagrams and Maps: Peninsula and Isthmus 

I loved to visualise things, to make charts, and maps. For much of my professional career I have defined myself as a ‘visualiser’. I take the complex and make it appear simple through visualisation: photography, illustration, video … 

Peninsula

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Pain. Not recommended. Or was it? In the junior school, age 5 or 6 at the very most, we had a morning in the ‘senior’ school at Ascham House Prep School, Gosforth. We had a class, with maps, and Miss Short taught the words ‘Peninsula’ and ‘Isthmus’. I can see those huge maps held on a long wooden pool that were hung on the wall and opened to reveal the ‘Peninsula’. 

At the end of the class, and on the way out before returning down the road to the ‘junior school’ my older brother (age 7 or 8) entered and I gave him a hug. I got a thick ear from Miss Short for stepping out of line. I wonder if I only recall the meaning of Peninsula and that map because of the thick ear I received … or was it because of my boyish wonder at the map? I think it must have been the map - being shown something I had never seen before, and have it explained. Maybe because it gave a description to the ‘Point’ at Beadnell where we spent our holidays. Beadnell Point is a peninsula. At least on the scale of my world, which was the short walk from our cottage to either the rock or sandy beaches. When the tide went out, some of the rock promentories from my bedroom window created an isthmus I could cross. My adventures could now be mapped and shared. 

Give me some skin ! A Lesson in Cool 

I use ‘they’ to avoid identifying the gender of the teacher or students. 

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The teacher was as cool as they come. They could not be flustered. Old school I would have pulled a tray out for mobile phones (or the paper bin) and sent at least one person out of the class. That is not the thing to do. Some of the students I learn later are SEND or EHC. 

The purpose of the class was to run through some definitions, like those above, on a template where the words have been left out. Each student had a paper copy to complete. It transpires that one student had done a different course and covered this the year before and could rattle through everything like an undergraduate in medical school. There was one student who very clumsily kept their phone on, just under the desk, as they read and replied to text messages. Intermittently they would interrupt the class with a complaint, or fasile remark. Somehow, I still can’t fathom how, by the end of the class this student had jotted down a least a few of the answers - albeit once someone had given the answer.

As they were a close knit social group having them work in twos or threes worked well to get everyone working together. One group may have had to be a four, as one person didn’t want to be left out, or with someone they didn’t get on with. Understanding and going with the social dynamic was crucial. 

I liken the atmosphere eventually to being more like a Scout Leader around a campfire than a teacher at the end of the desk. 

Far from seeing how digital could contribute here > we had a 3D human body with 3D goggles in mind I rather thought a real 3D model made in Props by the Theatre Students would have the most impact. A giant finger like a large log in the middle of this virtual fire in the centre of the class.  Of course, medical students do get the real thing. That must be impactful. The very thought of it makes my brain prickle. The multi-sensory and emotional experience of cutting into a cadavre to look at the layers of the skin.

NOTE TO SELF: There is a template for more formal evaluations. I will use this, but any posts will be PRIVATE. 

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Design Museum

Observations of good and poor practice in the classroom

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“The hardest and most time consuming prep for these classes are the slides.” This might be how our tutor feels - she said this a couple of weeks ago, but she’s cracked it with the cool, upbeat font and colours. That’s what would have me fretting for hours: what theme, what font … 

This week there is stuff we just must understand how to do, and why we have to do it. Using Google Classroom (as as student). The docs shared are templates personal to us. We just have to complete one of these and hit the ‘Hand In’ button when we are done.

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We were then taken through her expectations of what we need to include in each of these sections. Were Module 1 a written exam, then these would be ways (old school) to keep the examiner’s pen giving a tick. And the most likely way we will be tripped up is the process of handing in. [Beware using the term ‘to turn it in’ as this is now branded]. Habitually I would try to turn my Open University ‘Tutor Marked Assignments close to midnight. Like at 11:55pm. It caught me out more than once. Making sure I was ready at 11:45pm didn’t help much. It was only when I figured out I should turn something in the day before or a week before. Just get the flipping task over with!

Observations

We talked again about things we have observed in teaching that we consider good practice and poor practice. As we are invited to look online as well as see practice in college I have to wonder if we can stretch this to an episode of Waterloo Road, or Grange Hill, or my favourite ‘Sex Education’ which somehow created a bizzare, mid-Atlantic, international sixth form like college in the Welsh countryside colour-graded to look like the California. See British High School Television series. For the best representation of my school days see the film ‘If’, even ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’ or ‘Goodbye, Mr Chips’ even a bit of the original ‘St.Trinians’ for the all girls school (Casterton) down the road.  

Punishment and humiliation

I recall my own school days and individual classes vividly; there is no need for a schoolboy diary for this: chalk and board-rubbers being hurled across the room, boys being threatened with corporal punishment if they did badly in a test … and a teacher getting me to change my answers in a written exam that they were supervising … let alone humiliation for getting something wrong - despite my best efforts. 

Storytelling

Thinking of the positive, then it is the power of stories in Latin (Romulus and Remus and the foundation of Rome) - making something memorable, and on keeping a notebook of new words (tips for building vocabulary) (which I was told about age 12 or 13 and kept up for another 5 years), or trying to write a poem in French (even though I was rubbish at languages) and getting such great commitment and feedback from the teacher. And the teacher as a good disciplinarian who had our attention and respect, taught well beyond the needs of the exams to keep us motivated and would read every word of some of the very long homework essays I wrote and illustrated (Geography). In these three examples, the realisation that these three teachers were both interested in the pupil and their subject and wanted you to enjoy it as much as they clearly did. It was motivational. 

Feedback and being attentive to the individual

Likewise discussing some mad-cap immersive multi-sensory walk in/sit down ‘pod’ experience as an installation for an O’Level year group Art Class and being persuaded to take an interest in Opera. 

A Person’s Name

More up to date, like the last few days, rather than the last few decades, I shared the importance of knowing and using a students name, and checking what they would like to be called - Bella, not ‘Isabella’ or ‘Oliver’ not ‘Oli’ or nicknames like ‘Lolly’ rather than her name on the class list ‘Lahra’ - and getting Irish and Polish names correctly, whether Niahm, Siobhan or Saoirse, Wanda or Kasia. 

A chance to be heard

And then pronouncing it correctly and then using their name often. And then, like the Chair in any meeting, trying to ensure that everybody’s voice is heard - not just your own, or ‘hands up’ if you know the answer. 

Death by PowerPoint

Of course, avoiding ‘death by PowerPoint’ - the worst case of this being yet another ‘should have been retired’ historian, with no teaching experience, taking a class where, his back turned to us, he reads from one slide after another. In sharp contrast to lecturers I know who might put up 15 slides, each being an image as a catalyst or a prompt for discussion. And the best presenter ever, who provided a prose written text to cover, more or less, what he had SAID (unscripted) during the presentation. He was a barrister; he was used to talking in public.

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