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I Am A Weapon of Mass Instruction

Chapter 17: Period 4: Year 10 Graphics - 12:00-1:00pm

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Letting the Year 7s go should have given me a breather for a moment or two, but one of my Year 10s was already lurking out in the corridor, so my game face remained firmly in place, and after pretending to tell him off for being out of lesson early - which he just smiled at and rolled his eyes at me as I did this nearly every lesson, I directed him inside the classroom.

Seeing that I hadn’t put paper out for the next class, I grabbed a stack of A3 and put it on the front table, telling my early attendee to grab a piece and to sit at the tables rather than up the front or at the computers.
I returned to my post by the door as the Year 10s started to come into the corridor. Because of the way that the timetable was structured, we had half of the year group, while the other half were in PE, so I was able to see the 10s come down from upstairs and either head towards me, or peel off towards the sports hall and the changing rooms.
As I spotted members of my group, they were a bit surprised that I didn’t greet them with my usual ‘Up the front please’, but instead directed them to grab a seat and a piece of paper. Ever keen, Lucy asked if we were up the front before I could even open my mouth.
“No, grab some paper and a seat at the tables today”
“Ooh, special!” she quipped - sometimes it didn’t take much to excite some of the kids.

As the last of them came in - minus the ones who would inevitably be late - I made my way to my desk and did the register, even remembering to mark in those almost-late students who were now coming in.

“Right,” I said in my best teacher-tone at appropriately loud teacher-volume. I often started lessons like this, using a single word to get the kids’ attention and to focus them on the lesson, especially when they were sitting at the tables around the room instead of having them up the front like I usually did. If they were up the front, standing there looking impatient and grumpy usually did the trick, and it wasn’t often these days that I had to turn up the volume to get everyone’s attention.

“Today’s going to be a bit different than usual,” I said, hopefully masking the dread I felt.
It wasn’t as if what I had planned was a recipe for disaster, but the potential for it to become a disaster was there. “As you can see, there are different stations with materials at each of them around the room. The aim for today is to experiment with those materials and see what they can do, what they’re good at doing, and what they’re not good at doing.”

So far so good.

“Why are we doing this? I asked them, looking out over, as usual, a sea of blank faces.
“Because you told us to?” came the comedy reply from Will.
“Well, yes - but besides that? I have harped on about it far too much in the past few lessons…” I said, with the hope that they’d actually recall what we’d been doing for the last few lessons and what I’d been saying.

As ever with this group - who I suspected of either being just lazy or were experiencing Dynamic Lesson Fatigue, where they were just tired of having to Participate and just wanted to be told what to do - just sat there and waited for me to play their part as well as my own and fill in the gaps.

“Because of the AOs?” I said hopefully. Blank faces, or probably more likely, bored faces. AOs stood for Assessment Objectives, and I was certain that all the Year 10s and 11s were getting those words rammed down their throats at every opportunity. Education these days was no longer about doing what you were told because you’d been told to do it, but rather because some target or objective had to be reached. I’d resisted using the phrase for as long as I could, but had eventually given in.

I was now making explicit use of AOs in my lessons, justifying what we were doing because
of what the Objectives said. To my mind, this wasn’t the best strategy to use, particularly because the course we were doing didn’t use the most straight forward language in its targets, and I generally had to rephrase them so the kids would make better sense of them.
It boiled down to them doing what I told them to do anyway, but if anyone looked in, they’d see me using the AOs and a box would be ticked.

“Because the AOs say that you have to show that you can work with a range of materials and justify your choices.” I helpfully told them. We’d gone through this last lesson, so it wasn’t new to them, but I did often wonder how much they actually retained from lesson to lesson.
“I’m happy with the work you’ve already done on the computer, but that’s really only one material, so we’re doing this to prove you can work with other stuff.”
More blank faces. Sometimes you just had to plough onward regardless.

“So, the task for today: mark making. Experiment. Explore. Play.” I’d always hated it when my tutors at Uni had told me to explore and play because it meant that I hadn’t finalised my design ideas yet and had to develop them more, and I was fairly sure my students felt the same way when I said it. “I’m going to give you about 10 minutes at each station, so not long. At the end of the lesson, if you’ve got a page full of marks and different materials, you’ve succeeded. I’m not too worried about it being neat either.”

