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Creating A Classroom Escape Room

Creating A Classroom Escape Room

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this year, it’s that I love a challenge. And nothing bit me harder than the escape room bug.

Now, not that I’m competitive (much) but over the course of a weekend away with friends we smashed three room records and laid down enough trash talk for a full wrestling match. And it was while we were enjoying a well deserved gloat after our final room that it hit me – this NEEDS to be turned into a computational thinking lesson!

And so my ‘welcome back’ escape room idea was born.

Now clearly I wouldn’t be able to recreate secret doors and hidden rooms in my version, but the idea was to recreate the sense of urgency, teamwork, and fun that we’d spent an eyewatering fortune on…. without it costing a fortune?

What you need (hardware)

I actually found it easier to plan out my escape room puzzles once I’d bought all of the bits and pieces that I needed for each team. In my room I had two teams with slightly different puzzles for some of the locks, just to avoid cross-team espionage (it’s almost like I know them!).


For each team, I bought 5 boxes of varying sizes. The boxes were plywood boxes which ranged from £1.50 to £3 each. I then bought a tin of walnut colour varnish and painted them all to make them look like old boxes.

Unforunately, it’s really difficult to get hold of boxes with clasps that can be used for locks, so I had to add my own. I managed to buy some really nice ones through Wish (although they took a few weeks to arrive, they looked great) and the rest were £1 each from The Range. Assembly was pretty straightforward, with only minor bloodletting – the moral of this story is to add a small square of plywood behind the clasps for the sake of fingers; yours and the kids!

Finally, you’ll need a combination lock for each box. This was actually the most difficult part because they’re really expensive in shops and this was nearly the end of the whole project. However, if you look online and don’t mind waiting you can pick them up for around £3 each.

Cost Per Team (5 – 6 students):

  • Boxes x 5 = £10
  • Clasps x 5 = £7
  • Varnish = £3
  • Padlocks x 5 = £15
  • Total = £35

If you’re balking at the price of the lesson so far, remember that this is an initial outlay.  And you could make this much cheaper by asking for donations of small boxes and old padlocks.

Once you have a set of boxes, you don’t have to buy it all again to run another escape room puzzle, all you need to do is redesign the game. I plan to reuse these with two year groups at least once each half term, so it’s only an expensive resource if you don’t plan on reusing it.

Setting Up The Puzzles

You can be as simple or as creative as you like with your puzzles, and the great thing about it is any puzzle can be linked to the curriculum.

classroom escape room japanese puzzle box

I started my teams off with a spacial awareness puzzle – a Japanese puzzle box which requires you to find a hidden drawer in which I’d hidden their first clue. Of course what I hadn’t predicted was for them to struggle more with this than any of the number or literacy puzzle I set!

The clue inside here led them to the next box , although just like a real escape room, I hadn’t told them which box they needed to look at next, so all locks had to be tried.

classroom escape room picture lock

One puzzle I was particularly proud of involved buying a set of scrabble tiles which were hidden in a box. When the box was opened, this was their only clue. Using the scrabble tiles, they needed to create a word – on the back of the word were the symbols that matched a particularly beautiful Chinese padlock.

This may seem like a simple puzzle, but there’s a literacy link in there. However, even better is the logical step that the word chosen has two letters the same. As the teams became frustrated that they clearly had the answer, I floated past with “how many ‘o’s are there in soon?”.

classroom escape room mirror puzzle

Another puzzle with a literacy link was the poem. One box contained nothing but a printed poem (in a script font & crumpled up so it looked old & tatty).

The poem was The Mirror by Sylvia Plath. It’s a particularly descriptive poem and indicated that they needed to use the mirror to solve the next puzzle. In using a poem to describe an object, they had to decipher the meaning of what initially is a very odd piece of text. It worked far better with my maths heavy computer scientists that I’d expected.

