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Feeling scrutinised by super-bright A2 students at new school?

Discussion in 'Independent' started by rm2014, Sep 20, 2017.

  1. rm2014

    rm2014 New commenter

    Hello everyone

    I am a relatively new science teacher who has been teaching for 2 years. I have just started working at a top sixth form college, my second school, where the final year A2 students I have been given are all incredibly bright- the college is selective and only accepts high-ability students.

    I like that aspect about it, but I have come from another sixth form college which had mixed ability students, only a couple of "super bright" ones in the class, and was non-selective. In my first year there I just had AS students who I then took up to A2 level in my second year, so they knew me and we had done AS together. At this new place they intended to do it this way as well since I was new, but in the end there were so many A2 students on roll that they needed to give me an A2 class as well.

    Having been a teacher for just 2 years (as well as being in my twenties!), and having taught the A2 course for just 1 year so far, I am struggling with this new super-bright A2 class I have been given. They ask me lots of questions well beyond the scope of the syllabus, some of which I am unsure of, and I feel that they are scrutinising me. I find myself getting nervous when I address this class now, and that seems to be fuelling their 'inspecting of me' even more.

    I am not sure whether to make my superiors aware of this issue I am having; I am wary of looking weak or appearing as though I don't "know my stuff". The first few lessons went well but when their questions started getting deeper and deeper and I started tripping up, I feel that the dynamic has changed.

    Would anyone have any advice on this? Many thanks
  2. needabreak

    needabreak Star commenter

    I'd go with answering questions that can be tied back into the syllabus content and explaining that you really don't have the time for too many general discussions as you have a scheme of work to cover.

    I find it really encouraging when bright students ask questions so I tend to answer if relevant albeit briefly, it illustrates that you have engaged them with the subject material (unless they are asking totally irrelevant questions just to be silly).

    On the whole I would take it as a positive and turn it around to get them to do more of the focused work. It must be really interesting so please don't feel intimidated, most of all if you don't know just say that you will find out, or get back to them on it while covering your planned work thoroughly, they will likely sniff out a bluff leaving you like a rabbit in headlights otherwise. I'd also be uber prepared before the start of the lesson.

    All the best. :)
    crazypineapple likes this.
  3. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    Speak to your HOD, as they may have some advice. I am also in my 3rd year of teaching, and previous schools have always told me (unnecessarily, as I am more than twice the age of the kids) not to feel intimidated by sixth formers, so I do think they will be understanding and reassuring. Plus, they know the kids, so may be able to offer some strategies for those kids in particular.

    You are not expected to know everything - be honest with the kids, so if they ask you something that you don'f know the answer to tell them you're not sure, but you'll check.

    I've recently started at a selective school, although I'm abroad and the majority of the kids are local - other colleagues have told me things like 'I treat the kids as colleagues, because in actual fact a lot of them are smarter than me'. I personally don't feel that, perhaps because I'm an English teacher so literature is not their strong point, whereas maths and science are, but maybe you could change your way of thinking about the kids you teach? That might make you feel better about yourself.
    rm2014 likes this.
  4. install

    install Star commenter

    They are bullying you and possibly looking for a scapegoat should it all go wrong. Get your hod to sit at the back for a few lessons and get their thoughts on the matter

    Also, give 'em a really tough surprise assessment next lesson - see how bright they really are on paper. See if its all bravado once and for all. Then correct the errors of their ways if need be..:cool:..
    sabrinakat and jarndyce like this.
  5. Dave0301

    Dave0301 New commenter

    Bright A level pupils asking their teacher questions that go beyond the syllabus hardly constitutes them bullying him.
  6. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Established commenter

    If it's relevant then praise their curiosity, but get them to take more ownership over their learning. Ask them what they are going to do to help themselves answer the question? Once they've shown what they've done to help themselves you'll try and help them understand further. (Using the 3B4Me principle). That at university they will be expected to find things like this out themselves, it won't be spoon fed to them by lecturers. Of course whilst they're trying to find the answer you can also do the same if you're not sure yourself (from colleagues as well as Google). And sometimes, it's okay to say actually I'm not sure. Let's find out together.
  7. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    I used to tell my Year 8s and 9s that if they didn't ask a question that I couldn't answer, they weren't doing well as a class!
    At A Level the dept understand that we had individual teachers who are experts on part of the subject and would happily refer to them for help. It's not unusual to have a colleague pop their head round the door and say, "My lot are asking X - what do you know about it?"
    You need to have - and to show - the confidence that you can find out and that you don't know everything. You might take the opportunity to throw the SoW out of the window and challenge these students to find out and report back in the next lesson.
    Teaching a class where there'll be a public enquiry if there is anything as poor as a B grade can be a challenge and a bit of a roller-coaster, but can also be great fun.
    crazypineapple and jarndyce like this.
  8. Snorkers

    Snorkers New commenter

    I keep my university textbooks in my classroom, so if it happens, I get the student asking the 'off topic' question to look it up for themselves (university prep and all that). If it's relevant to the topic being taught but an extension well beyond the demands of the exam spec, then get your 'investigator' to explain their findings but only to the appropriate members of the class.

