Tuesday, 5 February 2013

It is quite possible to work without results, but never will there be results without work

The run up to Christmas was immense and I was so tired when we eventually got to the holidays. I find myself sleeping deeper and deeper as the term ends and the holidays approach to the point that you are too tired to dream. It was incredibly busy with fourth year prelims, a parents’ night, fun time happy quizzes, Christmas concerts and some teaching for good measure. For the vast majority of time everything is awesome, students come to class, engage, have fun and leave happy, having learned something new. It’s been a fantastic school year so far with loads of highs and very few lows. What does one write about when all is going great? There are only so many times I can write about how awesome the first years are doing. Saying that, we recently changed the level they were working at: we started doing the same work as the top sets (I teach both first year second sets) and they are eating it up. They did a fun time happy quiz not so long ago and absolutely beasted it. I was very happy for them all and they were overjoyed to see the how the fruits of their labour paid off. They are a mirror image of the fourth years - they  did very little work last year, not a huge amount this year and bombed at their first prelim. As they say “you reap what you sow!”

The fourth years got a bit of a land when they got their prelim (mocks) results back. In fairness, last year was very unstable for these students; they had a few different teachers and not a lot of stability. This was compounded by the fact that they took advantage of the lack of stability and did absolutely no work last year. This was not idle preparation for their fourth year or their exam. Hopefully the prelim results will awaken them to the mountain of work we will have to get through to have any success this summer. Most of them totally bombed in their exam and some of them would have been better off using their paper to clean some windows for all the good writing on it did. All is not lost though - the upside of this is that reality is finally starting to bite and some of them are getting down to revision. We are not looking for 100%, we are looking to pass and since they can only get a 1 (>75%), a 2 (50 - 75%) or a fail (<50%), we will settle for a 2. A few students did very well and they have been moved up to the top class where, hopefully, with the aid of a great teacher and like-minded individuals around them, they will kick on and do really well. For the rest this is probably as fair as they will go in their journey in mathematics as higher maths is certainly beyond most. This is a good thing though, there is no point in doing higher maths unless you really like maths and have a good solid foundation as there is a huge workload to get through in the space of a year. For many of my students it would be too big an ask and since university is the goal for most of them they would be better off picking 5 other Highers that they would enjoy more and at which they are better. A good credit grade is almost essential to gaining university acceptance so I hope they now focus and get on with the job in hand. January is the month for the fourth year’s parent teacher evening and was a great opportunity to pass on this message. Armed with such strong statistics it would be easy to paint a pessimistic outlook for the majority of students but what would be the benefit of that? The message was simple: very little work has been done so far and there was a lot of instability last year but that is in the past, time to knuckle down and get on with the job. Everyone took this on board, we agreed strategies to help their sons and daughters and hopefully this will produce results. One lady did think that a miracle was her son's preferred option to hard work but eventually decided that it was not a good idea to bet on such odds and even if he was due a miracle it would probably be wasted on his maths exam!

It was my birthday this week and I turned 33. You would not believe the joy it brought to my students to find out that their Irish maths teacher turned 33! One young lady in first year could not stop laughing for about five minutes. The class settled down, we started to work and then she started laughing again. I asked her what was going on and she said with delight ”That means in May you will be 33 and a third!” This brought the house down much to my amusement. All I can say is she is mathematically on the ball! Onwards and upwards then...

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