The same was true of the log book. I wrote out some odd looking notes that appeared to be the increasingly maddened scrawling of a ship’s captain. I included some piratey drawings and diagrams as red herrings, but also a word on each page that had been encrypted along with a number either as a date or as a word – this was the key.

classroom escape room caesar cipher

Ciphers are brilliant for these puzzles, and if you’re adding these as part of a computational thinking lesson, you can create the ciphers that are linked to your syllabus plus some additional ones as an extension. In these boxes, the two parts of the cipher wheel were hidden in separate boxes and the message started in plain text then hinted at the encryption method.

 

With all five boxes completed, to add a bit of competition, there was only one final box between the teams making it a race to the finish!

I took rather a lot of pleasure in having left a visible clue to solve the final box in plain sight for the entire time – in this case I used a letter combination lock that spelt out the word MARCH as the code to unlock, and on the table with the final box (which also held the mirrors and several other objects) was a date cube with 30th February showing… which is of course, March.

classroom escape room letter lock

 

So, was it worth it?

Absolutely. 100% worth all of the effort that went into the session. I used the classroom escape room with my returning students as a brain ‘reboot’ and my new students as the ultimate ice-breaker. In fact, as an ice-breaker it worked a treat – I’ve never had a class gel together so quickly and I put a large amount of that down to the positive moments they had together in that very first session.

 

What next?

The next step is to package up the printables from this game and release them as part of the TeachAllAboutIT October resources bundle for our members to download and play with in their own classrooms. After that, my Christmas escape room “Secret Santa?” will be in my classroom with more of a focus on combining the answer to exam questions to solve the codes.

Have you used an escape room in your classroom? What tips can you give other people to enhance lessons?

 

 

Note: Some of the linthis case ks in this post are affiliate links. By purchasing from them you are helping us to cover the costs of hosting the site. I do not link to anything that I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend anyway, and in I am linking to products that I have already bought and used as part of this project 🙂

Flapjack Learning – Snack Your Way To Knowledge

Everybody develops their own unique way that they like to learn, and this week a friend of mine coined the term for her preferred learning style. It’s similar to those times when you know that you’re hungry, but you can’t manage a whole meal so instead, you grab a flapjack; it’s nutritious, it will sustain you, but it won’t overwhelm you.

a tray of flapjacks - relating to flapjack learningAnd so flapjack learning was born – for those times when a long course is too much, but the instant hit of just reading up isn’t enough to sustain you. Flapjack learning can come from a series of webinars, or individual tutorials, or perhaps even an online course that you take over a number of sessions. Flapjacks are both fuel and a treat, and the more often you enjoy one, the more tempting it is to eat a whole bowl of porridge.

As a tutor, this rather appeals to me. I have a number of students who struggle to study independently, but would relish the chance for some flapjack style learning. This is one of the reasons why I have been developing a number of pre-recorded courses – allowing students to dip in and snack on their learning between their tutor ‘meals’ builds fabulous habits and will ultimately benefit them across all of their subjects.

So what makes a good learning snack?

Sticking to a single topic is a good start. In fact, the style of this particular type of learning lends itself particularly well to taking just one topic and learning exclusively about just that. It’s unusual to add a side dish to a flapjack, so why add anything else to your learning snack?

Give yourself a few minutes of absolute peace. Grab a cup of tea. Now enjoy the short time that you’ve set aside to refuel your knowledge. Often this is through a pre-recorded short lesson with an accompanying task which allows you to focus for a short period of time and sparks an idea for the next step.

 

Would You Eat A FlapJack For Dinner?

Absolutely not! (I’d be sick). But, I would use them as part of a healthy diet. Just as I use pre-recorded learning material alongside classroom or independent study to carry on learning… yes, despite teaching and tutoring, I still study. No-one ever reaches the end of their capacity to learn.

Pre-recorded courses have the additional benefit of often being cheaper than one-to-one live tuition. And no wonder really – despite the initial costs associated with writing, recording, and editing a course, a tutor will only have so many hours in the day. By creating a pre-recorded course, tutors can provide the knowledge part of their lessons to many more students. Of course, the pastoral and specific support side is missing, so pre-recorded will never fully replace that one to one relationship.

