Zey. Like Za Soop!

So this evening my dearest mother announces she has bought Sainsburys best pre packaged chicken breasts ready seasoned with unidentifiable green stuff and fatty bacon.

You may have detected that I’m not keen on packaged bung it in the oven foods. So I did what any sane person would do when presented with the prospect of processed dinner delights……. I made soup.

Cue:

An onion chopped and fried in butter
3 dinky slightly old carrots (it’s nearly shopping day) chopped up and stuffed in with the onion.
Then 500ml of water with 1 chicken and 1 veg stock cube
About 4 chopped parsnips (about because they were frozen… Could’ve been 5)
Some coriander ground and leaf and a bit of medium curry powder.

Boil. Well, simmer for however long the others decide to leave their dinner to shrivel into an overlooked abomination. (Currently standing at 40 mins)

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When it’s finished boiling, then stick it in a blender and smooooooothe it out.

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Nom.

Why State Schools Work (aka Why Gove is Wrong)

Why do I feel the need to publicly defend the state school system? Why? This article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-26015535

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Mr Gove (excuse the twitching as his name is used) thinks we should change our state schools to be more like independent schools. Well, I guess they perform better and he must have experience in teaching in both sectors to have formed such an opinion…. Oh. Hold on, he’s not taught in either? The Minister for Education hasn’t actually taught a single lesson? Yes, this is true – there’s actually a petition in action to get him to try out teaching! (There really is, it’s here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/michael-gove-to-teach-for-a-term)

So why do I feel qualified to publicly say that Mr Gove’s daily spoutings are the rantings of the politically insane? Well, because I have more teaching experience in both sectors than the UK ‘s Minister for education. (That in itself is just plain wrong)

So, I’m going to look at some of his latest ideas:

- open schools from 8am – 6pm
Let’s put the staffing issues aside here. I’ve seen first hand the effect that an 8am – 6pm day has on a child. Young teenagers end the term in tears from sheer exhaustion. Fights break out (yes, that’s in a ‘posh independent school’) because boys are tired and in close proximity to each other. Quality of work diminishes significantly because the mental health of the child is precarious to say the least.

Thankfully, in independent schools, these exhausted teens are only expected to handle this for 5-6 weeks at a time with significant holidays in between – the summer being on average 9 weeks.

Except Gove is suggesting reducing the holidays to 6 weeks in total. It doesn’t take a genius to weigh up the impact this will have on the children involved.

- teach more like an independent school
I am a firm supporter of our state system. Why? We are producing an increasing number of stable, resilient young people who know how to learn for themselves (not just remember facts) and who move on to university with an understanding of their responsibility for their own learning. This does not happen in every case, and there are still examples of a real need for resilience. However, state schools are far less prone to spoon feeding a curriculum in order to get the ‘right’ exam results. Four A*s at A Level may look impressive, but when consideration is made that independent schools will ensure those results through one to one lessons, coaching and coursework help, they no longer seem so impressive. Even less so when university progression is looked at – whilst acceptance to university may be high, the drop out rate is significantly higher for those who were hand held through exams at school.

There is another significant reason why independent schools achieve such high results – common entrance exams cream the top performers. Is this Gove’s suggestion? Should schools become selective? Should we just give up on the less academically inclined? Or should we provide education for ALL?

I am far prouder of my state school cohort who achieve Bs and Cs and I some cases very hard fought for Ds through their own hard work and determination whilst I facilitate their learning. There is nothing like seeing a student receive their exam results knowing that this is a result of that child’s hard work. That is the kind of learning that stays with you. That is lifelong understanding of how to learn.

Ok, now we can mention the teachers (not too much though)

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When will I prepare my lessons? I already work each evening and every weekend?
Am I to be driven purely by exam results and see these kids as numbers rather than amazing individuals? If so, tough, because these kids are awesome. They are not numbers.
Why am I so pro-state? I am a better teacher because of my state school. They support my teaching. They support me. I have had more CPD in a single term than in three years in the independent sector. I am encouraged to lead and my ideas are celebrated. My ability to teach is recognised as a craft which we spend time honing. I get sworn at an awful lot more and on occasions I become disheartened because of the verbal abuse from students, but I feel valued as a person because of the support from my colleagues.

