[Discuss-sudbury-model] Fw: [savesummerhill] 10 Questions to think about...

From: David Rovner <rovners_at_netvision.net.il>
Date: Wed Aug 18 06:03:01 2004

----- Original Message -----
From: "slowsnail2001" <slowsnail2001_at_yahoo.co.uk>
To: <savesummerhill_at_yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Wednesday, August 18, 2004 5:54 AM
Subject: [savesummerhill] 10 Questions to think about...

> Dear e-group,
>
> Some questions posed by my previous e-mails:
>
> 1. How would you teach a two year exam course at a free school?
>
> 2. How are adults and their actions, including their plans, made
> accountable to their free school community?
>
> 3. By writing about teaching does it make it more important than it
> really is, or should be?
>
> 4. In what ways do free schools encourage their staff to work
> together rather than as accountable individuals?
>
> 5. Should teachers ask their students why they did not attend
> lessons?
>
> 6. Should teachers compensate for low course attendance by providing
> the option of final cramming lessons?
>
> 7. Should children when they sign-up (choose to study a course):
> a. should they all have an equal right to the lessons, even those
> that term after term do not go?
> b. are those that sign-up and then do not attend learning failure
> and not taking responsibility for doing what they have said they
> would?
>
> 8. Is continuity and learning through experience in terms of
> curriculum and pedagogy passed on in Free Schools to new staff or is
> it only continuous so long as the teachers stay at the school?
>
> 9. How much are 'free' children actually affected by the way they
> are taught, in terms of method and structures?
>
> 10. Could Summerhill exist without a timetable?

----- Original Message -----
From: "slowsnail2001" <slowsnail2001_at_yahoo.co.uk>
To: <savesummerhill_at_yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Wednesday, August 18, 2004 5:09 AM
Subject: [savesummerhill] teaching science at Summerhill...