Much like my flapjack, having a learning snack may reduce my apetite and allow me to leave longer between meals.

 

Of course, I have the ever talented Catherine from Willows & Wildlings to thank for coining this phrase. Look out for her contributions to the GCSE Photography short courses soon.

 

Is GCSE Computer Science Hard?

With many Key Stage 3 students contemplating choosing their GCSE options this term, I’m asked again and again is GCSE Computer Science hard? Computer Science certainly has a reputation for being a tough subject, and with good reason. So is it as tough as some people say?

It depends on the student

Now I know that’s a total cop out, but stick with me here. We could just as easily ask ‘is Art hard?’ – for some, absolutely; and yet for others every art lesson is a island of calm in a relentless educational storm (can you tell that I enjoyed art?). If you have a genuine interest in Computer Science as a subject, then the hours of hard work really won’t seem that much of a chore.

Success rates in Computer Science make for some interesting data. Entries at GCSE level increased by 11.8% in 2018, and 3.7% of all students recieved the top grade of a 9. Grade 9s are awarded only to those scoring in the top 20% of the top 20% of grades). Taking into consideration that this was the year group whose controlled assessment was withdrawn at such a late stage, over 60% of all students receiving a passing grade or above is a positive sign.

GCSE results by grade in England

Data source: https://schoolsweek.co.uk/gcse-results-2018-computing

So in fact, a better question may be: Why do so many people find Computer Science hard?

There are a number of reasons why Computer Science may be a difficult path for you. Not impossible, because there are never any absolutes. And just because something is hard, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it anyway.

Your level of maths doesn’t match the syllabus

Calculator mathsWhen the new 9-1 GCSE syllabus for Computer Science was launched, the exam boards advised that students should be studying the higher maths specification to support the topics. Why?

Well, when introducing new students to Computer Science I often describe my subject as just ‘Maths with Toys’. 80% is decision maths, or problem solving, or just plain algorithmic thinking. What do all of these have in common? Maths!

At A Level, the the data shows that a 6 in maths (a B in old money) is an indicator of a pass at Computer Science A Level. This is because there is a huge cross over with Further Maths. Using that as a comparrison, it would be safe to suggest that a target of 6 or more for GCSE maths would predict success in Computer Science.

In the words of Beyonce, without Further maths I don’t think you’re ready for this … Er… Topic.

 

You were expecting to play games

children playing PS4 gamexLast year, I overheard a university lecturer in games development tell a student that you’re either a gamer or a develiper, not both.

I don’t particularly hold with that view – I am both a programmer and a gamer. However, I am acutely aware of the difference and although knowledge of gaming can help with logic, the likelyhood of playing games in Computer Science is slim to none!

If you’re not sure about what topics are, a good place to start is to look through the specification for the exam board that you will study. Alternatively, have a look through the topic lists on our GCSE Computer Science introduction pages. You’ll certainly be asked to code some simple games during your time studying Computer Science, but it is likely that they will be based around the key topics and will generally be text based.

 

You love programming, but not theory

teenager sitting at laptop with coding stickersAs teachers and tutors, we’ve all met that student who arrives in our class absolutely buzzing about the latest program that they’ve written. They race through every programming task that we give them and make an attempt at learning degree level concepts in year 8. If you’re that kid, please know that we love you but you’re an absolute nightmare!

We usually see a lot of ourselves in you, and it’s practically painful not to let you play in the metaphorical ball pit of coding. However, conscience dictates that we must guide you towards success in both the practical and the theoretical aspects of the course. Because of this, we have to ask you to curb some of the enthusiasm for the fun stuff.

Later on, when you’re taking over the world, you’ll come across an issue that suddenly needs an understanding of the mechanics of merge sort. It’s usually then that I get a surprise message via LinkdIn or on here letting me know that our Binary/Hex battles on the board suddenly got context.

The theory topics are complex and often require an understanding of a vast number of key terms, but if you fall into this category, the hardest part is staying on task. Learning to tackle all of the tasks no matter how interesting is a valuable skill and you’ll be able to use it in other subejcts.

