TES letters

12th December 2014 at 00:00

Debunking Santa is a quantum menace

The article "Tis the season to kill Santa" (Professional, 5 December) produces a classical debunking of Santa Claus. But a physics teacher should know better than to attempt to apply such purely Newtonian arguments to a quantum entity.

Santa, or more properly a Saint-Nicholas Condensate, is a massively delocalised macroscopic quantum being. His wave-function encompasses the whole planet, except when it is rather inconveniently collapsed by an observation. Indeed, in the run-up to Christmas a large number of people are attempting to observe him and he is seen in all sorts of places, from shopping centres to street corners.

On Christmas Eve he both visits and doesn't visit every house; there is no need to travel between them. This only collapses to a definite state when the presents are observed, or not, in the morning. Errant children staying awake may well observe him, collapsing his waveform in odd places (presumably the origin of the chimney myth).

Obviously not all households receive presents, even those which are good. Perhaps somewhere in the multiverse there exists a universe where they all do.

Alasdair Shaw
Physics teacher and author of The Best Bits of Physics

When lesson grading breeds resentment

Tom Bennett argues for reverting to a pass or fail system of lesson observation ("How to be good?", Comment, 5 December). I completely agree.

Since joining my school three years ago as a newly qualified teacher, I have consistently been graded outstanding in observations. Before joining the profession I worked in the City for five years, paid to train to be a teacher with my savings and have since thrown myself into the job, offering after-school sports clubs, catch-ups and revision, often to the detriment of my personal relationships.

Last month I was observed twice, in lessons where pupils were clearly passionate, engaged and showing outstanding progress. I received grade 2s. I was annoyed, but was told that no one was going to get 1s as the new criteria made it almost impossible. Then I discovered that the only people in my department who had achieved 1s were senior members of staff.

The reason I teach is to work with young people and to help them achieve their goals, but we teachers are like pupils - we like to be praised for good work. I feel insulted and completely demotivated. And I can't help wondering if this is related to my pay appraisal next year.

I also can't help comparing myself to other teachers - I know the grades of everyone else in my department. I have shared my lessons with the whole faculty; I am constantly put on show to visitors as an example of the school's outstanding teaching and learning. Now I wonder why I should share my ideas, especially if it means that someone else gets a pay rise instead of me.

Pass and fail grades would do away with this unpleasant competitive element.

Secondary teacher

Infinite possibilities for all abilities

Kasia Fejcher-Akhtar's description of raising the attainment of pupils with complex needs is inspiring ("Meet complex needs with creativity", Professional, 5 December). The approach she outlines increases language development in pupils with special needs by putting attainment levels to one side, providing a rich literary environment, encouraging the free exchange of ideas and supporting, not leading, discussions. As pupils begin to collaborate, working out answers to more difficult questions, their confidence and achievement grow.

Children with lower cognitive ability flourish as they explore ideas in depth and gain the confidence to express them. And as pupils' range of vocabulary and grammatical structures increases, so does the quality of their written work.

Laurie Smith
Education lecturer, King's College London

Testing, testing - but to what end?

The article "There's always a point to pointless learning" (Further, 5 December) reminded me of a quote from education author Jeannie Fulbright: "If the purpose for learning is to score well on a test, we have lost sight of the real reason for learning." Perhaps this mindset would be helpful in schools.

Frederick Sandall
Retired headteacher

They will appreciate you, in time

I was moved by 1960s pop star Sandie Shaw's fond memories of her inspirational English teacher, Miss Parrott (My best teacher, 5 December). One of the greatest joys of teaching is the instant gratification of seeing a child learn - but it's not always like that. As Ms Shaw recalled: "I loved what she taught but I never let her know."

Teaching can be like parenting: sometimes a child cannot appreciate how much you have enriched their life until they have grown up and perhaps had children of their own.

In these dark days before Christmas, this should give hope to teachers who feel that what they say in the classroom sometimes falls on deaf ears. It should also give Ofsted cause to reconsider its short-term view of teacher inspection. For many children, the sentiment of Ms Shaw's song (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me will stay with them for years after leaving school, even if they have never heard the words.

Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

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