I took 27 motivated Year 8s today into town to do some Mission explore inspired geography. I cheated a bit really by asking year 8 teachers to nominate 5 girls a class on the criteria “Who has been working really well in your lessons over the last couple of months?”, so we had some even better than usual pupils with us. Then I cheated some more by repeating a day i had run with year 10. and that was a cheat in itself because I had stolen the idea from guerrilla geography specialists – www.missionexplore.net and their great idea for a guerrilla geography day on gender representation.
So really I have nothing to tell you about top tips for field trips or geography teaching.
Then, even better I got the pupils to do all the work. I sent them off for and hour and a half to collect photos and video clips of how men and women are represented in our town centre. We walked back to school and then I said they had 2 and a half hours to turn their images and clips into videos using the ipads. And then I left them to it. Here is what they produced in no particular order …… If you want to leave any comment on their video to encourage them further , that would be lovely…….
Last week I was taking a group of year 8s just off of our school grounds to do some Mission Explore work for their geography lesson. (See http://www.missionexplore.net)
The next day I received this email forwarding on concerns from a concerned member of the public who had rung in to the school. The email also got copied into some members of SLT. It was like I has been caught doing something I shouldn’t. Here is the correspondence
“A member of the community expressed concern that on Friday morning some of our students were behaving oddly. The member of public saw girls running up and down Woodland Path, some others on their hands and knees on the zebra crossing, causing villagers to remark on their odd behaviour. They thought the girls were truanting from school.”
Do you know what? I am rather proud that my class were doing their mission explore work so well that they got this reaction. They weren’t just indolently lying about wasting their time. They were interacting with their surroundings and seeing their own environment from a new perspective. To me this both good Geography and good Learning.
I am worried about a lot of adults’ opinions of schools. Firstly, these viewpoints are based on what they experienced 10, 20, 30 , 40, 50 , 60 years ago. So their ideas may not all be relevant to how teaching and learning is today. Secondly, and more worryingly, is that these opinions are based on personal perceptions formed by children and teenagers. We all know how a pupil can say about a really caring teacher “oh he really hates me.”, when it is quite obvious this is not the case and the pupil has completely misinterpreted being told off for being disliked. These false understandings then get fixed in the memory as truths. On top of that, these selected and possibly incorrect recollections are then stretched out to form a whole philosophy of education, which is then applied en masse to any situation or issue in education whether it concerns their own child or a whole national government policy.
This is why schools should be getting parents and the wider community across the threshold and into the classroom; not so we can tell them what to think, but in order for their opinions to based on up to date, relevant and accurate information and experiences.
We recently took year 9 on a field trip to study clone town status and retail environments in Bournemouth and Southampton. Or as our pupils called it, ‘going shopping’. The first lesson I had with a year 9 group after the trip went really well. I explained the task, talked through the criteria, explained the level descriptors, handed out a writing frame and set them off. I told them they had the one lesson and a homework to complete the work. The class uniformly started the work promptly and eagerly. It was one of those lessons where I had only to answer perceptive questions and occasionally nudge a pupil to work not chat about x factor. Teaching appeared wonderful. With about ten minutes to go I had a great idea: “because you have worked so well on this I will allow you next lesson as well to complete the work. I have booked the computer room so you can do some extra research or produce some annotated maps and diagrams.” The class left the room and the warm buzz of a lesson well run and happily completed hung in the air.
S, full of my previous success and in the manner of a good reflective practitioner, I adjusted my plan for the next year 9 group I had on the following day. They were my favourite group; hard working yet fun, well behaved but not boring nor passively accepting of what was placed in front of them. Once more I explained the task, talked through the criteria, explained the level descriptors, handed out a writing frame and set them off. Only this time I told them they had two lessons and the homework. The second was to be in the computer room. They mooched around, idled a bit underlined the title and slowly swapped some data. There was no hum of industry, no sense of purpose and no perceptive questioning. What had gone wrong?
Of course I had told them they had twice as long as I had given the first group. The deadline was far enough in the future as to be unimaginable (it was next week) to a teenager. They had no need to push on and get the task completed. The lesson was more fluffy than focused.
I have re-learnt my lesson. Don’t give a y9 group a task that takes more than hour. Break it down into chunks. With the second group I should have said ” you have 30 minutes to write the introduction and method” or something similar. I certainly will with the next class. Or in fact I might just lie to them. Tell them have one lesson and then ‘change my mind’ with 10 minutes to go and give em an extra hour as a reward for their good work. If they work well that is, because you can never tell.