 

So, should I study GCSE Computer Science?

Only you can answer that, but as with any subject if you know what’s involved in the course you’ll be able to make a much more informed decision. If you’re still unsure, try a short course like my Introduction to Number Systems to give you a flavour of what the topics are like. Look out for local coding clubs or coder dojos near you, and get involved with Big Bang events as they generally have coding and maker sessions.

Finally, talk to others who have taken the course and your teachers. Don’t just take my word for it!

Paths to Success – Games Developer & Start Up Founder

In the seventh in the series of my Paths To Success blog series, I’ve been talking to John Dalziel who took the leap into games development after working in software development. For the last five years John has been working for an online gaming startup, firstly as a developer and more recently in a dev-ops role. They’re an entirely remote company with employees all over Europe.
For those of you who haven’t been following the blog series so far, this year I’ve been particularly interested in the paths that people take after education, especially following the increase across the UK in encouraging schools and colleges to embed employability into their lessons. The first time I tried this with students, I was met almost audible rolling of eyes – kids have genuine skills in detecting something that’s been “embedded”, much like a careers version of hiding vegetables in their spaghetti. They know.
So instead, with the new academic year upon us I decided to buck the trend of the many posts telling students that “results don’t matter” (they do, you worked hard), or “I didn’t need GCSEs” (no, but you had something else) and create a positive set of real careers stories to help motivate both my students and other teachers. I’ve been talking to an array of interesting people about how education shaped their own employability skills and their often irregular paths to success.
Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 15.23.00.pngHi John, could you tell me a little bit about your experience at school.
I adored school. I had a terrible home life and school felt like my ticket out (and it was)
With it being the start of the school year, I have to ask: do you have a particular teacher that you remember?
I have fond memories of Mr Pauline who ran the Maths department. That department had the only computers in the school (about a dozen BBC Micros and an Apple II) and my friend and I used to run the school computer club.
Could you tell me a little bit about your experience at college / university?
A lot of my friends studied computing at University and I would often hang out there with them, even though I wasn’t on the course. I was pretty good at drawing so in our group I became the graphics guy. I can remember working on a big Silicon Graphics machine to build a logo for a “roguelike” game they were making
Is there any other advice you would want to give to students receiving exam results this year?
The web is full of knowledge and opportunity. If you don’t get the results you’re hoping for, it’s not the end of the world.
Thank you so much to John for giving up his time to tell us about creating a gaming start up, and proving that it’s more than just an idle dream!
John can be found at https://www.computus.org where you can see his work.

How To Bloom As A Tutor

Ah, the words that bring fear into the heart of every trainee teacher across the land – Bloom’s Taxonomy. But with tutoring not having the same pre-requisit for training that teaching does, not everyone is familiar with the term.

The arguments for and against professional status for tutors are likely to go on ad infinitum. There are a great many unqualified tutors who work absolute miracles with individual students, and likewise a number of teachers who fail to make the transition to tutoring. With all this aside, all of us can benefit from the metacognition brought about by using Bloom in our lessons.

For the uninitiated, Bloom’s Taxonomy is simply a hierarchy of learning that shows how students build from foundations to deeper learning. We often imagine it like a pyramid showing how the foundationslead to the pinacle of learning.

bloom

In doing this we actually do us and our students a disservice. The visual of a pyramid gives the impression that students must remember before they can apply, or analyse. In fact, the benefit that a tutor has over a teacher with a classroom of 30 or more is that we can provide the space and structure to analyse and create as a conduit to remembering.

Essentially, our ultimate goal is for our students to leave us with the ability to create the new using their understanding of the knoweldge that we facilitated.

All Ages Bloom

The idea that only older students will reach the higher levels of learning is simply wrong. In fact, the youngest of our learners are the ones who take to deeper learning much easier.

Listen to any 5 year old tell you about a specific interest. They will likely tell you the names of all of the characters (remember), will explain how they relate to each other (understand), will berate you for mixing up genres and tell you why they are different (analyse), and will have made models and drawings of their favourite characters (create).