Extreme blankness.

“Make sense? Everyone understand what I want them to do?” this was my standard phrase before any of the kids got going, a final check that they understood what I wanted them to do. “Anyone not understand what I want them to do?” I paused here in case anyone needed me to go over anything again. “Any questions?”
“Do we have to use all of the materials?” asked Lucy, who generally had no fear of speaking up in class.
“No - I’ve put out more than you’ll probably use, so you’ve got some choice. As long as you can show a range of materials, you’ll get the Pass for this AO.” looking over at her to make sure she understood, I added, “Anyone else?” As no-one else asked me anything - not actually an indication that there weren’t any questions, just that no one else wanted to speak in front of the whole group - it was time to get them going. “Right then - first 10 minute chunk of time. Go!”

Despite looking as if they were victims of the zombiepocalypse, when it was time to go, they almost leapt into action. True to their teenage status, rather than having a look at the materials I’d laid out, they just sat in their normal seats and started with the materials in front of them.

This was an interesting class - it was big to start off with, so that added certain complications to managing them, and brought an extra little throb of dull aching pain to marking their work. There was also, as was usual in the D&T exam classes, a huge variation in ability. At one end of the scale was Ben, who was brilliant and worked hard, Oscar who was brilliant but lazy and Lucy who was brilliant but a little bit mad in an entertaining way.

At the other end was Cally who was lazy and who hadn’t gotten the hang of generating a wide range of ideas. Leah, who had a rubbish attitude, poor attendance and who was always way behind the others in any work we were doing, and the Brain Trust of Ashley and Ian who much preferred to sit there and chat than actually get on with what they were supposed to be doing.

If I had bothered to do a lesson plan - my weekly planning was done in less than five minutes and consisted of me writing what each class was doing as briefly as possible in my planner - you would have seen that as usual, the differentiation would have been classed as ‘by outcome’. Differentiation is how we pitch the lesson to the range of ability groups in our classes. ‘By outcome’ was, admittedly a bit of a cop out, as it was essentially saying that the task was open ended and the higher ability students would produce more or higher-standard work than the lower ability students, and that I had, of course, planned for this to happen.

If I was a more gung-ho, enthusiastic teacher who could warp the space/time continuum to give myself more planning time, I would plan separate resources and tasks for the students in the class. As by this stage I wasn’t gung-ho and barely enthusiastic, so I didn’t. Differentiation was always a bone of contention for me. Knowing our students as I did, and while acknowledging that they came in a range of abilities, I also knew that none of them were stupid, and that they’d figure out pretty damn quickly if they were getting different tasks and would be annoyed if they through they were getting the thicker end of the stick so to speak. I always preferred to give them the same task and they produced what they produced. As one training session I had attended had highlighted, it was all about effort, not ability, something I heartily agreed with.
This task wasn’t really about ability but more about a willingness to not get hung up on it being ‘right’ and to experiment with what the materials could do.

There wasn’t too much I could do in this lesson, other than suggest ways of using materials
if any of the kids looked especially stuck. My main role would be to time-manage the lesson and to disaster-control any accidents that happened along the way, and I fully expected there to be at least one disaster, so I wasn’t in the most relaxed state I could have been in, not that I let that show to the students of course.

Strangely, everything seemed to be going well, something I was always a little suspicious about. They were more or less focused, they were doing what I wanted them to do, and for them they were being relatively quiet about it as well. Admittedly, James was being a tad more enthusiastic with his use of pastels than he really needed to be, but at least he was working instead of being a mouthy so-and-so which was his usual role in the class.

Glancing at the clock, they still had plenty of time left in their first chunk of time, something
I let them know. I never liked a silent room as I knew it wasn’t actually the best working environment for doing creative things. To combat this I’d either put on music or just talk to the students, and when I was wandering around the room, it was more important that I was talking, not really what I said, so the time check and reminders of what they should be doing weren’t really for their benefit, but to cut through the quiet. As these guys were more inclined than other classes to be quite vocal about what they thought about my music choices I’d decided to not put any on for this lesson.