What about parents?
Well, it doesn’t seem that they have been consulted at all. Of the parents I have spoken to, they are horrified at the prospect of longer days. Questions are asked : When will I see my children? How will they attend their clubs? What about quality of life / family time? What if I actually want to look after my children?

This is when I look at the argument from a different perspective. As a parent. I no longer fear for the education system as a whole, but for my own children. As a parent, I simply would not put my children through the trauma of long hours away from their family (currently, they have a wonderful set of grandparents who very much make up for us being out at work). I would not expose them to the stress levels placed on children who are put through many independent schools. This is not a reflection of all independent schools and like Mr Gove, I can only talk from my own experience of teaching in both sectors.

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With this said, should these reforms come in, in direct contrast to what the government hopes will happen, (that is mothers returning to work), as much as it would break my heart to do so, I will remove myself from my beloved profession and put that to good use through homeschooling my children.

FlyBaby Day 2

Ooh, it’s been a while. …

Whilst I am a super organised teacher with stickers and systems for marking, I have generally come to accept that this does not extend to my home.

This is a source of utter frustration for my mother who flits around the house with a sponge cursing my clutter.  Recently, I began to wonder why ot is that I can live in a pit, but am super organised at work. I came up with three possibilities:

1. Mum has proclaimed me to be messy since I can remember. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. (Bit weak. Very Freud)

2. Mum is tidy on OCD levels. Seriously, we’ve found her wiping skirting boards with antibacterial wipes at 5am. I am the yin to her yang. (Again, a useful cop out)

3. Her cleaning freaks me put so I avoid being that person and focus all my energy on being a dusty academic. Literally.

I need to find a happy medium between stig of the dump and mental obsessive germ buster.

Enter Flylady.

30 days to sort put some clutter and start some slightly better habits. But no mental new years resolution big bang stuff.  Baby steps.

Yesterday was day 1.
I wore make up.
I went to pilates.
I prepared a bowl of pasta for lunches.
I got my clothes out ready for this morning before I went to bed.

That last one made one heck of a difference.

Today – Day 2
Clothes will be laid out
Bedding will be changed.
I’m going to declutter one drawer.

What could be easier? Probably a FlyBaby App. Maybe I should offer!

Wish me luck.

FlyBaby Day 2

Ooh, it’s been a while. …

Whilst I am a super organised teacher with stickers and systems for marking, I have generally come to accept that this does not extend to my home.

This is a source of utter frustration for my mother who flits around the house with a sponge cursing my clutter.  Recently, I began to wonder why ot is that I can live in a pit, but am super organised at work. I came up with three possibilities:

1. Mum has proclaimed me to be messy since I can remember. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. (Bit weak. Very Freud)

2. Mum is tidy on OCD levels. Seriously, we’ve found her wiping skirting boards with antibacterial wipes at 5am. I am the yin to her yang. (Again, a useful cop out)

3. Her cleaning freaks me put so I avoid being that person and focus all my energy on being a dusty academic. Literally.

I need to find a happy medium between stig of the dump and mental obsessive germ buster.

Enter Flylady.

30 days to sort put some clutter and start some slightly better habits. But no mental new years resolution big bang stuff.  Baby steps.

Yesterday was day 1.
I wore make up.
I went to pilates.
I prepared a bowl of pasta for lunches.
I got my clothes out ready for this morning before I went to bed.

That last one made one heck of a difference.

Today – Day 2
Clothes will be laid out
Bedding will be changed.
I’m going to declutter one drawer.

What could be easier? Probably a FlyBaby App. Maybe I should offer!

Wish me luck.

Slow cooking my life

So it turns out that cooking actual food requires preparation, care and someone willing to prevent the food from burning.  I lack all but the first of these, and frankly my preparation is a bit haphazard.

But with a family of four adults and two kids, food must and will be cooked.

This weekend witnessed what shall now be known as the Great Family Grocery Budget Debate. This went aling the lines of me & LSH being totally frustrated that despite the weekly shop having arrived two days earlier, we lacked the full ingredients for modt meals. Mum responded that we had to remain in budget, and I rather tactlessly duggested that she stopped buying a load of pre-packaged crap. (Actually, she took that remarkably well).