 

Using Bloom For Progress

Tutoring is a much more intense process than teaching, and it is this one to one contact that allows us to push progress forward. However, its also presents a risk that we create over-reliance on our assistance.

By presenting a topic of study alongside an expectation of the student analysing, evaluating, or creating forces me to take a step back. It also creates an environment where it is ok for my student to feel very slightly out of their depth, because like a parent teaching a child on a bike we’re close enough to catch them but provide more reassurance than anything else.

In the classroom, I was taught to sing a verse of Baa Baa Black Sheep in my head to force myself to give students thinking time after a question (it feels ridiculous, but please try it!). I have used this technique far more in tutoring where the pause seems to last forever. Over time, I have realised that my brain is actually running at a rate of ten to the dozen and my students benefit from that pause.

Not Just 6 Words

By using the verbs given in Bloom’s taxonomy, I can word my questions to them and indicate the level of response that I want from my student. But it’s when we delve deeper than purely those six words that Bloom’s really becomes useful.

Imagine for a moment the last tutee that you were sat with. You have shown them an exam question and they look at it blankly… What do you do?

Using Bloom’s, we can prod them in the right direction:

Can you show me any key words in that question? (Remember)

Could you rephrase that question, so it makes more sense to us? (Understand)

Where have we seen that phrase used before? (Apply)

What do you think the difference is between this and that? (Analyse)

How can you tell that is the correct answer? (Evaluate)

Now you know how to answer it, can you think of your own exam question that would test your knowledge? (Create)

In short, most of us do this naturally already but use verbs that resound with each level. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, and in fact there are a whole host of resources providing word lists that link to the stages of learning.

The Bloom’s Taxonomy Teacher Planning Kit is an incredible resource to have when planning objectives or questions to help move students forward. I particularly like the example questions at the bottom.

 

Despite not changing a great deal since the 1950s, I am a huge fan of Bloom’s Taxonomy as a planning tool for my own tutoring. You could almost say I bloomin’ love it!

Do you use Bloom’s in your tutoring practice? How have you used it? I’d love to hear from you.

Paths to Success – Digital Forensic Investigator & Author

In the sixth in the series of my Paths To Success blog series, I’ve been talking to Scar de Courcier, a research psychologist (psychology of religion) who also writes about digital forensics and consult on child protection & international security issues. Scar also runs a writing & translation agency, Bohemiacademia.com
For those of you who haven’t been following the blog series so far, this year I’ve been particularly interested in the paths that people take after education, especially following the increase across the UK in encouraging schools and colleges to embed employability into their lessons. The first time I tried this with students, I was met almost audible rolling of eyes – kids have genuine skills in detecting something that’s been “embedded”, much like a careers version of hiding vegetables in their spaghetti. They know.
So instead, with exam results now out for the year and choices being made about next steps, I decided to buck the trend of the many posts telling students that “results don’t matter” (they do, you worked hard), or “I didn’t need GCSEs” (no, but you had something else) and create a positive set of real careers stories to help motivate both my students and other teachers. I’ve been talking to an array of interesting people about how education shaped their own employability skills and their often irregular paths to success.
Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 15.17.25.pngHi Scar, could you tell me a little bit about your experience at school.
I adored school. I had a terrible home life and school felt like my ticket out (and it was)
With it being the end of the school year, I have to ask: do you have a particular teacher that you remember?
Most of my teachers at Steyning Grammar School were fantastic and inspirational; I was very lucky! They refused to let me stop believing in myself and helped in practical ways as well as providing emotional support. A few years ago I wrote a poem about them: https://jeviscachee.com/2018/05/09/sgs-a-poem
Could you tell me a little bit about your experience at college / university?
I was a very academic student and assumed I’d love uni. I didn’t. I found the other students on my course weren’t as interested in the subject matter and it made for a frustrating and difficult environment. After a year I was offered a position on a research team, so I ended up skipping the normal route through uni and going straight to academic research.
Is there any other advice you would want to give to students who received exam results and are making their choices for the next step?
Anyone studying GCSEs, if you’re worried about your exams or coursework and it’s getting you down, try not to be. As long as you try your best, that’s all that matters and there are ways to get back on track if the worst happens with your results. It doesn’t all rely on your GCSE results.
Thank you so much to Scar for giving up her time to tell us about her varied career and the path she took to arrive where she is now.

