The first week back to school has quite literally been a ‘baptism by fire’, thanks to the Year 7 boy who managed to set fire to the rubber tubing of his Bunsen Burner in my lesson period 6 on Friday. It was only a small fire, but as you can imagine this caused much hysteria in the classroom and gave an exciting end to the group’s first week of secondary school. 

I’m not proud of my response to this little accident. In my panic of trying to contain the flames to the small heat proof mat, along with my efforts to calm the increasingly loud and panicked class, I asked one of them to go and grab the science technician. I then felt extremely stupid when he just used some wet paper towels to extinguish it and I kicked myself for not being able to deal with this on my own. It’s amazing how all my commonsense just seemed to leave me in that moment, but I will put that down to it being 2.15pm on Friday, after what felt like a bit of a crazy first week back. 

Our school has staggered the start to the new year, with different year groups coming back each day this week, so Friday was the first day when we had all year groups in the school. Each year group (up to around 100 students) is in a different bubble, with different areas of the school, both indoors and outdoors, that they are allowed in. Although my school has been great at planning the logistics of this, as you can imagine, patrolling this to ensure that there is no crossover between any of the year groups has been the main challenge of the week. Despite clear instructions from staff that there is to be no mixing at all and there should be complete separation between the bubbles, a lot of the students are oblivious when in the school, meaning we have had to have a big staff presence during break and lunch times to rigorously enforce the boundaries and prevent mixing. 

One positive of teaching science is that I am still able to teach all my classes in my normal classroom, unlike most other subjects where teachers are having to move around the building from lesson to lesson. However I am still getting plenty of steps in every day, as at the start of each lesson I need to go and collect each class from their normal bubble classroom and then escort them to break, lunch or out of the building at the end of the day. The fact that my classroom is on the second floor, along with the added fact that there are delays en route while waiting for other year groups to clear the space before I can go through, means that some lessons have been cut pretty short. The shortest lesson I have taught this week was one which was actually a last minute addition to my timetable that I only found out about a couple of hours before. By the time I had the students all seated (all seven of them in this class), I only had about 25 minutes with them before having to escort them to their early lunchtime. For someone used to teaching 100 minute, meticulously planned lessons, this last minute and shortened lesson felt a bit frantic. All credit to those Year 10s for actually engaging with my chaotic questioning about animal and plant cell structures.

This week I have also officially started my new role as the head of year 9, although they didn’t return to school until Friday, so so far this role has only involved:

  • Two admission interviews for new students
  • Coordinating the Year 9 line up at the start of the day. In other words, standing on a bench and blowing my whistle a couple of times, shouting some instructions then dismissing each form by asking them to leave “silently and sensibly, with pace and purpose”
  • A very short and cringey introduction to myself as their new head of year in their assembly, featuring a cheesy, motivational Dr Seuss quote mixed in with a joke about the need for them to wear school shoes and not trainers which went down about as well as I expected it would. 

Considering I had a very light teaching timetable this week, I was still surprisingly exhausted at the end of the day on Friday. Although I did spend the whole of today working, I am going to keep Sunday completely free from work to try and reset and recover before what I think will be an intense week. 

Next week will also see me take to the Astro for my first go at teaching PE. The plan is to do Rounders with Year 10 and judging from my past experience of just participating in the game at school, I can only imagine what kind of beautiful disaster the lesson will be with me in charge. At least one thing I can be sure of is that away from the lab, the only fires I will be putting out are figurative. 

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