Image courtesy of Phaidon Club
Today the school network went down. This has happened a few times recently as we install various upgrades to software and hardware, but today was a little different. Usually by Lesson 2 latest they are back on. Signs weren't good when the engineer was scratching his head and requesting backup support.
Normally I like this excitement injected into the usual routine. Staff glance around at one another, who will be able to cope? Older staff remind younger ones, "This is how it used to be". Some scrabble around in their pencil case, "Do I actually own a white board pen?"
You realise that teachers don't have it the worst as the lady who arranges the cover via SIMS goes into panic mode and the other office admin staff begin to wonder exactly how they will cope with a day filled only with sick children and no emails, letters or any of the other endlessly amazing things they manage to produce in ridiculously small time scales.
"Ah-ha! The photcopier is still working! Although with a long queue. Oh, but the sheet I need is on the PC..."
It does mean the days lesson plans need to go slightly 'off-piste', but that can be fun. Sometimes my best lessons come from such 'emergencies'.
Y9, first up. We're about to start a unit on the Gospels. I wanted to refresh their Bible skills... I know I have a great fun animal quiz (of course featuring the Talking Donkey) that my Y7 class have already done. Grab one of their exercise books, grab some prizes... here goes!
The result is a great fun lesson that involves an activity filled, high energy lesson with students getting themselves genuinely excited about refreshing their Bible skills. We have some great discussion about various parts of the Bible. We look up some of the students names that come from the Old Testament. We learn the story of Balaam and the Talking Donkey. We agree to check out the RE blog when we get home and follow the Twitter account. The students leave saying how great it was and I smile.
Y11. Ah textbooks. The saviour. Glad we didn't bin them all like some schools did years ago. Everything on a tablet? That would have been useless.
It was possibly one of the most tranquil and peaceful lessons in a long time as students discovered what we mean by 'The Church': priests, bishops, deacons ("My mum likes them!" "I think that's Deacon Blue...") and the laity. Brilliantly detailed A3 spider-diagrams produced as I sat in the middle of the room, on a spare students chair, answering questions and discussing the work. The discussion lead to the Synod in Rome, something I was pleasantly surprised about their knowledge about. Ironically on a non-tech day, they had seen my tweets.
Why am I usually at the front or simply patrolling? This works. [Note: I do sit down amoung the students quite a bit, but not enough]
Head of Y10 hat on. Guest speaker? With a PowerPoint. Will he understand?
Thankfully I came up with a solution as we got a standalone laptop connected to the projector. If you are a pastoral leader, I urge you to get Paul Hannaford in to speak to your students. He gives a hard-hitting, graphic account of his life of drugs and gangs. He tells his audience about the dangers of these and about the decisions young people need to make; he is also the dad to a girl who was in my form last year, their reconciliation bringing a tear to even the hardened eye.. He is based in Romford but travels all over the UK, find him <here>.
The afternoon. Still no PCs. Lots of little jobs to follow up on. I need to see these people, about these issues... time for a walk.
I can see how email has saved us so much time. I get around 40 emails a day with around 60-70% being pastoral-role related. I am forever emailing around with some information about a student, or requesting information. Today I realised that to deal with incidents in person, face to face, takes far longer. However, in each conversation I had today, I found out far more information than I would have done via email, most of it positive about the girls in my year group. Maybe this is how it used to be? Yet sadly, there is physically not time to do it. Something has been lost.
I was then sat in a department meeting and my school email came through to my iPhone. Phew. Maybe.
I then sat waiting in the barber's sending and receiving all my emails, ready for tomorrow when we go back to normal.
I love technology and I fully embrace it. I couldn't live without my devices. If it can be done by tech, I often do. Yet there is a slightly mischievous, playful part of me that loves it when it all goes wrong. I had some amazing, lovely lessons today... students learnt just as much too. I had fun; perhaps the adrenalin/fear?
Dear computer network,
Next time you are going to fail, please give me at least 1 hours notice? I can then get myself psyched and ready. Plus print off that worksheet.
Although one of Assistant Heads (who incidentally doesn't teach) joked to me today, "You've heard of no pens day, this is it, no computers day!". I think he was on to something...
Maybe the ICT department will veto.