A few more circuits, peering over shoulders as I went, reflecting as I did so that I had always hated it when my own teachers had done that to me (actually, anyone peering over my shoulder when I was drawing or painting annoyed me no end), and their first block of time was almost up.
“Another 30 seconds.” I warned them, meaning it. I had once been told that a strength of my teaching style was that when I gave time warnings, I stuck to those timings, rather than letting a task drag out past them. I’d seen colleagues do this myself when I was doing observations, and always thought it was a bit foolish. If I wanted to give the kids more time, I’d just tell them I was giving them more time, but I was more likely to stop them whether they had finished or not - again, if they’d put the effort in, they’d be finished.

“Right ladies and gents, that’s your first block done.” I told them at my Speaking To A Whole Class But Not To Scare Them volume. “It doesn’t matter what material you choose next, but pick another one and move - you move to the materials, the materials stay where they are.” This was always going to be the tricky part of having a lesson like this - known as setting up a carousel of activities - that the students’ concentration was continually being broken and there was always the possibility of them not getting it back. Plus the probability of something being knocked over in-transit. “I’m going to give you 30 seconds to get to your next station.” Some of them had already made their choice and were getting down to it, but I knew at least a few would faff about if given the opportunity. Surprisingly though, they all made their choices with minimal fuss and even more surprisingly settled down to work with admirable skill. I didn’t want to jinx myself, but maybe this lesson wouldn’t be the disaster I was expecting it to be?

I always called the students ladies and gentlemen, and I’m not sure when or why I started calling them that except that it just felt right. I think the kids appreciated it too, or at the very least they never complained about it. I remember very clearly one time when one of the Science teachers had been re-roomed to my classroom and I was puttering around while she got her group going. She started off the lesson by saying,
“Right boys and girls…” and I remember being quite shocked that she called these Year 10 students boys and girls. Yes, they were boys and girls, but it just sounded quite patronising, and it might be my imagination supplying details that were not actually there, but I’m certain I felt the group bristle because of that turn of phrase. If there’s one thing you don’t want to do to a class is piss them off right at the start of a lesson, it just makes working with them that much harder.

With the 10s apparently into their work and producing good stuff, there was again not all that much for me to do other than patrol the room and keep an eye on the clock. There were, as I expected, a couple of them that needed a prod here and there, and as usual, those needing the prod were the ones who ignored me and needed to be prodded again.

James was the worst culprit for this - he wilfully ignored instructions and would then demand loudly to know what he was supposed to be doing. It was one of my pet hates as a teacher that I’d given instructions as clearly as I could, asked if everyone understood, asked if anyone didn’t understand, and if there were any questions, and then mere minutes later a student like James would ask what they were supposed to be doing. Even when I told him again what he should be doing, he’d just carry on not doing it. When challenged him about why he wasn’t working, he’d come out with the student standard of,
“I am working!” despite all evidence to the contrary.

Today, he was gleefully filling his page with marks with the materials, but was ignoring my direction to make those marks a bit smaller so he could fit more in. I’d already told him once, and I reminded him again now. I’d go on to remind him a few more times over the course of the lesson, and each time he’d ignore me, and then be full of righteous indignation when he got a poor mark for the work. I can still see his page in my head: full of bright orange smudges of pastel.

James was one of those students I fought with because I could see his potential. He was a good illustrator, and when he focused (a rare thing) his work was bold and original, but he rarely listened or put in very much effort and yet always argued that he’d done the work, or handed it in in when in fact he hadn’t. If he put as much effort into his work as he did arguing he would have been at the top of the class.

James also had issues with the school’s uniform rules, namely that he thought that they applied to everyone but him. Not surprisingly, the uniform for the lads included trousers, not jeans, and very definitely not skinny jeans. As James was not the most slender of students, skinny jeans were not a good look for him (beside the fact that guys should never wear skinny jeans in the first place), yet he would wear them day after day, and day after day he would be told to change them.

Luckily for those students who ‘forgot’ to bring the correct uniform with them, the school had spares that they were obliged to change into. If we saw a student in incorrect uniform, we could direct them to The Rack where they’d change. James was a regular visitor to The Rack, but all he'd do was put the trousers on over his inappropriately skinny jeans, and he’d whip them off at break and lunch, necessitating yet another telling off/argument for him to get changed when he was spotted. It was all very dull and boring, and all the more irritating because he knew what was expected of him but went through the rigmarole of being defiant every day. I always marvelled at the capacity of some students to consistently choose the hard way when they could have had a much easier, simpler life.

