Monday, May 29, 2006

A long and winding road

It seemed a good idea at the time. (Have I started a post like this before?)

Approaching the end of my year of teacher training, I was obliged to nominate five local authorities where I'd be willing to spend my probationary year. This is a requirement of the Teacher Induction Scheme. As I am West of Scotland born and bred, with deep roots and a massive mortgage, I listed the four surrounding authorities, hoping for something within my ten-mile zone of inclusion.

OS Map

The pink circle indicates my 10-mile preferred zone, for comfortable commuting. The large black arrow marks the approximate location of my placement school!

As my "wild card" fifth option, I nominated Stirling, which is the next-nearest authority, but which stretches uncomfortably far north and east.

So, guess whose bluff was called?!

It seems that I shall be spending 2006/2007 in a Stirlingshire school, a daily round trip of 70 miles. With petrol running at 96.9p per litre (and, I must admit, my car is not the most economical model), it looks as if most of my Scale Point Zero starting salary will be going straight to the Shell shareholders.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

How to get soaked in one easy lesson

It seemed a good idea at the time.

My son's exams were finished, my last school placement was over ... what better way for us to celebrate than a bracing walk in the Scottish Highlands?

Our problems largely stemmed from the fact that, as the owner of the 1976 edition of OS Sheet 56 (Loch Lomond), I was reluctant to shell out £6.49 for a more up-to-date edition. Surely not much can change in (wait a minute) ... thirty years?!

Well, for a start, the A817 evidently didn't exist in 1976, but in 2006 it cut right across our walk area!

My antiquated kit

A brief break in the torrential rain allows a quick photo to be taken

Following a ridiculously outdated map, with the weather alternating between mist and torrential rain, didn't make for ideal walking conditions. Our promised "wonderful high-level walk with magnificent views" turned into a damp slog across boggy hillsides, negotiating electric fences and bristling gorse bushes.

I should say that my walking companion was snug and dry in his 21st century GoreTex-this and Kevlar-that, but I shall have to think seriously about replacing my Victorian gear!

Postscript: Can anyone identify the location from the above clues?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Done, and almost dusted

I'm sure many of my fellow trainee teachers shook the metaphorical dust off their feet as they left their placement school today. Not me. I've had a great time. Busy, but great.

Today, the last day of my last placement, was an "in-service training" day. This was basically a couple of meetings, followed by cake and coffee, before settling down to edit an instruction booklet for S3 web design. (This I could get used to.)

But it was strange to drive out through the gates for the last time. It seems that you're just getting used to a place, making new friends, getting to know the youngsters and finding your way about ... and it's time to move on. (This I'll need to get used to.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Turned out nice again

Those of you who are wondering why the weather has taken a turn for the worse in the Dunbartonshire area, ... I'm afraid it's my fault.

I had my crit (er ... tutor visit) with one of my S2 classes yesterday (Tuesday). (For any American visitors -- I know you're there, 'cause you're on my ClustrMap! --, S2 is roughly Grade 8.) I only see each S2 class once a week for 55 minutes, so I haven't really built up much of a rapport with them. And it doesn't help that there's a complete range of maturity and ability in each class. So I was hoping that, if everything else went well, I could concentrate on keeping the pupils under control.

Here's where the weather factor comes in. The classroom designated for my crit has a wall of south-facing windows and no blackout facilities. (That's a polite way of saying that the curtains have mostly fallen off the rail and apparently can't be put back up again.) During previous lessons in that classroom, the May sunshine was streaming in the window, which is nice if (a) you don't have 21 computers already pumping out magawatts of energy into the un-airconditioned room, and (b) you don't need to use PowerPoint projection.

As I was planning to use an element of PowerPoint, I was praying for bad weather. I know it was selfish of me, and I apologise unreservedly, but at least (on the Monday morning run-through) the PowerPoint was clearly legible, even from the back of the room. Of course, on Tuesday afternoon at 2pm, just to add spice to the crit lesson, the sun peeked through the grey clouds, raising my blood pressure by a couple of notches. But, as those of you who have struggled in to school today with raincoats and umbrellas will know, ... it didn't last!

Mission accomplished, thanks to the wind and the rain.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Back to school

Even though it was a 4-day week, the first week back in school seemed to last forever. It didn't help that, since the S4s are on study leave, my PT thoughtfully filled three of my five S4 slots with a new S1 class. Thursday especially was a long day, teaching four out of the six periods. (But I suppose, as a teacher, I'll have lots more days like that.)

Game Maker interfaceWhile I was away, my three S2 classes (who only get ICT once a week) started on a new program called Game Maker, written by Dutch guru Mark Overmars (the Utrecht professor, not the ex-Barcelona winger).

It's a pretty impressive program, but it's far too complex for many of the S2s, who are forced to follow instructions without really understanding what's going on. I hope to get to grips with it over the summer (... although I don't know of any other schools that use it. Do you?)