    It's a really tricky position, though, so focus on your subject knowledge when you're doing your lesson planning - draw on the pre-U questions alongside the A-level work, as I think it is often more challenging.

    I also echo the suggestion about talking to your HOD - they will have suggestions for extension workers that may be useful.
  9. sabrinakat

    sabrinakat Star commenter

    I have a PhD in a related subject to what I teach and I do double-check dates and minute grammar points all the time. C'est la vie....;)

    It does take time to find your feet but remember YOU have the degree and the expertise, not them!
  10. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    When I feel students are asking questions off topic or just for the sake of it, I point out the lack of time and invite them to attend after school science clubs to chat about these things.

    Disappointingly none of them have ever taken me up on it.

    I actually think a kind of Science Cafe type thing would be a great after school activity - those interested enough could take turns to research and present to others / lead discusssions on the stuff that most fascinates them.
  11. install

    install Star commenter

    However bright they are - they should not be 'scrutinising' and 'inspecting' their teacher and making them feel this way....

    Yep - that is a form of whole class bullying and totally not on. Your hod will have a choice word to day to them I hope :cool:
    crazypineapple likes this.
  12. install

    install Star commenter

    Inspecting and 'scrutinising' their teacher - enough to make them feel this way....mmmmm. Bright they may be - angels they ain't :rolleyes: Just sayin'...
  13. Dave0301

    Dave0301 New commenter

    We expect high standards from pupils, and they, in turn, can expect high standards from us. I have no problem with a new class querying my content knowledge to try and suss things out.

    There may also be an element of testing limits, but I find your advice and perception of the pupils dismissive and derisive.
  14. install

    install Star commenter

    Likewise ...I find your perception odd, weak and naive given that the teacher is being 'inspected' and 'scrutinsed' - and being made to feel this way. This sounds like nothing to do with the curriculum - and may be out of order...and the students are old enough to know the limits...:eek::eek::eek:
  15. needabreak

    needabreak Star commenter

    The opening poster said they 'feel' scrutinised and this can often be the case with a new bright class, they test limits but we must have self confidence and trust our abilities enough not to be undermined or be intimidated, it goes with the job I'm afraid. I expect it will get easier as time goes by and trust is built up on both sides.

    However as I said before if they are just being silly that's another matter, and as other posters have said the HOD should be able to give perspective and support if needed.

    How's it going @rm2014 ?
  16. install

    install Star commenter

    This post deserves a Trophy :cool:
    crazypineapple and sabrinakat like this.
  17. Curae

    Curae Lead commenter

    In my younger days I had a similar class many were Oxbridge material and I can clearly remember one very arrogant young lady instructing me in front of Ofsted inspector how to teach . I was livid but the inspector at the time ( obviously also found this girl very irritating) and responded with " actually your teacher is doing fine and please do not interrupt with such advise" . This girl went on to Oxford and became a teacher in my own subject ...I wonder who inspired that ?

    The key is to ALWAYS respond in confidence. By all means have text books/ internet info but do not feel you need to have encyclopaedic knowledge even if you yourself are a 1st class form Oxford.

    Sometimes a simple I DON'T KNOW but can look it up later said in confidence is more than enough. Don't um and err and stumble. Select pupils at top schools love to catch teachers out but NOT when answered with confidence.
    Another good idea is to turn the tables around (so to speak) and ask them to say research the most cutting edge aspect of genetic engineering and present this to the class ... you will be able to quote this useful piece of research in successive years. I have actually learnt a lot from my own students this way.

    Don't forget you are in charge you have the degree, MA, PhD and they NEED you ...end of !

    Good luck !
  18. Curae

    Curae Lead commenter

    My own son attends a top well known school ...several of his teachers will actually refuse to answer irrelevant questions and students are expected to focus on the topic being taught No one ever complains. Media and parents rave about this school which has never been out of the outstanding category since the inception of Ofsed inspections.
  19. skvo

    skvo New commenter

    If you feel sctrutinised and inspected it does not nesessery mean they are malicious towards you. They may be just nervous about you as their new teacher during this important year. Or they might be genuinely interested. It may be unfair on you to get this group at the first place but now you are stuck with them and need to make the best out of such chance.

    In similar situations ( teaching at A level somebody who won gold in world physics olympiad during my first year at new school, for example) I would tell a bit of my own interests and agree on what areas of the subject I can answer questions well beyond the curriculum and areas I am not fluent at beyond curriculum. And I am prepared to answer question about the first but not the latter. It is also worth bragging about your previous successes in teaching to results as well I think.

    Good luck
  20. skvo

    skvo New commenter

    I find the state of affairs where teachers are not answering students questions very sad. Life is bigger than curriculum, teaching is bigger than feeding only topics chosen by Department of Education and Ofsted is useless measuring device.
    I am glad that my kids were in different environment and I worked with different colleagues: passionate and knowledgeable about their subjects well beyond topics being taught and happy to extend their students at every opportunity.

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