To my continued surprise, the group was working well, and - mostly - doing what I wanted them to do. They were using their time well and not making a complete mess in the process. I shouldn’t have been surprised at this as they were a good group, but I think there’s some part to being a teacher that you always expected and prepared for the worst, and you were always a bit disbelieving when things went well.

Their second chunk of time ended and with minimal prompting they moved around again, and again they settled back down with minimal fussing. As sceptical and disbelieving as I was about this - I was still expecting something disastrous to happen - this is what should happen in classes, especially in practical classes like mine, and it should just be about the students exploring and experimenting.

It was into this busy studio atmosphere that one of the Senior Team walked. They often popped unannounced into our rooms, just to check that everything was ticking along nicely. Some teachers ignored them and just carried on with what they were doing, but I generally took their entry into the room as them choosing to participate in the lesson, and I would often ask them questions about what we were doing, so that the kids could show off their knowledge when they failed to answer. If they did answer correctly, this was just another voice supporting what I was trying to communicate to the students, so everyone was a winner.

Today it was the Deputy Head that wandered into the room to see what was going on, and keen to reassure him that me appearing to not be doing not very much was all part of the plan, I wandered over to him to explain what they were doing. As ever, I got the impression that what I said, especially when it came to stuff like ‘mark making’, ‘gestural illustration’, and ‘experimentation’, did go over his head somewhat and he just smiled and nodded through sheer politeness.
All the Senior Team were really worried about when they came into lessons like this was: are the students occupied and on task? Is the room under control? Anything else was a bonus; all the buzzwords and phrases in the educational world could be trotted out, but as long as the students were working, we were doing something right.

This was a good class (if I ignored the small handful of students that caused me consistent issues), and they were one of the groups that I looked forward to having. Yes, there were students like James and Emma who sometimes caused more hassle than the rest of the group combined, but on the whole they were minor irritations. Emma was an odd student who ran hot and cold, and I never really knew what I was going to be getting from lesson to lesson. She was a living example of ‘When she was good she was good, but when she was bad she was awful’, and like James, all the more irritating for it because when she put the effort in, her work was very good. But this is a prime example of the perils of teaching - here was a good group and all I can remember and focus on were the students who cause hassle, rather than remember the students who were a joy to have, who did’t need much direction and who produce beautiful work.

Broxi was amazing. A shy, quiet girl, her confidence sang through in her work, and despite her not saying more than a handful of words to me in the entire year, her work - both written and practical - was stunning.

Nathan was yet another slightly odd student (it seemed that we had more than our fair share of those) who although I probably shouldn’t have I really enjoyed having in the class. He was one of those students with a biting sense of humour that trod very close to that imaginary line and on occasion stepped over that line with gusto and glee, to be aghast and horrified when I apparently failed to see the humour and had to have a conversation with him. This was one of the constraints of being a teacher - that most of the time we did get the joke, but couldn't be seen to get it, or to show that we found it quite funny. We had to keep that mask in place and give many a stern lecture on the nature of what was appropriate and what was not.

Nathan did seem to have more than his fair share of times when he stepped over the line, but he was always contrite and apologetic, so it was hard to hold a grudge. There was one time where I may have laid my teacher act on a little too thick however.
The Year 10 Parents Evening was coming up later in the week, and as I always did I reminded the students that what they did in that lesson would be the last thing I saw before I saw their parents - the implication clearly being that they shouldn’t do anything boneheaded that I would remember and pass onto their parents. As ever, such a warning was unheard by some of the students.

It was Nathan’s turn to say something idiotic this time, and he foolishly added that if I passed it on to his mother, she’d never believe me anyway.
“Oh really?” I responded, adding a raised eyebrow into the mix to communicate my disbelief.
“Yeah,” he said with that oh-so charming grin of his that he thought worked on everyone but didn’t. “And even if she does and tells me off, I’ll just stab her.” Now, clearly this was a joke - I knew it, he knew it and his mates sitting next to him knew it, but this was not just stepping over the line but jumping over it, running back to jump over it again and then scuffing it out with his foot. I could ignore it and let it pass, but in one of those split-second judgements that you came across all too often in the classroom, I decided that it was time that Nathan needed to take a little more care and that he should think a bit faster himself before he opened his mouth.

