I love the last week before the Christmas break. I love it because I usually get to the end of a unit a few lessons before the final day, and that gives me one (or if I’m lucky two) lessons to teach outside of the curriculum. I don’t have to do this, but I feel it’s a more constructive use of the time than starting a new unit before a two week gap, then trying to pick up where I left off. I get to teach some of the better bits of maths at my disposal. Bits that are inexplicably not on the curriculum, although if they were, after a few years I’d probably grow tired of them too (Fractals anyone? Pick’s Theorem? Shapes of constant width?).
I think the fun works two ways. It’s a great opportunity to remind yourself why you love your subject. It’s very easy to get bored of maths (or Geography, or Music, or any subject) if you’re just teaching the same thing over, and over again. So take that opportunity and reignite your love of your subject. I also think that enthusiasm rubs off on the students. As soon as I tell my pupils “I’m not supposed to teach you this, but it’s so cool I can’t resist” they are in a new frame of mind. They’re expecting something beyond ‘and that kids, is how you can add together two fractions with different denominators! TA-DAAAAA!!” *awkward silence, random cough, tumbleweed rolls through*).
And so we move on to the travesty that is the DVD lesson. I think this lesson has been there since the invention of the VHS video player. I remember having these lessons myself (there are manifestations, the ‘Christmas Lesson’ that has no link to your subject, or pretty much has five minutes of subject followed by 55 of colouring in Christmas pictures), but the DVD lesson in particular really, really annoys me. I’ll try to be succinct for a change. Time for numbered points:
1. It’s embarrassingly lazy.
I mean. Really?! There is almost zero planning involved (so I’ve got Happy Feet or umm… Happy Feet 2, decisions decisions), and certainly zero learning. Don’t go giving me the ‘Yes, but The Day After Tomorrow is about Geography’. Rubbish. It’s about you getting out of doing your job for an hour. I actually overheard a conversation once between a maths teacher and a history teacher that went something like “i’m so jealous of your subject because you can tie in to some good films at Christmas, I’m stuck with A Beautiful Mind, which they don’t like”.
2. It is NOT a treat for the kids.
Be honest. Do you think they don’t ever watch tv or films? Really?! They do it all the damn time. For some children it’s ALL THEY DO between finishing school and sleeping. It’s as much of a treat as letting them go for a poo during lesson time. It’s not a unique activity, just unique to do it during your lesson.
3. Do you think parents would be pleased?
Oh I’m so pleased that I sent you to school today, where you did nothing that you go to school for, and came home and watched tv,…totalling hmm, 8 hours+ of tv today. Well done school! First prize. What’s that? Arnold Schwarzenegger puts in a duff performance in Jingle All The Way? Well, fascinating. It’s OK though, at least Elf was good.
Also, parents get fined real cash money for taking their children out of school during term time. A lot of parents ask permission (and get rejected) to let their children out early to go on a family holiday over Christmas. They’re being charged to take their children out. Think about that. You’re letting them watch DVDs all day… and the school is insisting those children MUST remain in school.. has it clicked yet?
4. Do some (really) basic maths
So you’re letting them watch 60 minutes of a DVD. Then they go to Period 2, and they watch… 60 minutes of a DVD, then they go to Period 3, and they…wait. 5 hours+ of movies ??
5. “Oh but they need a break, it’s been such a long half term”
Well yes it has, but guess what, they’re getting a two week break in less than fifty hours time, you lazy shrew. Also, I would be willing to bet a hefty sum that if the term was squished back to 6 weeks, the last week would be EXACTLY the same as it is now. A total waste of everybody’s time.
6. Name one other profession where this is OK?
Go on, just one. One profession where you can use ‘but I’m tired’ as an excuse to go to work yet do absolutely no work whatsoever.
7. You are being selfish and have no regard for your colleagues.
Yes you. People who are genuinely trying to teach a real lesson are getting totally screwed because you are letting students watch ‘A Scooby Doo Christmas’ because “Scooby Doo is a dog, and we’re studying animals in Biology at the moment”. “Oh but sir, the other teachers let us watch films and passively zombie out while the world passes us by”. Well great, cheers for that, COLLEAGUE.
8. Just look at their faces ten minutes into your ‘educationally linked’ movie.
Just LOOK AT THEM. ARE YOU PROUD OF WHAT YOU HAVE DONE?!