Geography, Simplified!: Heat Waves

This post was written a good many years ago (I think 5 or 6 actually) for a blog that I used to write on with a friend. Since then I’ve been meaning to put more of my Geography Degree and teaching knowledge to good some use and yet I keep putting it off. Well, since the old blog seems destined to close down for good soon, I thought that I may as well drag some old content kicking and screaming from the pages of the past to share once more (also I’m hilariously lazy and this seems like the easiest way to bring the blog back in relative obscurity from total obscurity…) Please forgive any glaring issues, but ho hum. Welcome to “Geography, Simplified!”


It’s the summer holidays and it’s pouring with rain! What else did you expect from this wonderful country of our? A little bit of hot weather? Well, cast your minds back over the last few years (few months actually, we had a heatwave declared in June!) You can bet your bottom Pound Sterling (not Dollar. We’re not toddlers Americans) that with the hot weather comes the inevitable scaremongering from the media that will begin with some websites pondering whether our weather might descend into a “heat wave”. But what exactly is a heat wave? Let’s take a look.

“A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity. There is no universal definition of a heat wave;the term is relative to the usual weather in the area.”

Put simply, a heat wave is a time of higher than average temperatures in an area, but since the climate of two areas may not be the same, there is no single temperature that must be achieved for it to be considered a heat wave. The reccommended definition is that when the daily maximum temperature of more than five days in a row is higher than the average temperature by more than five degrees Celsius.

So how do they happen?

Well, heat waves are usually caused by an area of high pressure where the air and the ground get heated to excess and there is very little to displace the heat, such as cloud cover. A static high pressure area (one that does not move) can create a very persistent heat wave. Hot winds blowing from tropical or desert areas can also contribute to the creation of heat waves, with the warmer air being blown onto an area that is usually cooler, combining with the high pressure area. The “Heat Island” phenomenon caused by large urban areas such as cities can also exacerbate (such a big word, so grown up!) a heat wave and make it worse, due to the prolonged period of heat, cutting down the amount of night time cooling.

What damage can heat waves do?

Medical issues such as Hyperthermia (heat stroke) and Heat rash, among others can be caused by the extreme weather. A usual precaution taken during a heat wave is to set up air conditioned “cooling areas” for the public in most cities. In worst case scenarios heat waves can kill, as seen in the 2003 European heat wave, where around 15,000 people died in France alone. Wildfires can be started in some areas, where the heat affects dry vegetation and causes it to catch alight. In 2003 fires raged through Portugal as a consequence of the heat. Heatwaves can also cause physical damage to infrastructure with pavements and roads melting and buckling due to the heat.

You mentioned 2003 in Europe?

Why yes I did. All good Geographers love a Case Study and this is ours for a Heatwave. In 2003 a heat wave erupted over most of western Europe. You can see the areas affected on the map I’ve included at the end of this post. In 2003, the summer was the hottest on record since at least 1540. This created major health crises in many countries, with France being hit especially hard. This, combined with a drought that caused a major crop shortfall in the South of the continent, caused over 40,000 Europeans to lose their lives. The UK managed to escape the worst, and was brought a short period of relief by Atlantic cyclones, bringing cool, wet weather for a few days before the temperatures started to rise once again. Around 2000 people died in the UK.

Map showing the 2003 European Heat Wave

Well there you have it. The phenomenon known as a heat wave has been broken down a bit and explained. Now, whenever this rain stops you can understand what all the scary news articles are about! See you all soon for another bit of Geography, Simplified!

 

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Your First Year in Teaching as told by Peep Show (Or how you’ve basically become Mark and Jez without realising it…)

Almost two years ago I wrote a blog post at the end of my Teacher Training, summing up the whole year in song titles (CLICK IT – YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!). I’ve been meaning to follow that up since I passed my NQT year last year and never got around to it, until today! I know that a lot of people outside of the UK might not resonate with me using Peep Show images but do you know what? I don’t care. I like Peep Show and I think it shares a lot of similar themes with your NQT year as a teacher.

 

This post is going to differ slightly to the last one by looking at only a few key moments throughout the year, but I swear that it hits all the key points! It also doesn’t only apply to my own experiences of completing my hellishly nightmarish NQT year (of which I have been less than kind on this blog already..) and instead will focus on a mildly more generic year… Although not too much as where’s the fun in me not complaining?

Guess we’d better get started!

The First Day

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Oh those first day nerves might well get the better of you and you end up standing awkwardly in the staff room during briefing as you haven’t figured out where to sit yet (trust me, it’s an important decision) but overall you’re happily optimistic. This year can’t be any harder than Teacher Training right? You know what you’re doing… You’ve got this… Right?

When you realize your tutor group don’t *quite* understand the “I’m here to help spiel…

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You’ve got your own tutor group! What a great chance to bond with the students and nurture and encourage a small group of pupils! You try to be as positive as possible with them, you let them know the rules and that they can come to you if they have any problems. Now, when you said that you were expecting it to be things like timetable crashes, lost kit or even some GCSE option decisions. What you didn’t expect was the endless tirade of tales they tell about each other. You can only hear so many renditions of “So and So took my pencil in maths” before your eyes start to glaze over and you hear yourself utter the phrase “I’ll have a word with them tomorrow”.