“I’m sure she’ll be delighted when I tell her that you said that as well.” I said in a flat tone, clearly communicating that I was unamused and that I was no longer going along with the joke. The other students picked up on the change in mood, but Nathan was a bit slower on the uptake.
“You won’t though” he said cheerily, attempting to call my bluff and not quite making it. “Would you?” he said, doubt and the realisation of who he was talking to hitting him.
“Of course I would,” I said, shattering his hopes, “We take threats of violence very seriously.” Which we did, it was one of the things that was taken exceptionally seriously at school, and could result in a very uncomfortable interview with one of the Safeguarding team if it was passed along.

“But it was just a joke,” he said, trying and apparently failing to convince me of his innocence.
“Didn’t sound very funny to me - all I heard was you threatening to stab and possibly kill your mother. Do you see me laughing?” I said, milking this and making it very clear to him that I was having a terminal sense of humour failure.
“But…” he started to say, and then words failed him as he realised what he’d actually said.
“I think you’ve said enough Nathan.” and I turned around and walked back to my desk.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the class was several notches quieter than they usually were, because as was usual they had all listened in to what was happening and knew that I was - apparently - not in the mood to be messed about. What was a little surprising was that a few minutes later Nathan tentatively approached my desk. When I looked up at him, he asked,
“You’re not going to tell my parents what I said are you? Please don’t.” in proper, correct educational terms, Nathan was clearly, as we would say, shitting himself.

“I’ll have to make that decision later Nathan. I’m not sure I can ignore it.”
“Please don’t, they’ll go mental.”
“At this point, I’m fairly sure that you deserve to have them go mental at you.” I pointed out, as far from the caring, supportive educator as I could get.
“But…”
“I think you need to get on with your work, don’t you Nathan.” I said firmly, signalling an end to the conversation. As many a student would realise, Nathan saw that the best thing he could do would be to beat a hasty retreat, tail firmly between his legs and hope to hell that I would calm down and forget what he’d said by the time Parents Evening rolled around, so he slunk away.

I underestimated however the level of his guilt and his worry that I’d say something to his parents, as Nathan made a reappearance by my desk during break time later in the day. Like a broken record - a phrase sometimes used buy teachers, myself included, to the confusion of the students who didn’t really know what a record was; how cruel the passage of time can be! - his opening gambit was,
“You’re not going to tell them are you? You can’t.” he really was bricking it, and it had obviously been weighing on his mind since the end of class.
“Well, I can,” I said, stating the blindingly obvious. “The problem is whether I will or not. Give me a good reason not to.” This was one of my standard lines when talking to students, the offer to not do something - to not call home, or to not set a detention. What was depressing was how infrequently the kids supplied the obvious answer: ‘Because I won’t do it again’.

For once, desperation perhaps giving Nathan the needed inspiration and motivation, a student came out with the right answer on the first offer.
“Because I won’t do it again. I didn't mean it,” he added with a touch of desperation.
Of course, I had never intended to mention it to his parents, or to anyone else, as I knew
that what he’d said was a poor attempt at a joke. I did feel a slight, unfamiliar twinge of guilt because Nathan was taking it all so seriously, and I knew it was time to throw him a lifeline, although of course, I would appear to do so grudgingly.
“As long as you understand that it was a completely inappropriate thing to say; technically I should have reported it straight away. I don’t want to hear anything like that leave your mouth again - do you understand?”
“Yes, Sir” he meekly supplied.
“Then make sure that you don’t and we’ll call that the end of the matter.” I said “And you owe me a favour for not telling them.” I added, as it was always a good thing to remind the students that you’d been the one to get them out of trouble.
“Yes, Sir”
“Good. Now get off to break, and do think before you open your mouth.”

Despite this incident, Nathan was a good guy, and although he continued to tread close to the line, he was one of those students that you could spark off in a lesson that made things more lively and interesting.

Ben, Tim and Ed were joys to have in the class, and although Ben and Ed were both very quiet, their work more than made up for any lack of witty banter, which was supplied in
more than ample quantities by other students anyway. All three of them were keen and enthusiastic, and although their styles were very different, their work was beautiful.

