My worst parent - Science PhD was hard graph

7th May 2010 at 01:00

I was enjoying the benefits of teaching Year 5 in the leafy suburbs of a northern university city. Life was good as I was able to profit from my pupils' wealthy, privileged lives. All the children read widely and brought a huge amount of enthusiasm and knowledge to every subject. This enabled the school to have a policy of never giving homework, which I felt did not stretch the children or prepare them well for secondary school.

Science was particularly enjoyable because a few of the children were the offspring of lecturers from the university's nationally renowned science department, which was just up the road. Their prior knowledge enabled them to work at the highest levels of primary science. So I decided to set them some science homework. I knew I was breaking school policy but felt that they needed a little extra work to develop their learning. Their task was to graph the table of their science experiment results. This wasn't onerous and it would enable me to evaluate their skills in labelling, scaling and drawing their graphs.

The following morning, one of my best junior scientists handed me a letter. He told me that his mummy "had a PhD in physics" and had a lot of worries about the school. Her letter complained that I had asked the children to draw a graph using centimetre squared paper rather than millimetre squared paper. The graph paper I had sent home was completely inadequate for the task. She asked that I remedy this immediately. Sadly, we didn't have any of this paper in school, which led to an awkward conversation with her.

The head diplomatically resolved it for me and I learnt the true reason why we never set homework: academics don't necessarily think highly of teachers.

The writer is a primary teacher in Derbyshire.

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