Tuesday 17 January 2012

Satisfactory is Not Good Enough

I have just read a news article from the BBC which has made me rage. (link)

So they're planning to change the "Satisfactory" label to "Requires Improvement". Hmm.

I've had a few discussions with fellow teachers on why we shouldn't use the word "satisfactory". It sounds too insulting. Saying someone is a satsfactory teacher sounds a bit negative, even though the underlying implication is that the teacher is good enough, doing fine, performing as required, no need to worry. A better word might be "fine" or "ok".

But instead of changing satisfactory to a word with fewer negative connotations, they've made it worse! "Requires improvement". How dare they? If you are satisfactory, you do not require improvement. The definition of satisfactory is "Fulfilling expectations or needs; acceptable, though not outstanding or perfect." (thanks dictionary.com). If you require improvements, then surely you are not satisfactory? But Cameron has decided "just good enough is, frankly, not good enough". RAGE.

So basically you're moving the goalposts so that "Good" now means "Satisfactory" (and is hence no longer a compliment), and anything below that is bad. How incredibly demoralising. Is that what you want, Mr Gove?*

Obviously all teachers should be striving to improve, and observations help us to be reflective practitioners and develop our weaknesses. But telling us we're not good enough (when actually we are adequate) is demotivating and also just mean.

Teachers really don't get praised enough. We get better and better GCSE and A Level results every year, and you never hear anyone saying, "wow, teachers have done really well for us this year, the future of society is looking good thanks to our fine teachers". No, you hear "exams are getting easier" and "it's because teachers are teaching to the test, not teaching proper understanding". We never win.

You know what's going to happen next, don't you? "Good" become "requires improvement" and the only acceptable standard will be "Outstanding". More and more teachers will leave the profession for a job where you get the occasional pat on the back. Good graduates won't want to train as teachers when they could have cushy office jobs. We'll have a shortage, and then what?

On a more rational note, don't you think that "requires support" is a much nicer alternative to "requires improvement"? It puts the onus on the school leadership team to help the teacher improve, rather than the teacher (who is probably doing the best they can). One better would be to make it "would benefit from extra support" but that's a bit wordy. I just don't like that word "requires". It sort of implies an "...or else".

Anyway, this has been way too wordy, sorry about that. I'm just a little bit cheesed off.

I hope you all have a good week (because anything less than good would be unsatisfactory, obviously).

Emma x x x

*I realise this is not directly Mr Gove's initiative, but still.
PS I had to google to make sure Gove is the education guy, because I wasn't entirely sure. I fail politics forever.

Saturday 7 January 2012

Using Drama in Maths Lessons: QVC

I thought I'd already blogged about this before on NQTpi, but apparently not, it's just on my old blog.

A few weeks ago at my academy we had a "No Pen Day". The idea was the whole week was focused on SEN, in particular communication difficulties. No Pen Day was supposed to encourage pupils to use verbal communication skills: speaking, explaining, reading, debating, listening, and responding. I had year nine for a double lesson on that day, so I had to plan lots of activities that involved no writing, and focused on speaking and listening.

One of the activities I planned was one of the aces up my sleeve: my QVC script which me and my friends wrote during our PGCE. Credit must go to a certain educational expert, initials RWP (I can't write his full name because when he does one of his regular self-googles he will complain that one of the first results is my blog. He has complained before), for inventing this activity and telling us about it. Credit also has to go to my fellow script-writers Lydia, Giulian, Charlie, Naresh and Paul. Thanks guys!

Anyway, the activity is this:

L.O. To learn about properties of shapes, to be able to communicate maths orally, to be able to work collaboratively.

Students should be in groups of about 4 or 5. You can give each group a shape or you can get the students to choose their own. Students must research the special properties of their shape (lines of symmetry, parallel lines, etc) and produce a QVC (home shopping channel) style advert as if they were selling that shape as a product.

After researching and then writing the script and rehearsing, the students perform their adverts one group at a time. After each one, discuss the properties that were mentioned, and also discuss how effectively the group communicated the information.

