Doing the impossible: breaking through the brick wall of low expectations

Teaching is a great job because I’m both delighted and challenged every day.  Although it’s like training for the Olympic games. Every nine months.  The same cycle. Similar lessons. The same spaces.  But, with is remarkable is that, given similar ingredients, there can be vastly different experiences and outcomes.
It’s tempting to do the same every single year.  To expect the same because curriculum change is so scary and huuuuuge.  However, just like the road fragment above, shaped by the waves, the application of constant force and gradual change can lead to astonishing transformations.  The force in school is us.  The impossible surface the curriculum, Government, testing…..
Today, I thought I’d hit Year 7, mixed ability with some scary, GCSE type of geography.  The lesson combined the Ice Ages, Geological Timescales, Glaciation and NO SELFIES. This was challenging enough.  However, I’ve found that nothing is to be achieved through setting the bar too low, so we set out to consider some IPCC graphs and look at trends and variations.

I started with the familiar, although they’d never seen this before (I’m not in there Lockyer). This produced some wonderful ideas of where this was and linked back to previous topics (Geography is a natural interleaving subject).

The rest of the lesson revolcved around the following three graphs:

The idea of the lesson was to explore the difference between trends and variation, using the banned words idea to improve written descriptions.  We also interrogated each graph, discussing what each element meant.

The class also threw in questions about how the data was collected which led us on a lovely tangent about Vostock and other such things.
The group was very mixed ability, and perhaps the terminology and concepts were too big, but no body achieved anything by playing it safe.  The lesson introduced many of the large concepts that will be explored in more depth in the next few weeks, many of the topics that fellow geographers may recoil from. I’ve seen the change as a learning opportunity.

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