Today – Wednesday 17th March – was a busy day. A day that stretched my limits. And a day that has a left me thinking.
The first part of the day was spent visiting the West London Academy to visit my old colleague Florence Wayas who is now Head of Science at the school. I gave a highly improvised version of my temperature talk to four groups of 90+ students from Years 7, 8, and 9. I found the visit very moving.
The school was architecturally beautiful. It was a real pleasure to simply to be inside such a gorgeous building. But academically the school was poor. Indeed I am sure the school barely judged itself on its academic performance. Its challenges were rather more immediate. The sessions involved students with a wide range of both abilities and disabilities – I have never been in a school which coped so seamlessly with 5 wheel chair bound students.
I talked about temperature as I have often done – and indeed hopefully on a few students my talk and the things I showed will have made an impression. But talking with the teachers and the students certainly left an impression on me. And they made me reflect on an elitist aspect of my current views on education. For these students, whose aspirations were in general so low, the teachers spoke highly of the explicit relevance of a new AQA course they were following. For example Chemistry and Physics were taught in a module called ‘Cook’. The physics was about heat transfer, and the chemistry was about the changes that occurred during ‘cooking’. It didn’t seem to me any more than a knowledgeable teacher could add to regular lessons, but here knowledgeable teachers were thin on the ground. So it seems here the QCDA have a ‘market’ that finds their exams challenging. I still feel that there are many many students who are not fully challenged and it is important to challenge and stretch all students. But I found the work they were doing at this school slightly humbling.
And then I finished up with a presentation of a modified Protons for Breakfast talk on Global Warming. I rather messed up the talk and I really want to sort the talk out so it is the right length. However I did get a couple of experimenst into the talk and they both worked – I will describe them in a future blog. Anyway: I ended the day knackered: returning home 15 hours after I had left it.