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2004-11-30 - 1:05 p.m.

Placement ended on Thursday, and now I'm back from 'real world' experiences of paint, assemblies, noise, wet play and a surprising number of slug references, to this cosy university world where people think that children are sweet and that computers work.
This computer thing is the biggest difference, I think. Here at uni we are 'expected' to present things using power point, told excitedly how much schools are using ICT for absolutely everything, and forced to spend hours working out how to use interactive whiteboards. In Real Life, teachers know that the time taken to crowd 28 over-excited children into the one room with enough computers in it, sit them all down and take them through logging on is just not worth the ten minutes of learning time you might get before having to repeat the whole process in reverse. The one abortive attempt I made to plan a computer session into a lesson ended abruptly when I found that the children's internet search engine didn't know who Samuel Pepys was, so expecting them to use it to fill in a worksheet about him was a bit far-fetched.
It's not all doom and gloom for anything ICT based. The school had some amazing computer software that I would have loved to get my hands on, like Kar2ouche, the film-and-storyboard maker with amazing graphics, or like the interactive electronic microscope. It was mostly a matter of time and of not being able to practise while doing my planning from the safety of my own home!
Having said that, not practising beforehand didn't put me off attempting to create carbon dioxide and use it to put out a candle flame in the middle of a science lesson without ever having done it before in my life. What I didn't know was that the teacher was going to be observing that particular lesson. Possibly the hairiest moment of the whole placement came as I began to tip the invisible gas over the flame, watched by thirty attentive, hushed children and a teacher with a clipboard, and realised that I had no idea what this would look like: would it actually go out? Would it just flicker? Would it go pop? How close did I have to hold the neck of the bottle? What if the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda had started to pour out before the flame went? The children weren't the only ones who hissed "yessss" when the flame was finally vanquished. After the lesson, the teacher gave me my feedback.
"I really enjoyed watching the children's faces as you did that experiment. They haven't seen much real chemistry like that before, and I think they were very impressed". She looked at me with a twinkle. "YOUR face, however, was a picture!"


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