What surprised me, but really shouldn’t have, was that Ed seemed completely unaware of how good his illustration skills were. The first project I did with the group was an illustration project, and for his work Ed had produced frankly a remarkable piece based around a spaghetti junction on a motorway as seen from above. It was beautiful and delicate and the line work was fantastic - all of which I told him.

I always suspected that when I gushed like this over a student’s piece of work they just thought that I was a babbling idiot. There was just that look of ‘What on earth are you talking about?’ on their faces, which unfortunately just made me whitter on some more in the hopes of convincing them. When it came to choosing which of his ideas he was going to work with, Ed was going to completely ignore his motorway illustration as he thought it wasn’t very good. It was one of the things that I always struggled to get the students to understand: to try and see the potential in their ideas.
“That one.” I’d often say to a student, pointing to one of their ideas that I thought was obviously the idea to choose.
Really?” they’d reply with, the doubt and frank disbelief ringing clear in their voice. It would then be my job to convince them of the worth of their work.

So far, the lesson had been going really well, and if I was put under extreme pressure I might have been prepared to admit that my fears of it going completely pear-shaped might have been a little misplaced. Perhaps it was my overly-sceptical and cynical nature coming to the fore, but I really shouldn’t be surprised when things went well, and I’d very grudgingly admit that they went well most of the time.
No ink had been splattered everywhere or over anyone, the water for the paints hadn’t been spilled and no one’s work had been ruined. Even more to my surprise, no one had screwed up their work in a hissy fit, claiming that it was ‘wrong’, something that always managed to annoy me no end because it was a complete waste of time, and the work had been quite nice before being consigned to the bin.

Scanning around the room once more, I was satisfied to see that all the students had some work to show for the lesson. Okay, a couple of them were a bit on the enthusiastic side and James’ work showed that he’d certainly played with the materials, just perhaps a little more energetically then I had hoped, but he had something in front of him, and it was evidence we could use, so I couldn’t complain too much.

Other students had done the bare minimum, but again, it was evidence we could use, so I’d keep my more critical comments to myself. Kids like Ben, Lucy, Broxi and Courtney had gone above and beyond, although that was normal for them. They'd done exactly what I wanted and had a good range of marks and experiments, it looked as neat and ordered as this kind of work could be, and they’d also annotated their work, commenting on what was working well, what wasn’t and what they might be able to use the different materials for.

The students hated annotating work, and it was something that we had to go over with them again and again and again. For some of them to have done it with minimal prompting and to have done it well was almost unheard of. This was a classic example of differentiation by outcome: the weaker students had scraped through doing the bare minimum, through lack of ability or lack of effort, and it showed. The higher ability students shone out - their work was presented in a far better manner, they’d actively experimented as opposed to just mucking about about with the materials, and had been able to comment and discuss the positives and negatives for each. The added bonus was that they’d done all this with minimal input from me. You could perhaps suggest that this was because the students had been trained up well, and they knew what they had to do, but you'd be mistaken. To my knowledge, the students hadn’t done anything like this before, certainly not with me anyway. It was an educational version of natural selection: the strongest survived the best and were able to put on a good display doing so.

I’d also inherited this group from my old Head of Department, who had left the previous summer. As any teacher willing to have a good moan will tell you, it’s always tricky taking a group over from another teacher as they wouldn’t have done things the way you would have done them, which is to say, the correct way.

Added to this complication was that the previous teacher wasn’t a Graphics specialist whereas I was, so I had a different take on what the students could and should do in order
to get the grades - there were certain tricks that I knew were really easy to do but looked impressive that went down very well with the examiners that a non-specialist might not know. Put it this way: while - allegedly - I was a general D&T teacher and could apparently teach all the specialisms, I knew in my heart that I might be able to stand up in front of a class in any of the specialisms, being able to teach them well was another matter entirely.

Food Technology was in a world of its own in terms of specialist knowledge and timings,
and having taught it to the Lower school before, I was more then happy to leave the exam courses to Lorraine. I was the same with Product Design and Resistant Materials. I could do
it at a basic level, and even scrape the kids through the exam specification, but I would never say that I was able to do it well. Graphics was what I knew best and where I got my best results.