Scar can be found at http://www.jeviscachee.com and www.Bohemiacademia.com where you can see her work as an author and read about some of the amazing experiences that she has in digital forensics, or you can see her latest book, Windows Forensics Cookbook on Amazon.

Letter To Myself #EdChat

I loved reading this letter to his newly qualified self from The Nerdy Teacher. And it got me wondering, if I were to talk to myself ten years ago and give myself advice, what would it be? So here it is:

desk job cropped

Dear Holly,

So you just got a phonecall suggesting that you take on a part time role teaching A Level Computing. That’s going to be one heck of a jump from your routine of rocking up at your programming role with pink hair with Friday lunches with the boss and wine.

Life as a developer is tough and rewarding… but the next decade is going to be a rollercoaster! You’re going to meet kids who, like you are that square peg in a round hole. They may not be the ones who get the A* grades, but you’ll make much more of an impact on them than an exam grade.

Ah yes, the kids. In one job you’ll be greeted by a year 9 with “we made every other teacher leave, you’re next” – that same kid is going to hug you when they get their A Level results. Persevere. You won’t win every battle, but the victories will be worth it. Others you’ll remember like your own – possibly because they spent so much time in your classroom. Giving up your lunchbreak is time well spent.

You’ve always been your own harshest critic, and teaching is going to make you reflect on every lesson. A single complaint will overcast a hundred compliments & thank yous. And because of that, your ability to build resilience is going to either make or break you. You’re never going to get used to the crushing feeling when the outcome doesn’t reflect the hard work. But remember that all the time that you feel crushed by results it means that you still care.

That teaching diploma is going to be tough going, especially as you’re teaching full time alongside it. Make the most of the friendships you make with fellow teachers in training – they’ll turn out to still be your partners in crime years later. In fact, you’ll meet a number of people who make a significant impact in your life over these ten years. Treasure those people; they are all too often gone too soon. Teaching fills our hearts with love, but doesn’t do wonders for the blood pressure.

Oh, and just when you think you’ve got it all together and you’re feeling top of your game, life is going to throw you a massive curveball and you’re going to need to negotiate teaching alongside some interesting health issues. As it turns out, your talent and passion for working with individuals is going to help there, and online tutoring is going to be the saviour of your career (and sanity!) as your ability to physically negotiate a classroom reduces.

Strangely, things will end up going full circle with you using your background in Computing to build a website that helps hundreds of kids learn computer science. Because of that site, you’ll end up writing for a number of places including the BBC.

I can’t tell you what happens next, but have faith in your ability to fly by the seat of your pants. You’re going to need it. Oh, and carry pens – the kids won’t.

 

 

 

 

