Teachers go into teaching because they love working with children in the classroom. There is nothing quite like the delight of seeing twenty four pupils master a topic; a sea of excited hands, the enthusiasm of youth, and a passion to learn more. Good teachers light sparks which burn in a child’s mind creating a culture of intellectual curiosity and a love of lifelong learning.
Headteachers have to leave much of this classroom wonder behind to focus on leading and managing their schools. The demands of headship require a focus on strategy, budgets, policies, personnel, compliance, marketing, fundraising, risk management, networking and public relations which limits the time for teaching. Some Heads nobly refuse to give up time in the classroom, but their teaching and classes can be compromised by frequent absences to attend external meetings or ‘fire-fight’ problems. I satisfy my classroom cravings by being a cover teacher. This means that I could pitch up in any lesson at any time to cover for absent colleagues. It is a good way of keeping a finger on the classroom pulse, of seeing a range of pupils and appreciating the skill and dedication of teaching staff.
Whilst cover gets me into the classroom, my teaching urges are satisfied by whole school assemblies. Perhaps my assemblies are the ultimate in didactic lessons, but the opportunity to teach something to 1000 pupils for 15 minutes is not to be missed. I use my ‘assembly lectures’ to explore issues that do not routinely feature in the school curriculum.
One such topic is meteorology. The weather has a huge impact on society from controlling agricultural production and hence food prices, to the operation of transport networks and our ability to get from a to b. Every school pupil should have a basic meteorological understanding, but in recent years this had been compromised by changes in geography syllabuses (with the growth of new topics such as the geography of sport and shopping), and the removal of meteorological science from television weather updates. (When was the last time the BBC broadcast a synoptic chart?).
Twice a year I give my seasonal meteorological predictions to the school, and mid October is the time for my winter forecast.
2012-13 is likely to be a colder than average winter characterised by disrupted westerly airflows, and weeks when blocking anticyclones bring very cold air in from the North and East. We can expect a number of periods of extreme frost and some significant snow falls. The reason for the colder than average winter weather is the location of the jet stream. In recent months, the jet stream has tended to sink further south than usual. For much of the summer instead of sitting over Northern Scotland, the jet stream ran across England and Wales and was tracked by low pressure systems which gave us the second wettest summer on record. If the jet stream maintains its southerly trajectory this winter then instead of sitting over England as usual, it could meander south to France. This would expose the UK to much colder polar maritime air.
There could be significant snow before Christmas, and as such The Perse has already begun its bad winter weather planning. The UK has a poor record at coping with cold weather, and too much of our infrastructure closes down too quickly in the event of modest snowfalls. The Perse is stockpiling salt and shovels, and aims to be open whenever possible. In bad weather parents must decide whether it is safe to send their children to school, but schools should do everything reasonably possible to stay open. Once schools close parents have to stay at home to look after children, and an economy already struggling with snow induced transport disruption grinds to a halt. We may be entering a period of colder winters, and if so we will all have to become better at coping with the white stuff.