Honey, they shrunk the class

21st August 1998 at 01:00
They say that size isn't important (oo-eer!) and that it's not what you've got, it's what you do with it (fnarr, fnarr). These are matters I have been forced to consider recently because, as you may have noticed, my column isn't as long as it used to be (ooooooooooh matron!).

This is because the paper has been redesigned - not dumbed down - to make it more accessible to the busy teacher of today. Unfortunately for me, I had several pieces on the hard drive ready to be printed out and sent off when the news that I was to cut my output by 25 per cent came through.

Lopping chunks off the stuff already in the can was not too difficult, though I did regret losing a scene where Phil Harrass and his ex-dame met up again in the rain, late one night outside a TV store. Picture their pain and regret, illuminated by the cold light of 20 cathode ray tubes all showing the same B-movie.

Also, there was an article about primary science where the usual one to three ratio of valid points to silly stuff must have been reversed, because the shortened version seemed to me to be a bit dry.

A more serious matter was the editing I had to do to some physics courses. I found myself taking over a class that were a full Standard grade section behind where they should have been. This lag was the result of a variety of circumstances, none of them avoidable.

Boy did we fly to catch up. It became almost a "bonding thing" between new class and new teacher, this struggle to make up on lost ground, and we succeeded. The price was that many experiments were never done.

I have met teachers of other subjects who think physics experiments are a bit of a con, something we do to get away with having 20 in a class instead of 30.

I do not really feel like dignifying that view with a counter argument, but try this for size. Look at the mess Aristotle made of the laws of motion, a mess that a bit of hands-on work might have avoided. It's a story that I like to tell (and illustrate) when I have time.

Think of the centuries when it was assumed that heavier objects fall fastest. Many refuse to believe that this is not true until they see proof. Ah, many's the time I've stood on a physics bench with a couple of different-sized balls in my hands, ready to drop them in front of a class of expectant third-years . . . oooooooooooh matrooooooooon!!!!!

Gregor Steele hopes that more chemistry teachers will read The TES Scotland now that the writing's bigger. The editor points out he gets the same money for 25 per cent less.

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