> Dear e-group,
>
> During my first term at Summerhill, it was the Summer term, so I was
> faced with a group of students, four of them, doing their final
> exams that July, and a group with a year to go, another group of
> four. I inherited a busy timetable with these two groups, a group
> called Class 3, Class 2 and Class 1. Infact I think the groups were
> a little more complicated than that. I taught the timetable I was
> given, but has problems with the two oldest groups, as each of them
> had students who had studied different parts of the two year GCSE
> courses. Revising with the oldest group was very difficult, even
> though it was a group of pnly four students, as each had learnt
> different parts. This was either due to erratic attendance or that
> they were all from different groups.
>
> At the time the school only had some 43 students. Now it has nearly
> 90.
>
> I thought how can I teach science so that I know what the students
> have learnt, they know what they have learnt and they can control
> what they are learning. During my first term I made a plan of what I
> wanted to create and change.
>
> I wrote this into a public document, with stages of implementation
> and set objectives with dates for achievement. I did this for two
> reasons, one was to make myself, and what I wanted to do,
> accountable to staff and students, and the other was partly
> defensive. Some of the staff were quite sceptical about new staff
> making changes, and I was aware that if I simply talked about what I
> wanted to do without the detail that writing allows then I would be
> open to criticisms of why haven't you done it yet...
>
> It was a two year plan. The first stage was to start teaching in my
> second term Modular GCSE science, a course chosen so that students
> could chose what modules they wanted to learn each term, with up to
> four or five modules offered each term, and if the students
> completed five they could achieve a single GCSE and if they
> completed ten they could get two science GCSE's.
>
> This was all announced to the whole community through its meeting, a
> special meeting, a newsletter and a sign-up form. It resulted in 21
> of the 38 remaining students signing up to do science GCSE. This was
> such a large number partly because I dissolved Class 3 (normally
> students who are over 11 who are new to the specialist teacher's
> lessons, they have just come from Class 2 which has its own teacher).
>
> Of the 21 students 19 completed the two year course and 14 of them
> continued to study science afterwards as separate biology, chemistry
> and physics GCSE's (which I offered in my third year of teaching).
>
> The plan and the newsletter and meetings I had with the students all
> emphasised that the changes were reversible and would only continue
> if the students wanted them. In the newsletter there was a two year
> planner with tick columns for the students to be able to plan their
> science learning for the course, and more importantly for them to
> record what they had learnt. At the end of each term there were
> national tests that were multiple choice that tested knowledge and
> added up to a half of the overall mark for the GCSEs.
>
> With a significant number of the children having English as an
> additional language multiple choice meant they would be tested using
> word recognition rather than spelling and writing.
>
> My lessons with class 1 and 2 were manily inquiry lessons, answering
> questions through experiments.With the younger children a lot of it
> was English teaching using adjectives and instructional language
> (present simple).
>
> Each term I would produce a newsletter with articles about science,
> questions, and a form explaining the modules offered. At the
> beinning of each module the students would be given a self-
> registration sheet, listing all the lessons for that term and what
> would be taught in each lesson. I tore up and rebound books in which
> each chapter covered a module. These I later started to give out at
> the end of each term so the students had a chance of studying before
> I started to teach them the following term. Also I started to give
> them video cassettes of programmes by the BBC that covered the
> modules, especially for the Easter holiday before the final summer
> exams.
>
> This went down very well with the children. But I started to get
> negative feedback from the staff. I was criticised for making the
> creation of the termly school timetable difficult, being the only
> teacher at the time who radically created different groups each
> term, dependent on what the children chose to learn. In a sense I
> could not really understand why we had a newly created timetable
> each term as the way teachers taught did not seem to warrent it.
> Indeed within the last two years the termly timetable was scraped by
> the teachers as creating it was a task that was seen to be difficult
> and a waste of time.
>
> When the criticisms of my perceived effect on the timetable became
> too strong I took over creating it. Up til then it was done by a
> small group of staff with others joining in over beer.
>
> I created a set of 'rules' by which I did the timetable. The rules
> were public, but I did the timetable in my room over an eight hour
> period. The rules had as their foundation the over-riding value that
> all children had the right to the lessons they chose. If there were
> clashes then the preference the teachers expressed for when their
> lessons took place was over-rided. These preferences were written
> down on a form for me to use as guidance when doing the timetable.
> This did not make me popular and some staff believed that I did the
> timetable to create the best personal timetable for me! The science
> groups were always the last to go on, as who was in each group could
> be defined by the other subjects already placed on the timetable. I
> created the timetable termly for over three years.
>
> Combining creating the timetable with creating a register for myself
> as a filofax system with a page a day, with each row for a lesson,
> with all the children's names in that group, I started to create a
> filofax for other teachers who wanted it.
>
> Another complaint was that children were attending too many lessons!
> I overheard a staff member talking to a group of older students,
> asking them why they went to so many lessons, and suggesting it was
> a problem. I took the issue to a staff meeting and asked the staff
> if there was a problem, and if there was how should I deal with it?
>
> I would organise three hours of revision lessons nearly every
> evening for about two weeks before the public tests and exams. This
> permitted students to cram, including those with bad attendance
> during the term. I was criticised for this on two counts, firstly it
> was hand feeding the students who had poor lesson attendance and
> secondly I was seen to be making up for lessons I had missed. I
> would take students to concerts in London and conferences...
>
> I remember during my first term asking about three times, different
> students, why they had not come to a lesson. They said they had
> forgotten, but I never asked again, as I realised that I was in a
> sense invading their privacy, and also the question was loaded
> towards the idea that they should have gone to the lessons.
>
> I also remember getting the final written exam results at the end of
> the two years, with 19 students getting the best results the school
> had ever seen, and suggesting to a colleague that I would like to
> celebrate with Zoe. The colleague replied that I should phone her
> (this was during the summer holidays) and invite myself around to
> her house for a bottle of bubbly white wine. I did, and it was
> really the first time I had relaxed and spoken to my boss about
> things other than problems!!! The start of a friendship.
>
> My apologies again for going on so long and for the style, I am
> writing, without editing, straight to the post message box. It is
> 4am and I am trying to stay up all night so that I can continue
> packing early this morning.
>
> What happened to the science? Why did I change my job to Shack
> Houseparent? How did I get involved in the court case? Why was I
> brought-up by a staff member who went on a teaching strike for a
> week before his case against me came to the meeting!
>
> The story, if I have the energy to continue, and you are
> interested...
>
> Best wishes a tired
> Michael
Received on Wed Aug 18 2004 - 06:02:24 EDT

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