I spent numerous hours yesterday planning for my year 9 class and worrying whether I had the right work, pitched to the right levels, worrying whether they would stay tuned throughout the seemingly endless 94 minutes that we would be together. I also spent a considerable amount of time planning for an advanced year 10 class too, hoping they would take the risk with a problem they'd never seen before and work in a way, I suspect, they were not used to.
I should've known it would all be ok with the yr 9's, But as the day ends and I think about all the classes I taught today one thing sticks out. The class I was worried about went well, it was fun, the kids were great and they did come along for the ride. The other double lesson I had was the one that didn't go so well. I didn't expect that. I was supremely confident about my lesson plan but I ended throwing it out the window after about 15 minutes. It seems to me that this happens a lot in teaching. The second class is year 10 Advanced Maths. The kids should be switched on, keen to learn and get involved, ready to take up the challenge of the puzzle I presented and the solution that they managed to get to with a bit of help. For goodness sake they had deduced a general rule for a puzzle and even one student came up with a solution I hadn't seen before. I wanted fanfare, trumpets, excitement but they just seemed flat, unsure. I felt like the clown who couldn't make anyone laugh despite the best tricks in the business. Why can two classes behave and respond in an entirely different way and this is opposite to what you were expecting?
As I pondered this over lunch the one thing that came to my mind was that the dynamics of those two classes were different. The combination of the kids in there and their responses to me were completely different. I can't wait to go back to the year 9's. They struggle, they think they are dumb but they kept going, they made choices about their learning all the while talking constantly about their weekend, laughing at each other, getting distracted but allowed themselves to be cajoled by me into working. I am still unsure of their level, if I'm pitching things right so they all get what they need but I know we have a rapport and a trust that we can build on.
I teach 4 classes in all, 2 foundation 9's and two advanced 10's. The two year 9's could't be more different to each other as are the two year 10's. In each cohort, I have one smiling, happy, enthused class and one that I just don't seem to gel with YET. I've only seen them twice each and it's early days but sometimes teaching can hit you between the eyes and remind you that much of the work lies in building those relationships so all the kids in our care get the best learning experience in our classes even if they aren't amused by my tricks!