I am grateful for the cover supervisors who do a thankless task in covering classes these days. I have said this before, but man alive, have I done some maths covers in my time, particularly at planet QM. It got so bad that I was asked for an appointment for parents evening by one kid as I had covered his class so much.
It is hard to teach maths – it is great that once they master something. Kids love to do the same process or calculation time and time again. They find it comforting – a sort of algebraic ‘copying out’.
What is hard is introducing a new term or equation to students, especially when you only know your way of doing the new calculation yourself.
I have learned over the years that the following verbs are essential when teaching maths:
Addzez (+) eg. “3 addz 4 is 7”
Takesawayz (-) eg. “13 takesawayz 2 is 11”
Timezez (x) eg. “ 2 timezez 2 is 4”
Guzinterz (÷) eg. “6 guzinterz 24 4times”
Inspections OFSTED had not been invented when I first started teaching. Instead you got dropped in on by Borough ‘advisors’ on a very infrequent and irregular basis.
During one lesson observation of a Tea-club member tension was building. As the class beavered away, putting together a spice rack, or some such wooden contraption, the advisor scuttled around the workshop with his pen and clipboard, occasionally asking the teacher inane questions.
The Tea-club member normally did not take any messing and the advisor clearly irritated him. When another “shouldn’t you be doing it this way?’ question came his way the teacher finally lost it.
“Right lads,” bellowed the irate teacher “tools down, machines off!” The wagon load of monkeys that was this year 10 class ground to a halt and silence returned to the workshop.
“Now then lads, as you can see we have a visitor today, a Mr Jones. He is a so called expert in woodwork teaching and I have decided that he knows far more about my job than I do, so I am going to leave you both to it and go for a brew.”
Then beckoning with his hands he introduced both parties, “Lads. Mr Jones.” “Mr Jones, meet the lads, they are all yours!” and then walked out and left them to it! Old school!
Those were the days Part II
An “old school” teacher of what was then called Woodwork & Technical Drawing (I think it is called RM now, or is it D&T?) had his own personal policy with regards to cover.
The school had an 8 period day and cover was managed by a member of SLG. No computer networks then, you got given a slip of paper the cover details on it. These dreaded cover slips got delivered by students that ran around the school looking for you at the start of the day. When the said “old schooler” got given a slip he would often be found in the T-club (see later) having a snout. The bloke would squint through the smoke drifting from the fag drooping in the corner of his mouth and say ‘That’s number 6 lads now – not long to go’.
He had a large bulldog clip hung on a notice board in his workshop. It was used to collect cover slips. When he reached 8 that was it. The next full teaching day he had, bang, he would be “ill” – in his reasoning 1 day of cover = 1 day off in lieu. He would always take a sickie on an 8 period day to get his full pay-back.
The man would do this regular as clockwork, and it did not take long for him to clock them up, as the school was a little less gentile than here – so there were long term absences and also supply teachers would turn their noses up and a day of work there.
Cover got so bad at times that I covered the same maths class 4 weeks running. When I went to the HOD to ask what to do in the last week as we had finished the chapter – he replied ‘any chance you can set them a test?’ I was even asked for appointments for parents’ evening from some of the students in that group as I had taught them more than the regular teacher.
There was an art to using these. The real trick was not go too slow, or the ink smudged; going quick was the way, but too fast ended up getting the machine jammed.
The staff room had different smells and sounds then. The big Banda machine certainly provided a lot sound and that characteristic organic solventy smell when it was being used at full pelt.
Geographers loved them – all those colours!
Bottom set year 11 loved them – scratch and sniff!
Drinking was a cultural thing when I first started teaching. The last day of the Christmas term was notorious and one would often get invited to various gatherings.
A typical day would start at
8 am Port and Stilton in Music with the legend that had his own optics.
Break Gin slings in the Maths office or
Mulled wine & mince pies in Science
The mulled wine was cooked up using a tripod, gauze & Bunsen burner in a large Pyrex flask and served in 100ml beakers.
Lunch the kids went home and the Tea-club Christmas dinner started.
In addition PE would be an all day ‘open house’ serving cocktails & nibbles – a young suave blonde(then) Head of Boys PE was host and maître d’. Hawaiian shirts and flip flops were part of the dress code to the PE department one year.
When one mentions a Gentleman’s Club these days, people think more White Horse on the West Wycombe Road than The RAC Club.
The Tea-club was an ‘old school’ gentleman’s club that was based in a metal work workshop. Club membership was granted to me only after I wrote a letter of application that was seconded by a club member.
There was always tea available that was brewed in a big enamelled tin tea-pot. No women were allowed in the club – not that many wanted to join! Other colleagues that needed to speak to a club member would often knock and wait at the door if they paid a visit.
Typical members were Matt Morse the music “optics” teacher, the metalwork ‘cover’ teacher and my mentor, Richard Michaels who got me in to the tea club. Before gaining membership I would not have to knock before coming in.
President of the T-club was a salt of the Earth head of technology. He would often cook himself breakfast on the top of the ceramics oven. This oven was used to roast the turkey for the end of term meal. The President would get into work in the early morning to fire up the bird, the spuds were popped in during lesson time and sprouts & veg cooked on top.
At the end of school on that last day we had had a few drinks beforehand, by the close of the meal it was carnage. The traditional after dinner game was to try and get from one end of the workshop to the other without touching the floor. Only half the room had work benches, the last half was the tricky bit. You had to either climb over the machinery like lathes and bandsaws, which was nearly impossible. The reckless alternative was to jump up and monkey swing from the service pipes and cables on the ceiling. This manoeuvre was made more difficult by being pelted by uneaten sprouts as you tried to reach your goal! As darkness fell you could see the wives and girlfriends sat in their cars parked up at the back of the workshop with the engines running waiting in the cold to take their better halves home.
The Tea-club Christmas meal bit the dust circa 1991 when one of the deputies (Reg Ball) paid the Tea-club a visit to try and call things to a halt. “This cannot go on” he told us. “People are making comments about it” After delicate negotiations where the Tea-club view was it was a tradition and in fact had “become custom and practice” The resulting stand off was broken by Reg when he said “Ok. What is it going to cost me to get you boys to cancel the Christmas dinner and get yourselves to the pub?” A £50 cash donation from the deputy to start the whip was enough to break our resolve and the gents went to the pub instead that year.