The decision was made that we would make a weeks menu and a list if any other groceries that we need for next week and create an online order product by product on our chosen supermarket.  It became a game and Sunday morning was spent playing Supermarket Wars. I can smugly say that I won. By a margin of £20. And swapped in tiny packets of packaged fresh veg for big 1kg bags of frozen. Bulk buying FTW!

We’ve also looked at our eating habits.

Cue Bean chilli.
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This consists of 5 cans of various beans, chopped tomatoes, spices, onions and a couple of fresh peppers. Stuck gun ho into the slow cooker and left to get on with it while we headed out for a few hours of skating. Enjoyed by most with a helping of rice. TinyPants declared it to be poison. I declared her to be eating it if she wanted pudding.

Tonight’s sliw cooker noms is named ‘WTF do I do with 5 sausages and some left over gammon??!’. Again, I’m working on the basis that LSH has been in London all day and not due back til 8. Meanwhile I have 20 mins in between arriving home and heading out to a Brownie thing with the girls.

Solution? Shove random stuff into a slow cooker on high and hope for the best.

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What have we here? Sausages, torn up gammon, tin of chopped tomatoes, bit of added water, carrots, onions, potatoes, paprika, coriander, 2 garlic cloves, a bit of beef gravy.

2.5 hours and it smells quite edible.

So there you have it. Slow cooking – perfect for those on a budget and who have the culinary ability and inclination of…. err…. someone with Dominoes on speed dial ;)

The Courage of Young People

Much has been made in the news today about the discovery of a body inside a well in London by a pair of gardeners. Interestingly, what has been glossed over is that the young man who discovered the body and raised the alam was just 17.

Look carefully at these young men.

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Picture source: http://bbc.co.uk/news

At first glance, you could put them down as a couple of young people, or ‘hoodies’ as the government so loves to call them. They look and dress like so many young people that are berated and demonised. In a group, you may not want to approach them.

But these two men, raised the alarm upon finding a body. By all accounts they have suffered some serious mental trauma from this experience. The last thing you expect when gardening is to find human remains. But. They may well have instigated the process of putting an entire family’s grief to rest. They may be the catalyst to ending many months, or even years of suffering. They did a good deed that will grow far greater that the initial act itself.

My point here is don’t judge all young people as terrifying hooded youths. These men (and after all, they are young working men) may not be in a uniform, but they have still acted heroicly. In the midst of a personal tragedy for one family, these men have shown on a national platform that young people are, just like the rest of us: mostly, law abiding, good people.

We should make more of young people who undertake positive acts. The more public these people are, the more likely they are to become role models. Who does the majority of media, school and parental attention go to? Is it the positive young role model?

BBC story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-24979959

The only way I shall acknowledge Christmas before December

So, I have three topics to cover with three different year groups.

Year 9s – intro to python programming
Year 12s – finite state machines
Year 13s – Mealy & Moore machines

And a set of raspberry pis. Enter overexcited teacher.

So as a gentle introduction, welcome to the Christmas Computing Display board idea…

Print out a reindeer picture on card and get out a raspberry pi and the GCSE electronics kit (from Maplins.  Very cool).
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Connect a 200 resistor to the shorter wire on a red LED.
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Then make two wires and twist them onto the end of each side of the LED . I could use jumper wires, bit have you seen how much they cost??!

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To save the pins on the raspberry pis, I’m using a GPIO lead which turns the male pins into female ones wjivh ypu can push the wires into.

These go into pin 25 for the resistor side, and pin 7 for the other.
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Connect up the pi and set up a python program to set the led to high then low each second (the code comrs from http://www.ocr.org.uk).

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Next, open a terminal session and type in

sudo python rudolph.py

Get stupidly overexcited when it actually works!
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Push LED through a small hole in the card for Rudolph’s nose and tape the wire to the back of the card.

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So, the plan is to duplicate the process with a number of year 9s to create a flashing wall display for the end of term.

Use wall display with year 12s to demonstrate FSMs and give year 13s free range to create their own versions which allow input to create mealy machines.

Today was a good day :)