A day in the life of James Kennedy

Working at one of Australia's largest and most prestigious schools is a labour of love for this chemistry teacher, who employs technology to create a personalised experience for his students

Tes Editorial

It is Thursday and I wake up before the alarm at 6.50am. I shower and have breakfast, dress smartly and leave home by 8am. I drive against the rush-hour traffic, to Haileybury's Keysborough campus on the outskirts of Melbourne, and get to school before 8.15am as teachers and students are arriving.

Haileybury is one of the most prestigious independent schools in Australia. Its national assessment programme (Naplan) results are in the top 0.5 per cent in the country and 27 per cent of last year's graduates ranked in the top 5 per cent in Victoria state. With more than 3,000 students it is one of the largest schools in Australia and has grown by about 80 per cent in the past 10 years alone. Our students span three campuses at Brighton, Keysborough and Berwick along the south-eastern corridor of Melbourne.

Despite its colossal enrolment figures, Haileybury has very small class sizes. My chemistry class has just 11 students and my physics class has 16. Some have only five. Each student talks directly with the teacher several times in every lesson and everyone gets individual academic support.

First, I teach a double chemistry lesson to my Year 13 (18- and 19-year-old) class. We begin with a quick quiz, then I use the whiteboard to explain how to interpret a proton NMR spectrograph. I teach through "chalk and talk" for about 20 minutes, with intermittent questions and demonstrations while the students take notes. They then spend the rest of the 100-minute lesson doing practice questions while I go around the classroom to help everyone individually for a couple of minutes at a time.

Haileybury pioneered the iPad in Australian schools back in 2011. Every student now has one of the tablets and they are used in most lessons. The iPad does everything in our school: communicates with parents, shows you each student's current workload and allergy information, allows you to complete the attendance roll and even enables teachers to push homework into the students' e-diaries.

After recess, I have time to continue planning and marking. To help with this I have created a resources spreadsheet, where I have compiled a database of 300 of the best educational videos and study notes from across the internet and organised them by topic. I use this to send a YouTube playlist of mini tutorials to my students every Friday.

I also have a grading spreadsheet that contains all my students' quiz results, test grades and information about homework. It colour-codes itself and I use it to send personalised messages to students. They receive grades by email the same day as a test, or the day afterwards.

After school, pupils usually come to my office with extra questions. I stay until about 5pm, sometimes helping students, sometimes doing marking and lesson plans. I love my job and I feel extremely fortunate to be teaching students who appreciate the huge amounts of work we put into fostering academic excellence in each of them.

Your day

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