If your class is a bit shy and a bit unsure of what to do, it helps to start off by modelling a good advert by performing one yourself. Choose some students who are confident readers and give them a script similar to the one below. Read the part of "Emma" yourself (change the name if you like!) and try to make it as hammy as possible to encourage the students.

Tried and Tested

As I said earlier, I have done this exact activity with my year nine set one class and they enjoyed it. They found the initial performance funny and were engaged in writing their own scripts. However when it came to performing they were laughing too much to be understood. I should have allowed more preparing and rehearsing time. I think this is an activity for a double lesson really.

The Original Script
by Me, Lydia, Giulian, Charlie, Naresh and Paul

Emma: (In obnoxiously cheerful voice) Hello everybody! Today we’ve got some fabulous products for you which I’m really excited about. Our first product today is the Square, which is available at Today’s Special Value price of £17.99. Now I’m joined by Paul today who’s going to tell you a little bit more about the Square. So Paul, what’s so special about the Square?

Paul: Well Emma, I would say that the Square is really the Obama or the Ed Milliband of the shape world, because it’s all about equality. You see each side of a square is equal.

Emma: Are you saying each side is exactly the same length? That’s amazing!

Paul: Yes Emma, they are exactly equal. And that’s not all, all four angles in the Square are also exactly equal.

Emma: Unbelievable! And what angle is that?

Paul: Well I’ll tell you this Emma, (chuckles) none of them are wrong!
Entire group laughs in that horribly fake way QVC presenters do

Emma: Well that is truly outstanding, and don’t forget today you can buy the Square for just £17.99. Now Charlie, can you tell me any of the other features of the square?

Charlie: Well Emma, you might not know this but the Square actually has a lot of symmetry (folds the square in several ways) it has not one, not two…

Emma: no, surely not three!

Charlie: …three, four lines of symmetry!

Emma: Four lines of symmetry for only £17.99!

Charlie: But wait, there’s more! Not only does it have reflectional symmetry, it also has rotational symmetry! (Demonstrates)

Paul: What a truly outstanding product the square is! I wonder, Naresh, do you know of any famous places that are named after the Square?

Naresh: Yes, in fact there are many places named after the Square! There’s Leicester Square, where people have some really good parties, none of which would be possible with out the Square. There’s Trafalgar Square (holds up picture of pigeon with Nelson’s column in the background) where there are giant pigeons and no people… There’s also St Peter’s square, which is where the Pope goes.

Emma: So are you saying that the square has religious benefits too? And that in fact by buying the square you are actually getting closer to God? And that by paying just £17.99 you can guarantee yourself a place in heaven?

Naresh: That’s exactly what I’m saying Emma. But if you’re not religious, there’s also Red Square…

Emma: Now tell me Lydia, are there any other uses for the Square?

Lydia: Yes Emma, if you purchase 64 Squares you can put them together as shown (holds up picture) and make yourself a chessboard!

Emma: So you can actually make yourself a game! And all for just £17.99 times 64! Which I can’t work out…

Paul: Emma, I don’t need to work it out to know it’s a bargain!

Lydia: And you can also use lots of the squares put together to tile your bathroom floor!

Paul: So there’ll be no more urinating on carpets, which means a much more hygienic bathroom!

Emma: In fact, the Square is so much more hygienic, you could probably throw away all your other cleaning products. I am giving you the chance to revolutionise your entire cleaning routine from just £17.99!

Lydia: Giulian has some other ideas for what you can do with Squares.

Giulian: (shaking with uncontrollable laughter, having still not recovered from Paul’s urinating comment) you can buy six squares and put them together as a cube, taking you into the fabulous third dimension, for when two dimensions are just not enough!

Emma: Call the number on the bottom of your screen if you’d like to buy the Square for today’s Special Value Price of just £17.99.

You should probably adapt the script to suit the age and ability of your class. Also you should remove any lines you find particularly offensive. I removed the bit about urinating, for example.

A variation on the QVC advert is to do an episode of Crimewatch, where you describe the shape as if it's a wanted criminal. Another group did that on our PGCE and it was hilarious.

Please use this activity and let me know how it goes! Pass the link to this page on to other teachers so they can read it and think about using it too. I would appreciate the extra traffic on my little ol' blog :) .

Emma x x x