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. 

Walking Talking Exams – Part 2

Last week we ran our first walking talking trial exam for year 11. The purpose for running it were to Improve upon certain points:

  1. To boost confidence in exams – A large number of our Year 11 were feeling demoralised after poor trial exam results.
  2. Improve exam technique – subject knowledge was not the main issue but students were evidently not answering exactly what the question asked.
  3. Application of knowledge – students avoided questions that included any content they hadn’t learnt about. They couldn’t see past this and identify exactly what the question was about.
  4. Model long answer questions – students often ignore these completely but we weren’t sure why (time, perception of difficulty, effort?)

It being the first time we’d tried anything like this, we weren’t sure how it would run. Here is how it ran:

  1. We had a PA system set up so that students could hear us loud and clear.
  2. A projector screen ran a countdown clock so we, and students could easily keep pace.
  3. Students were told that normal exam conditions applied, that we would read the questions and then explain our thought process.
  4. We still had invigilator as this helped students to take it as seriously as any normal trial.
  5. Students were encouraged not to move on without waiting for us.
  6. We read each question and gave the students pointers, not answers, to answering the question.
  7. We identified the area of the specification the question related to and reminded the student the answer could only be something they have been taught about. This was especially important with applied questions.
  8. We allowed the timer to run continuously allowing 1 minute per mark as in the exam.

What we have found out since the trial:

  1. The majority of students found it helpful and asked for more walking talking mocks before their real exams in the summer.
  2. Results were improved, significantly in a number of cases.
  3. Students have felt more confident about their examinations in the summer.
  4. Considering the guidance students received, areas where knowledge is lacking is more clearly obvious and so wil help us to focus revision in the coming weeks.
  5. Some students said they ran out of time because we were talking for too long. Taking this in to account, more time may be needed for a walking talking mock exams if we run more.
  6. It has helped us as teachers understand the exam process more clearly and helped us to give better revision guidance and support.
  7. It reminded us just how important the examiners reports are.

I would recommend walking talking trials to any school. For us, it has been the boost we all, students and teachers, needed to help us all feel more confident about the summer.