Being a Stimulating Physics Network partner school

Last summer term, we signed up to become a SPN partner school and today we had our first session with our SPN contact.

In our department, I am the only Physics specialist although struggle with the practical ‘tricks’ to hook students. We needed some good ideas. 

We were shown how to model electricity for KS3 and none of them were ways I’d seen used before, all new to us. 

  • The penguin race game (that I’ve found for sale on Amazon) to teach about potential difference was great. Very hypnotic to watch and made perfect sense. Cheap too, we’ll get one of these!
  • Electric energy balls (also here on Amazon) opens up all sorts of questions about circuits, what’s needed for them to work, showing series and parallel circuits. They work when hold hands and forming a bigger loop so good for including the whole class.
  • A loop of rope to demo current and again showing series and parallel circuits. 

All of these we’d take away and could use straight away.

Then there’s everything else included. SPN wil come and run revision classes, AS taster classes – great for us as no sixth form, working on gender imbalance in education, more CPD sessions for us (we have five more booked), free Summer CPD residential courses, tours of talks, Yr9 exoplanets club, whole day activities and more. Best of all, it’s all FREE.

A resource definitely worth having.

Image from Flickr.

Exam marking

This year, in a bid to raise funds for our wedding next year, I applied to mark exams. I was offered a Physics paper (perfect) and, after preparing myself for endless hours of time lost to marking, here is what I’ve found out throughout the process:

  1. How to mark properly: When I learned that the training was going to take two hours online, I groaned inwardly. However, I learned LOTS throughout this session. The many different types of question, what good and poor question answers looked like, what it means to ‘ignore’ an answer, what it means to be underlined, in bold or in brackets. I’m not new to teaching, or marking papers in school but just this training alone was immensely helpful and will improve my practice in future.
  2. It makes you a better teacher. As I marked each question, it was clear to see which responses were common amongst students and, most importantly, commonly incorrect. Certain areas of the specification were not answered well and this will help me teach those areas better in the future.
  3. Marking online is brilliant. When I mark exam papers in school, I always mark a question at a time and this is exactly how marking for summer exams was completed. I find it helps me to get in the flow and I get better marking the question. 
  4. It’s quick. Especially the short answer questions of course but even the dreaded six mark questions I managed to get through in a reasonable amount of time whilst remaining accurate. I find when marking hard copies of papers so much time is lost to adding up markings, writing question totals, adding these up etc. and this is removed when marking online.
  5. You’re not left to it. My lead examiner was very supportive and always available to go through any tricky questions I struggled with.
  6. It’s fairly flexible. You have your quota and a deadline but I managed to get through these in plenty of time. I certainly didn’t have to shut myself away for two weeks to get it done. Once the deadline had passed, there was an opportunity to complete extra and, seeing pound signs, I completed as many more as I liked. There was no obligation to keep going though.
  7. It is monotonous. Whilst I valued the experience hugely, and the extra funds will be gratefully received, marking exams is mind numbing at times. I needed regular breaks and had to set myself mini goals to keep me motivated. This, for me was the only negative.

If anyone was considering marking exams, it is something I would recommend as I learned a lot and will hopefully be offered more marking next year.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Who our department couldn’t be without

After reading @MrsJMasters blog on Science technicians, I thought mine deserved their own reply.

Teaching is a tough job but if I think about all the extra or technicians do for us, it could be so much tougher. 

First of all there’s the job, and I’m sure ours go above and beyond what actually their job requires. There’s the prep, generally in the Thursday before the week it’s required but there’s never once been a time we’ve crept in just before the school day to ask for an emergency practical and been told no. Or taught a lesson for which the prep has been ready for days to ask if it could be kept just a little while longer (I have a surfactant practical that has been waiting patiently in the prep room for two weeks now). I know of teachers in other schools who will mess up a trolley of prep to make it look like it’s been used in case they get told of for not having used it! Not ours though.

The photocopying… Anything we ask, all controlled assessment materials, all trial exams. This literally saves us hours of our time.

Demonstrations… One of our technicians is a retired chemistry teacher and is still very much the showman. Any of the risky demonstrations we’ve not tried or big bangs that I’m a bit wimpy about he’ll come and do complete with full on explanation. I’ve learnt a huge amount from him. If we request a particular practical, he usually has something bigger and better up his sleeve we can try out and is always willing to put it together and go through it with us. 

One of our technicians deals with any first aid issue we send her way, however silly it might be. I think sometimes the pupils ask to go for something simply because they like the attention they get! A bit of TLC goes a long way and the same goes for us. This technician is an expert at reading us; when we’re grumpy, sad, happy or tired and will always get a smile back on our faces (except for the time I was delivered a secret Kit Kat during a year 10 lesson after a particularly horrid morning and I responded to this by promptly bursting in to tears!). Even today I was offered help to prepare the moderation sample. Not her job at all but we were very, very grateful for the help

There are the things they do that keep us sane, the weird YouTube clips, hearing about the dancing that goes on, roller skating through the labs dressed as Santa at Christmas, the gossip from around the school.

I could go I forever about how marvellous they are, the list is endless. Good technicians are worth their weight in gold, and ours are 24 carat.