Not only could Jim Chinnor teach, but another string to his bow was he was in charge of the school’s “Charities Week”, which was an absolute blast. Charities week was traditionally held on the last week before the Christmas holidays.
This whole week had a semblance of chaos about it, but it had a tried and tested format.
In fact how Jim pulled it off each year I will never know, but he knew how to delegate effectively; each Year 11 form took responsibility for an event during the week. Jim briefed them and let them loose on their projects. Publicising the events, production and sale of show tickets, the rehearsals (where a lot of the weaker acts were weeded out), booking the Hall and such like were jobs that the kids had to do. It was all part of being a Year 11 student. They just did it.
There were student talent shows set up for lower & upper school kids to have a shot at the big time in front of their peers. These shows were held at lunchtimes – tickets were sold by Year 11 students.
Two of the members of Scouting for Girls played at one such school talent show and one lad brought his Dad down to play at another show!
The staff talent show was the highlight of the week – that is another future post I think.
Tickets for the Charity Auction were always particularly sought after. Held for a double period between break and lunch on the Tuesday, the auction was presided over by Reg Ball, a deputy head who was an auctioneer and antiques dealer in his spare time. The auction was always a hot ticket, because possession of one got you out of lessons 3 and 4 on that Tuesday.
The Year 11 form in charge of the auction would write to businesses, sports clubs, even celebrities to ask for donations of goods and services that they could put up for auction. In the days before e-mail and the internet it was amazing to see what the kids gathered in for the event.
Musical chairs competitions were always arranged some time during the week and they were often brutal, almost gladiatorial affairs. Jim Chinnor somehow always managed to organize and control these sessions without a hitch . He would get a whole year group down into the school hall and make all the students to cough up a quid to enter. Then Jim would get about 100 chairs slung out in the middle of the hall, get the 240 or so students from one specific year group to trot around the outside edges of the hall and you can guess what happened when the music stopped! Anyone remember that children’s television programme hosted by Mike Reid “Run Around”, if so you catch my drift.
Risk assessments and health and safety were not de rigueur then needless to say. The students got whittled down to a single winner in a cauldron of noise and pure energy. The din in there could be deafening as the tension built with students cheering on their favourite.
On one occasion in the final play off one student, who clearly could not get to the last chair in time, pulled the seat away from the winner as they tried to sit down. This made Jim mad as hell. He tore into the guilty student whilst the rest of the year group looked on. Half way through his rant he spat out his false teeth and in a blink of an eye caught them in one hand and popped them back in place without pausing from delivering his verbal dressing down. It was one of those jaw-dropping moments where you double take and turn to the person next to you and ask, “Did you just see that?”
Old School Science
There used to be a position in the teaching profession that had a very basic job title – “senior teacher”. As opposed to the modern terms such as “assistant vice principal” or “associate head teacher”, the position of senior teacher was a post that was simple and easy to get to grips with. The position could be quantified by the fact that it merited an “E allowance” on the old pay scale.
You were experienced, respected, and on the ball if you were a senior teacher. They knew what they were doing. Some were gun slingers (do we call them behaviour managers now?), some were planners and organisers (suppose these folks are now SIMS/curriculum/timetable coordinators today), but one thing that they had in common was they were all superb classroom practitioners and had a bit of presence about them (were they old school ASTs?) All I know is I do not see them around these days – dinosaurs I suppose, killed off by the “fast trackers” and well-dressed office types.
Jim Chinnor was a senior teacher who remained in the same school long enough to teach the kids of the kids he had taught a generation before. Physics was his specialism. He was a legend.
Jim was a pure magician when it came to holding a class’ attention. The way he held most groups’ interest was through his anecdotes and stories that related to the science theories that he was teaching and he also loved a good practical – as most kids do.
He had a special way of demonstrating to students the principle of heat conduction in a metal bar. The bog standard way is to stick drawing pins onto a copper bar using wax or petroleum jelly. (See video below) When the bar is heated with a Bunsen at one end, the conducted heat travels down the bar and melts wax so the pins drop one by one as the heat is conducted along the bar.
Now Jim Chinnor loved the spectacular, so he adapted the method above by using white phosphorus rather than relying on waxed pins. White phosphorus burns almost spontaneously in air; it has to be stored away in a sealed container in a locker or chemical bin outside of any building. Phosphorus was used by the RAF in the incendiary bombs dropped on German cities towards the end of World War II. It is nasty stuff and has to be treated with respect.
The brainwave that Jim had was to put small pieces of white phosphorus on the copper bar which would catch alight in turn as the warmth from the bar became enough to start the reaction of phosphorus with air. Jim made two mistakes when doing this demonstration for his students, firstly he did not set out the equipment in a fume cupboard and secondly he forgot about the stock bottle of white phosphorus and left the lid off it.
Jim was chirping away to his group when suddenly he realised that the stock bottle of phosphorus had been left open too long and the air had got to the volatile chemical. The whole bottle caught fire belching out loads of noxious fumes and because the bottle had not been put in the fume cupboard the room quickly filled with smoke. By now the bottle was too hot to pick up and put in the fume cupboard or taken outside, so a rapid evacuation took place. All the kids got out without any mishaps, but the bottle continued to burn and fumes spread up through the ceiling into the room above the lab, leading to mass panic in a German class. The fire was eventually put out, but not early enough to stop the chemical mess from spreading around the lab and the room above. The building got condemned by a HSE inspector and it was a week before the whole place got cleaned up!
Today you would not see such a practical attempted, but an “interactive” visual aid would be shown to the class instead, ie another POWERPOINT©
But watching the video below you can see why Jim tried to jazz up the demonstration a bit!