I was moaning about what a lot I had to do in my last post, but it got even more hectic this week.
Last week, the Upper Sixth had to put in their requests for any resit entries – it’s a very short turnaround between getting January results and the deadline. So I had a fun(!) time entering all those on the computer. This week therefore started with giving out their statements of entry to them. This entails a number of conversations like this:-
Sixth former: “My biology ISA resit isn’t on there”
Me: “You didn’t put it on your resit form”
Sixth former: “I didn’t know I had to”
Me: “Can you read that line from the form for me?”
Sixth former: “Huh? It says “Don’t forget coursework entries like ISAs”… oh! Is there any chance I can put it in now?”
Sixth former: “Why is English on there, I’m not doing English any more”
Me: “It is your AS cash-in code, so you can get an AS grade for the modules you did last year. You remember when your form-teacher listed the things to check, they particularly mentioned AS cash-in codes?”
Sixth former: “Oh, I wasn’t listening”.
At break on Monday I was doing a mock interview for a Year 11 girl who has applied for the Arkwright Engineering Scholarship – she had the real one at the end of the week. My colleague who runs Engineering Club with me helped.
On Monday afternoon I had to finish my double lesson with the Upper Sixth 20 minutes early due to interviews for new sixth formers. The designated times for these are Monday and Tuesday evenings, with 20 minutes per student, but I have rather a lot (maths is very popular!) so ended up doubling up (10 mins a student) and had to start early one night – and the lesson I’d miss on Tuesday is a lot more vital. I have some standard elements in the interviews – asking them why they want to do maths, and what their favourite bits are for a start. Then we have a look at some problems – I always start off with some standard ones, and then move on to tougher ones if they are coping well. I also tell them a bit about what’s in the A-level and how it’s taught. In some cases, they’ve only applied for Maths but I think they could well do Further Maths, so we talk about that; it can also end up completely off-topic, depending on their interests – robotics in one case! After the interviews each member of staff recommends whether we should make a conditional or unconditional offer to the student. We make quite a lot of unconditionals – it’s nice for them to have one aspect of GCSE stress removed, and if they’re good students, we want them to know we’d love them to join us.
On Tuesday, after school (after more interviews), our Comenius partner schools arrived – two Italian teachers, five Dutch teachers and a total of 30 kids. We provide hot and cold drinks, biscuits and cakes to begin with, then start pairing them up with their host families. In the midst of all the excited hubbub, my colleague who is the main organiser tries to explain to them all what is happening during the week, and take some photos! Some of them already know each other well due to previous meetings in Rome and Amsterdam, but some are new to each other. After packing all of the kids off home, the visiting teachers get to go to their hotel, and then we take them out for a traditional Birmingham dish – a balti. On coming home from that, I realised I’d neglected to prepare my cover work for the next day – oops! Had to get in early to deal with that.
On Wednesday, most of the day was taken up with Comenius – our Opening Ceremony to start with, involving reports, music, videos and slide-shows from the participants, as well as speeches from our Head and the Chair of Governors. Then they are allocated in multinational groups to different workshops. Everything is on the theme of time – but this lends itself to activities from making timelines (obvious) to drama, creative writing, photography, art and even cookery (making a model of Stonehenge in cake, since you ask!). In between this, some urgent discussions about timetable and options choices had to take place, as we needed to be able to tell all the prospective new sixth-formers whether they could in fact have their chosen subjects. After school, all the workshop groups reported back, demonstrating in a variety of lively and creative ways what they had done (and yes, we did eat most of Cakehenge). Then there was a roast dinner in school for all , before evening activities (making rockets, quizzes, making devices to measure time…). We were relieved to dispose of them all at 8:30 pm
My life was easier on Thursday – the visitors were off on a trip to Stonehenge and Salisbury, but I wasn’t with them (four colleagues went, along with a number of our own pupils). So I mainly just got on with teaching, although more timetable discussions were needed, and I had a visitor to talk to sixth formers after school. Around 7pm, the coaches got back – it hadn’t been the best weather (rainy, windy, cold) for Stonehenge, but they seemed to have enjoyed themselves. Then we took the visiting teachers for a “beer and skittles” evening at a country pub – the English team came a very poor last in the international skittles tournament! Got home around midnight, with the snow falling.
Friday – a 7 am start for the trip to London. Lots of snow, so we were a bit worried (to say the least) about whether everyone would make it into school in time. Fortunately, we still managed to get off by 7:20, which wasn’t bad. The Italians were generally enchanted by the snow; I have to confess, it did look beautiful from inside a warm coach! The Dutch shared our views – we’ve had so much of it this year that the novelty has rather worn off… Fortunately, it hadn’t spread to London, though it was bitingly cold. In London, we got off at Westminster for a boat trip down to Greenwich – a very good choice I think as you see so many famous London sites from the river. Then a stiff walk up the hill to the Greenwich Observatory (though we did make them wait at the bottom for 10 minutes to see the red Time Ball descend). A lot of photos were taken standing on the Prime Meridian, and there was plenty of opportunity to wander round the observatory and the associated exhibitions at leisure, before going down to the Maritime Museum. We found out rather belatedly that the coach had been instructed to go to the wrong entrance of Greenwich Park – so a nice route-march through the whole park was the order of the day before setting off home! Unfortunately we arrived back too late to get into school, so we were very relieved that we only had to wait 10 minutes in the snow for the last couple of kids to be collected – then it was off out with the staff again for a “modern British” meal in central Birmingham. The restaurant is located near one of Birmingham’s principal “entertainment areas” – the Dutch and Italians seemed amazed to see all the young women heading for clubs with bare legs, no coats and 6 inch high heels, despite the freezing cold! By the time we’d said our goodbyes, and got them back to their hotel safely, it was another midnight finish. My colleague was also on duty on Saturday morning – showing the staff round Birmingham before their flight – I escaped(!) due to having a meeting in Milton Keynes.
I do enjoy having them all visiting – having worked with the same schools for nearly four years now, some of the staff definitely do feel like old friends. But I am absolutely shattered – and that must go for my colleague ten times as much.
This coming week will be a bit messy – quite a few trips gone off, including to Spain and to Iceland, so quite a few classes incomplete. All the kids will want to do end-of-term stuff as well, and even more chocolate and cake is likely to be consumed than normal… But hey! Holiday is nearly here!