This months blog is written by Matthew Pattison;
I went to Whitkirk Primary School in March to observe a key stage one maths class, which turned out to be much more exciting than I imagined! I’m the lead governor for maths in WPS; something I volunteered for because I have a keen interest in the subject. I believe (as both a parent and a businessman) it’s vital that the children complete their primary education with a firm grounding in the core subjects.
The governing body have been working with the teachers to improve on the results of the last two years. One of the things we’re doing is observing the classes and talking to the teaching staff to ensure we’re happy with the way things are progressing. With that in mind, I booked a day off work and went to see Miss Morris and the year two snow leopards. I was expecting a standard maths lesson, I’d stand in a corner somewhere observing the teachers and children and make some notes. Perhaps I’d ask a few questions if I didn’t understand why something was being taught in a particular manner; perhaps I’d speak to the children to see what they thought. How wrong I was!
When I got there I was immediately informed that we were having a practical, outdoor lesson to practice measuring items in different units. Whilst I didn’t get the kind of lesson I was expecting it was definitely an eye opener in terms of how well the children work together and how they behave as a group.
The Lynx children were extremely well behaved and showed a willingness to learn that I gratified to see. Before the kids went outside Miss Morris went through the ground rules and reminded them of the various forms of measurement. The chattering children at the beginning of the lesson instantly quieted when she was ready to speak, and questions were answered willingly. I can remember being at school when the teacher asked a question and refusing to put up my hand for fear of being a ‘teachers pet’ – those silences when no one answered were excruciating! The opposite of this is now true, the children are keen to interact and answer questions. There is no stigma about answering questions, any more and the children take part in a natural way.
Once the children got outside they were split into groups and the measuring commenced! It became immediately clear I was not there in an observing capacity, I was the well known ‘Matthew’ or ‘Mr Pattison’ and I was there to help them measure everything that didn’t run away. We used rulers and tape measures of varying lengths to measure tiny leaves to entire playgrounds. I was measured 5 times, and I’m pleased to say every result was the same! The kids were enthusiastic, really enjoying the time outside and they were incredibly well behaved. I have strong memories of outdoor lessons, because they were times to muck about and have a laugh with my friends but not to do any work! Again, this was different to what I expected. The groups of children worked well together and co-operated in measuring large objects. One person always took the notes and they shared the tasks. There were a number of altercations between groups about various measuring implements, which they sorted themselves out with little coaxing from the adults. Again I was amazed to see this, reasonable behaviour from 7 year olds at school? What strange environment is this?
At the end of the lesson, one child in particular became bored and stopped working with his group. The teachers jumped on this immediately and gave him one-on-one attention until the end of the session. This was obviously a common occurrence and the teaching staff were well versed in dealing with it. The rest of his group were also understanding, and again there was no stigma attached to his behaviour, or attention from the teachers.
Miss Morris and Miss Sterland had the children firmly under control for the entire lesson. They are to be commended for how well they interacted with them both individually and as a group. The class has a large range of abilities and I found something there for everyone. Each child was treated as an individual, and I can tell they felt valued.
When I was at school, maths was stuffy and boring. We sat in classrooms and worked through maths books by ourselves. I always finished early and was never given any extra work to do (to be fair I never asked for any), so I ended up being scolded for messing around. In this class, everyone was included, everyone was interested and everyone was keen to put their knowledge to practical use.
As the lesson finished, I asked a few children if they’d enjoyed the lesson. They replied that they had, and I believed them, because I had too. Maybe next time I’ll get to see a traditional lesson!