To make things even more complicated was that we were doing a new course this year
and no one, not myself, my Head of Department or our Second in Department really had a handle on what we were really supposed to be doing. The exam specification was somewhat vague and I was interpreting it the best I could with very little guidance. My Head of Department was not familiar with the exam specification or Graphics and was very keen to point out at awkward moments that I was in charge of Graphics (in fact, I wasn’t, I was just timetabled to teach it; that didn't make me ‘in charge’ and it was really her job to be aware of the exam specifications and have oversight of all the administration of it.) and then let me sort any problem out.

So we were all feeling our way forward with no small amount of trepidation, and it wasn’t until our exam moderator came in for a visit later in the year that I was able to heave an enormous sigh of relief when he said that everything looked fine and that he was very impressed with the standard of the design work. It wasn't the best situation, but like most things in a school context you just had to get on with it and try and make it work.

At the beginning of the year I had thrown a minor hissy fit of my own when I looked through the students’ sketchbooks and had not been very impressed with what I had seen there. This was made worse when I innocently asked one of the students how long they had been working on the current project, expecting the answer to be something in the region of two weeks. When the actual answer of eight weeks was duly supplied, I was left slack-jawed and even less impressed than I had before.

 

When I’d looked through their books, work had been a bit thin on the ground, but I justified this by telling myself that they were still warming up and I had two years to get them their exam grade. The last project, consisting of on average three or four pages wasn’t inspiring me much and apparently wasn’t inspiring the kids much either. The only one who looked as
if she really understood what she was doing was Broxi. So to find out that most of them had produced four pages in eight weeks, I was equal parts furious and terrified that this was what I had to work with.

Eight weeks! Each class had two D&T lessons a week, plus an hour’s worth of homework (I always counted homework in calculations like these, despite being open and honest about how rubbish I was at setting homework), so they had had 24 hours in which to do the ‘work’ they’d presented. Six hours per page. Needless to say, this was 100% unacceptable. In a situation like this, I could soldier on bravely and doggedly with students who knew I wasn’t happy with what they’d done and with a project that most of them apparently didn’t get, or - a little bit more controversially - I could stop them and guide them through a more appropriate project and start them off as I meant them to continue.

Obviously I stopped them, as I don’t think I could have faced to see them move on from the frankly poxy start they’d made on the project. So it was with no small amount of smug satisfaction that I noticed that the work they produced throughout the year was infinitely better than the dross they’d started off with.

With the end of the lesson approaching, and no disasters to rescue anyone from, it was time to pack up, and I was going to give myself a little longer than usual to get it done. Well, I say
I was going to give myself more time, what I meant was that I was going to give the students more time - I had no problem at all with getting resources and materials set up for them at the start of the lesson, but they had been the ones using them, so they were the ones to be packing up. I started off by stopping them and letting them know that they were going to be packing up, adding my usual,
“You saw how the room was presented to you at the beginning of the lesson, that’s how I expect it to look at the end.” to let them know that they wouldn’t be leaving if there was any form of mess left around.

To their credit, they did a good job. Materials were left in tidy piles at the front of the room, brushes were washed and not left in a complete mess in the sink, and tables were wiped down in very short order. The work I collected in, and any work that was still wet was left to dry on the back table - as it was lunch next there was time for it to dry and I’d collect it later.
I gathered the materials and put them back where they belonged, and by then bags had been grabbed and coats put on. Considering how much I had dreaded this lesson because of the many things that could have gone wrong, it couldn’t have gone better, and for perhaps the first time the thought went through my head that I wish I’d been observed doing the lesson.

There was only one thing left to do: look annoyed and tell them that I was waiting for quiet.
I wasn’t annoyed, but I had appearances to keep up. Even though the bell hadn’t gone, they’d done so well that they deserved a little reward, and so with a,
“Thank you - brilliant lesson everyone. Off you go.” and nod of the head in the direction of the door, off they went to lunch, and I could breath a sigh of relief.

Fatigue Lv: 7 - constant levels of anticipation of disaster can be wearing
Preparation Lv: 2 - no need to prepare for lunch time!
Fear & Dread Lv: 32 - the lesson had gone well, so I was allowing myself to be calmer
Fake Anger Lv: 12 - the Year 10s expected a certain level of grumpiness
Real Anger Lv: 1.25 - things were going suspiciously well…
People who have annoyed me: 15 - the usual lazy culprits had annoyed me
Time remaining in the day: 3 hours, 50 minutes