Paths to Success – Programmer & Teacher

In the fifth of my Paths To Success blog series, I’ve been talking to Darren Barnett who, in a similar turn of events to me adjusted his career in software development into teaching. He’s now teaching A Level Computer Science at Sussex Downs College, but in his previous career he worked in video games development as a producer and programmer.
For those of you who have not been following the series so far, this year I’ve been particularly interested in the paths that people take after education, especially following the increase across the UK in encouraging schools and colleges to embed employability into their lessons. The first time I tried this with students, I was met almost audible rolling of eyes – kids have genuine skills in detecting something that’s been “embedded”, much like a careers version of hiding vegetables in their spaghetti. They know.
So instead, with exam results fast approaching I decided to buck the trend of the many posts telling students that “results don’t matter” (they do, you worked hard), or “I didn’t need GCSEs” (no, but you had something else) and create a positive set of real careers stories to help motivate both my students and other teachers.
To start this Paths To Success series I had to accept that as a teacher my previous employment and growing businesses likely means very little to my students (and rightly so, I am just one person in an industry that they know). Instead, I’ve been talking to an array of interesting people about how education shaped their own employability skills and their often irregular paths to success.
Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 15.07.43.pngHi Darren, You’ve had quite a varied career. Could you tell me a little bit more about it?
I’ve worked all over the world with the video games job, America (often), Australia, Japan, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, France & Italy. It was really interesting to work with people from other cultures, some seem very like home (Australia) and some are excitingly different (Japan). It’s been really interesting to go from programming with fairly small teams initially to working on huge video game projects with many people.
When I started programming we mainly programmed in MS-DOS and Windows was seen as a bit of a novelty. Most games programmers programmed in assembler at the time!
In my second job as a programmer I worked in the PC team which was two people alongside a CD-i team which was far bigger and now hardly anyone remembers CD-i (it was a kind of interactive video format from Philips that came on huge laser discs).
Working in education now is really interesting – I very much like teaching A Level & BTEC and I like the creativity of working in Computer Science. It’s also really cool when you get questions that stretch your own brain from students as well as when you help someone to make progress when they were really struggling.
Being a teacher gives us a new perspective on education, but could you tell me a little bit about your experience at school.
I failed my 11 plus which was a bit of a shock at the time as I assumed I would pass (my whole primary school failed the 11 plus!!!) and went to what we called a High school. This was still at the time when kids could leave at 14 and also if you went to the High school they assumed that lots of kids would leave without any exam passes at all!
I did OK at school – especially as the expectations were pretty low across the board and I had some very good teachers – especially for Maths & English which stuck with me. I had a lot of dreadful ones too – my Sociology teacher refused to teach me as I insisted on doing O level and he only wanted to teach CSE (as the exams were split then) – but contrary to my expectations I managed to get a U! I had assumed that Sociology was mostly about ranting about how unfair the world is / was!
I ended up with 9 O levels eventually (despite the Sociology blip) – partly helped by the fact that you could do Maths & Additional Maths then! After that I went on to the 6th form which I really liked – you make great friends in the 6th form and the atmosphere which much better. I even ended up as a senior prefect despite being a punk rocker with green or blue hair – as that was fairly new then you could have nose piercings etc as there were no rules about things like that…
With it coming up to the start of the school year, I have to ask: do you have a particular teacher that you remember?
It’s so long ago that I can’t remember the names well – I think Mrs Millington was my Maths teacher and she was very good – otherwise I just remember the nicknames of the teachers.
There was still corporal punishment then too, so teachers hitting kids sticks in the mind unfortunately – I never got caned but you were in danger of a board rubber being thrown at you – I assume they tried not to aim for your head!
Lots of our students are or will be in the process of applying to college or university right now. Could you tell me a little bit about your experience at college / university?
I really liked college and Uni a lot – when I left the 6th form I took a year out and worked for 6th months and also went to college in the evening – I don’t know how it was possible in those days but I did A level sociology in the evenings after work for about 6 months and got a C which is a decent step up from the U…
My first degree was a BA in Religion and Philosophy which I loved – also I liked Brighton so much I decided to live here – it was a great degree and very interesting.
Ironically all the way through school to the end of my degree I had hardly touched a computer apart from to play Space Invaders at the swimming pool! My IT skills were so poor I had to get my friend in the business studies department to help me to use a word processor for my dissertation (although to be fair word processors then were on a main frame and were pretty complex)!
Is there any advice you would want to give to students who recently received exam results?
Your life is probably going to change in a major way more than once in terms of your career – I would say make sure you take any opportunities you can and throw yourself into them. It’s amazing what you can succeed in and just because you can’t do something now doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily be amazing at it in the future!
Thank you so much to Darren for giving up his time to show my students that the path to success doesn’t always start from the easiest of foundations (and that our teachers are much nicer now!)
Darren can be found on LinkdIn where you can see more about his teaching career.