For this months lesson
observation, Graeme had chosen, he thought, the perfect demonstration of the
scientific principles involved in boiling. For starters, there was the choice
of container. He had sourced a variety of his most robust pans from home. The
ones most suited to being seen by the children. The ones he had washed
recently, without the layers of burnt pasta spot-welded to their bases. The
ones that hadnt been used the whole time hed been in this job
because four or five hours of marking and prep a night tended to encourage a
shirt-button bursting reliance on takeaways.
Heat sources he had
aplenty, having borrowed a stove from Maurice, the caretaker, along with a
microwave from the staffroom that was only ever used for Thelmas
occasional Pot Noodles. The kettle was a cheap model from Tesco,
purchased for the occasion. For some reason, Graeme hadnt got round to
buying a kettle for home. The Americans, he told the class, tended not to have
electric kettles; tended to call the stove-top variety tea kettles,
which gave the game away as to why they werent so taken with them.
Theyre just not so into tea as we are, he told the class,
waiting for someone to contradict him, and wondering if hed be marked
down for making such a sweeping generalisation. But Mr Unwin, the headmaster,
sitting there in the corner with his clipboard, didnt so much as look up.
Or wonder what his reason was for not having the time to make tea.
Graeme heard Mr
Unwins stopwatch click as, wringing with sweat from the chalk and talk,
he launched himself into the next section of the lesson. The get the kids
to do something bit of the lesson. It was always important to get the
kids to do something. So Graeme was going to get them to boil water, after
spending his Sunday evening carrying out the risk assessment and making sure to
check with Susan, the science coordinator, that this was even close to being
acceptable in a classroom situation
He was going to get each
one of his science teams to use different heat sources, different containers,
different volumes of water, to investigate (ah, now there was a word Mr Unwin
would like) how long it took for the water to come to a boil. After making
predictions first, of course, like proper scientists being taught by a proper
teacher. And, yes, hed raided Peters drama dressing up box for a
few lab coats to go with the goggles that the kids were wearing. Mr Unwin had
the risk assessment, too, and he had scrutinised it at some length even before
It would be the perfect
demonstration of the principles involved.
One litre of water would
take a good eight to ten minutes to boil on the stove, or so said Dr
Google. An electric kettle would take four to five minutes. And all of
this the children could discover for themselves. With the help of the army of
parents Graeme had called in because of the assessed risk. They would learn by
discovery. Now, how good was that from a raddled, frazzled, sleep-deprived
teacher wearing a shirt that had been rescued from the bottom of the linen bin
and subjected to a not-so-light Febrezing five minutes before leaving
the house this morning? All in order to look even slightly presentable in front
of his headteacher for the umpteenth observation of the year.
Not good, as it turned
Not good at
Outstanding, Mr Unwin
said. A properly practical science lesson with the children finding out subject
content for themselves.
Well done, Mr Unwin said,
as the steam began to clear, and as Graeme threw open the classroom patio doors
so the children could file out to play. Let off their own steam.
As they could.
You must be pleased, Mr
Unwin said, as Graeme loosened his tie as much as the schools dress code
would permit and began to regret that, whilst he had sprayed the Febreze
to disguise the stale linen bin reek, he had neglected to remember the
deodorant that morning.
Oh, he was pleased, Graeme
told him, before they moved on to the date for next months lesson
observation. And the next. All the way through to the end of the summer term
and the hint of summer holiday freedom before the colon-churning prospect of
another academic year to come.
He had proved a few things
about boiling points, Graeme told him.
But, it seemed, not quite