From the relative quiet of our daily multiplication challenge, a new sound emerges. It is the whirring wheels of academic progress. The peloton of aspiration is winding its way up the Col du Tourmalet of mathematical attainment. With brains and bodies working in tandem, it is possible some of our students will achieve beyond our highest expectations.
The evidence is right here in the engine room of effort, where no one is working harder, physically and mentally, than Dwaine. His coasting days are over and although it’s unlikely he will ever get to wear the yellow jersey of academic greatness (or even cross the finish line that marks his aspirational end-of-year targets), there is a chance he could be our next Bradley Wiggins.
In our unremitting struggle to support those children who like to be physically active during learning time, we have introduced a revolutionary way of keeping them on task. Say au revoir to fidget spinners, adieu to stress-relieving anxiety cubes and give those squeeze-me-squash-me toys le botte. The future for the Grand Tour of learning is not education but ped-ucation.
Pedal-powered education? On yer bike...
This year we have decided to get out of the saddle of complacency and drive our children’s attainment to new heights using pedal power. According to the best promotional information available, our exciting new under-the-table pedal sets will allow students to burn off excess energy, improve their fitness levels and, most important of all, boost their powers of concentration.
Combining mental and physical activities is a proven way to succeed. In fact, it is a method I have used myself at the local gym. Would I have met my personal treadmill, cross trainer and exercise bike targets if the large screen TV showing Alan Shearer’s 100 best goals hadn’t been there to motivate me? I think not.
And for children like Dwaine, who are competitive by nature, there is the added incentive to go further and faster than anybody else. They can do this because our pedal sets allow us to record how long each child has pedalled for, how many calories they have burned off and what their average speed is during the course of a learning session.
However, just when I think success is right around the corner, disaster strikes. Dwaine unexpectedly fails to negotiate a treacherous missing-number division problem, and in an instant he has torn up his multiplication challenge, thrown his pencil across the room, and gone crashing out of the peloton of aspiration. Is it possible that our latest initiative is one cog short of a fully functioning gear chain? Have our hopes for pedal-powered learning been fatally punctured?
I’m not normally a person given to thinking pessimistic thoughts, but it occurs to me that I have seen a different future. It lies in the darkest depths of my garage, behind the barbecue that is home to two fossilised sausages and several layers of congealed fat. My Allez Sprint road bike, like my motivation to ride it, looks sadly neglected now, with two flat tyres and a damaged front calliper. It hasn’t been on the road since the Tour de Yorkshire 2017.
Steve Eddison is a teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield