Friday was the last “big” maths exam and I breathed a huge sigh of relief as it felt that as if the moment we’d (I mean me and my year 11’s) been working towards for the last three years was here and then it happened in the blink of an eye. Most of my groups have been with me for the whole of their time at the school, and I have a confession to make … 

… they have made me cry more times in the last 10 days than I did in the whole of my PGCE and NQT year (just because I never cried at all, doesn’t mean they made me cry just the once!). They have written me such lovely messages that I have been overwhelmed at their maturity and also their openness towards me … it has been very humbling! (I know! me being humble (again!)… who’da thought it!).

These notes and cards, have been a refreshing reminder as to why I came into teaching. I have a vivid recollection of thinking that there was a possibility that one day I would become jaded by teaching and all the constant changes – it seemed somewhat inevitable because that seemed to be what happens to lots of people. Maybe I was naïve about my original intentions, and I am sure that there was lots of old souls out there who found me very clichéd, but I didn’t (and still don’t) care! As teachers, I always thought that we are one of the single biggest factors that influence young people and I still believe that … yes! there will be those students that in years to come won’t even remember my name and I can live with that but I also know that for some students I have influenced them in a positive way. Wow! Just. Wow! BUT that is true for every single teacher – what we do for a living matters!

I’m not saying that I am as “bright eyed and bushy tailed” as I once was. Neither am I saying that I have lost my passion … that is definitely not the case! I think that the more I read and hear about what goes on in education and with the constant seas of change, the more I feel I need to, and want to know. But … that’s a good thing, right?

With this notion of self improvement I signed up the to La-Salle Maths conference in Kettering a few months ago. It took place on Saturday (!) and was fab! So hats off to Mark for organising it! There were were loads of twitter people there and being able to put faces to names was amazing. I have to say that I only spoke to a small number of people that I wanted to meet .. (and to quote Emma!) … next time! next time! next time!  If you’ve been to any conference you will know that there is always a “naughty table” … its the law!. If you didn’t know that fact I think you need to wonder if the table you were sat at was “the one”!!

One of the things that I came away instantly thinking about was the idea of questions used (in my world that means on worksheets!) being “noticeably similar” and “noticeably different” from the session that Bruno Reddy did and have tried to use the idea with my second “Nitty Gritty” worksheet (I’ve blogged about these before here). The idea is that questions that are noticeably similar are better than taking massive steps in difficulty that you sometimes see in textbooks – its all linked to maximising the use of “working memory”. Something about the session hit home and today I spoke to my year 9’s about it in a round-about way, when I told them that I need them to be using their valuable working memory on their work and not on idle gossip or balancing on their chair (they were gripped by it all!)

Anyway I’ve tried to include questions that are noticeably similar in the second of this series of worksheets (adding decimals) that I have uploaded here . I may not have yet got it nailed, but I like it!

I’ll be back later this week with updates about the new specs and loads of other stuff  … I really need to tell you all about the latest on “frequency-tree-gate” … it even got mentioned at the conference on Saturday. Watch this space … its late and I need sleep!