Monday, 28 September 2015

Just a normal Monday...

Sometimes you have to stop work and go outside because the fire alarm has gone off.

Sometimes you have to stop work and go outside because an 'old boy' from the school is going to fly past in his spitfire.

Today it was the second one!
 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Start of Term catch up

We've been back at school for just over 2 weeks now and everything is starting to settle down.
The main change in the physics department is that we have a new teacher. She used to be a technician before crossing over to the dark side and so far she seems very switched on and organised, which is a dream come true in comparison to my other teachers! 

The big change for me is that I am now senior technician AND will shortly be getting an apprentice technician to train. Our apprentice is only 19 and makes me feel very old! I'm going to have to remember that I'm his supervisor and not his mum.

I also finally finished my Teaching Assistant qualification. This year I have been given 3 classes to work with but just this morning HoD came to tell me that the new chemistry teacher, who is also teaching some physics, is having trouble with his year 9 set and I might need to start helping him out as well.
And so it begins!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Becoming senior

It seems reasonably certain now that when we start the new academic year in September I will be senior technician. I'll still be a TA for around 10 hours a week as well, and our bio tech is wanting to go part time, so at the moment HoD is trying to convince HR to hire at the very least an apprentice although someone with experience would be better.

This then is about the worst possible time for our new chem tech to go directly to HR and complain that she doesn't have enough to do! Any fellow techs reading this will currently be choking on their coffee. There's always something to do, if in doubt ask your HoD for some tasks. HR have of course taken this as a sign that there isn't really any need for extra help and HoD is really angry.

In fairness to her, chem tech has never done this sort of work before and probably doesn't realise quite how the workload ebbs and flows through the year and if she's complaining of boredom then she obviously hasn't fully grasped what a technician's role actually involves. There's so much more to it than just prepping experiments.

HoD asked me to have a word but I pointed out that since I'm not senior tech yet, I don't have any authority to tell her what to do. What I have done though is sent a friendly, chatty email with a list of all the jobs I try to get done during this quieter term as well as some suggestions which are more related to chemistry. Just tidying and reorganising the labs could easily take the next couple of weeks.

Apparently HoD has forwarded this to HR and pointed out that there is in fact plenty of work. I really hope this doesn't mess up our plans for next year.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Invisible Woman

My HoD had a meeting, so he asked me if I could supervise his lower sixth class. They were doing a practice ISA which was a fairly straightforward experiment so I agreed.

We have 2 AS physics sets and this was the lower ability group so some of them needed a fair bit of help setting up their circuits, designing results tables and even understanding what the instructions meant. Obviously in a real ISA we wouldn't give them much help but as it was their first practice one I was nice and gave all of them as much help as I could.

Towards the end of the session one of the lads asked me if I teach physics. I explained that no, I don't and I am in fact the physics technician. Then he asked me what a technician does. I explained that I'm responsible for all the physics equipment and that I get it all ready for every lesson they have. They looked so shocked! I don't know where they thought the equipment comes from but clearly they hadn't realised that it's actually someone's job to manage it all.

This made me wonder whether all our students are so unaware. After all, these sixth formers have been with us for over 3 years now and for all that time I've been in and out of lessons doing my job. Did they never notice me? Also most of this group came on the trip to CERN in October, but never questioned my presence.

One thing I found very interesting - at the end of the lesson they tidied their equipment away with far more care than I have ever seen from one of HoD's groups before. Maybe realising that someone has to deal with their mess made them rather more considerate.

I think from now on I am going to make a point of introducing myself to classes at the start of the academic year.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Panic stations!

Last week we got the call all schools dread - it's inspection time again. Usually this is the cue for science teachers to go mad ordering all manner of complicated experiments they've never tried before in an attempt to impress the inspectors and be judged 'outstanding'. Inevitably all this achieves is a huge amount of extra work for the technicians and the inspector probably never came to the lesson anyway.


This inspection is slightly different and the panic is coming from a different side.


As a boarding school we are not only judged on the education that we provide, but also on how well we care for the students and this current inspection is an interim one focussing on boarding and welfare. For the teachers there is very little impact, but senior management have been bombarding us with emails about the various welfare and H&S policies and wanting to make sure that we all know the official line on anything an inspector may want to talk about.


The Health and Safety manager had warned that they would be very interested in seeing the science facilities and checking all our H&S paperwork, so we made sure we were all prepared before he brought one of the inspectors round yesterday afternoon. What an anti-climax! The guy asked me where we keep the radioactive sources and that was it.


Don't know why everyone gets so worked up.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

More time in class?

So, the TA thing.

Just before the half term break my HoD took me aside and asked if I could help another year 9 set. We have a chemist teaching 2 year 9 physics groups this year and it is becoming clear that she is struggling. I was already TAing with one of those classes so it sort of made sense for me to take on the others too.

I just heard today that our scarily-efficient physics teacher is unwell, possibly long term. There is a chance she may be missing all of next term. Obviously we're concerned for her, but also we have concerns for the department as that would be a lot of lessons to cover. We had a similar situation last year when action man was off and it was massively stressful for everyone.

HoD has been saying for months that he'd like to see me make the move into teaching and I'm wondering now whether he might see this situation as an opportunity to push me further in that direction.

If he asked me to take over a couple of her sets, I don't know how I would respond.

Interesting times

Friday, 10 October 2014

CERN

We have a very tired department this morning as we arrived back from CERN at midnight last night.

It was worth the tiredness though. On Wednesday we arrived in Switzerland, booked into our hotel and then headed to Geneva for a tour of the United Nations building. We'd not done that before and it was a bit of a last minute thought but I think we'll probably do it again as it was a really interesting tour and the students all said they enjoyed it.

After a night on the town in Geneva we were up bright and early for our day at CERN. First we had a talk about the history of CERN and what they do there, then we were driven to the far side of the ring to visit the CMS cavern. This was a first for us and very impressive! If only we'd been there 2 days earlier - they had the detector open then for maintenance, but now it's closed again as they are getting ready to fire everything back up early next year. After CMS we had a visit to the magnet testing facility then time to relax in the CERN canteen before we headed back to the airport for the flight home.


All in all it was a pretty successful trip. we had the occasional misplaced passport and some slow moving students, but no one got lost or injured and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Next up - Rome again. Or maybe not as the school are still deciding whether we are allowed two physics trips in one term. I won't be heartbroken if I don't have to book another set of flights!