Still, as often as they can be irritating, your tutor group can also be amazing. Nothing beats the satisfaction of seeing a formerly naughty and underachieving student improving based on your mentoring. (Personally I love being a Form Tutor – it’s one of my favourite parts of the job!)

About 3 weeks into the second half term…

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Oh this one’s an easy one. You’ve made it past half term, you’ve had a week off and you miss the easy days of university (personally I had 8 hours a week in those golden days – now I can EASILY do 8 hour days and then some). You start to get a bit disenfranchised and pine for the 9-5 that your uni friends have going on. Oh what a world it would be where you didn’t work in the evening and at weekends…

Your first Christmas build up

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Here’s a warning for those people like me who absolutely LOVE Christmas. Not everyone does. Most schools don’t really do a large amount for Christmas, and of course since you’re a grown up, you have to be sensible and keep churning out the usual lessons for your students, no matter how much you might want to watch Elf for all 6 periods of your day! Being responsible sucks sometimes.

The Marking. The Horror.

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This one is very much self explanatory. IT’s a repetitive task but you’ve gotta do it. Keep on going!

When the dark days take their toll on your eating habits…

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It’s after the Christmas break, you’ve already abandoned your new years resolutions and you’ve caught yourself buying endless amounts of Uncle Ben’s Rice Time pots instead of making your own meals from scratch. It’s been three weeks since you even contemplated eating a fresh piece of fruit. It’s a sad reality of teaching that if you don’t work hard to keep yourself healthy and eating right it can slip easily and once it does its a downhill slide to rock bottom. You realize there’s only so many Rustlers Microwave Burgers you can eat before you start to feel repulsed by yourself… You resolve to make some changes that probably won’t ever happen but it’s comforting to lie to yourself…

6 Little Letters – OFSTED

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It’s probably your first time facing the onslaught that is Ofsted. Everyone goes into panic stations and the school stays open later so you can get your lessons plans sorted. You spend longer planning a single lesson than you ever have and make sure you’ve got all the buzzwords in there! Just don’t let that panic show on the day! Remember Han Solo “Don’t get cocky Kid”.

When it all gets a bit overwhelming and yet you still lie to everyone that you’re fine.

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Hopefully this won’t be you, but it certainly was me and my friend Rachael. We lied to ourselves, to each other and to our mentors. We were fine and didn’t need any help. Honestly. I’m fine. I’ve always had bags under my eyes. No, seriously. I am getting enough sleep. I’m fine. I promise…

When you finally admit there might have been a problem…

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At least you’ve finally admitted it! You can get this sorted now you’re being honest. It’s a big change to overhaul everything and get back on track but you can do this! You’ve been through worse. You survived the placement school. You’ve got this far dammit! You can do this. Although there’s still that niggling feeling that it’s all going to go horribly wrong. Better push that aside for now…

When your friends ask you how your life is going

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Its been so long since you’ve been on a date that you start to worry they might have changed all the rules and you’ll never adapt. Before you came out tonight it took you a good 20 minutes to find a shirt that WASN’T a work shirt. You’ve not had to look presentable for the outside world in a good few months. These normal people just love to rub their free time in your face. Still, it’s nice to know that despite your massive workaholic tendencies you still have a group of friends ready to stick by you, even though they dont’t quite get why being in the pub until closing on a  Tuesday is a bad idea…

When you just start to sink into the routine

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Oh all those worries and insecurities have become routine by now. There’s no need to worry about them because you’ve got so good at multitasking you can eat your breakfast, reply to emails and brush your hair all at the same time. You’re like a highly skilled octopus which can live on land. You take whatever comes your way in your stride. It’s all just another day at the office for you.

When you *FINALLY* embrace your inner wierdo

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It’s about time you stopped worrying what everyone else thought. Let your Freak Flag fly as they say! You’ll notice your teaching gets better and your students respect you a bit more when you put a bit more personality into your lessons and stop being so rigidly by the book. Good on you!

The final push of NQT year

A little bit of you has died inside. You’re very much a different person. This year has changed you. You’ve been to hell and back and dammit all if you didn’t survive. You feel more confident. You finally know what you’re doing. You can go into the summer holidays happy that come September you won’t have the same freak out you did this year. It was tough, but it was worth it! No more evidence folders! That’s got to be worth the hassle alone…

 

Well there you have it! Some key NQT moments summed up with Peep Show Quotes.

Obviously I must point out that a few of these moments, whilst startling similar to real life events that many newly qualified teachers go through, have in fact been slightly exaggerated for comedic purposes. It’s a great job, Teaching. I don’t think I’d trade it in for the world, despite the ups and downs!

Maybe there’s a part 3 coming soon. Maybe not. I think I need to spend a bit more time experiencing it before I try to make light of it all!

Until next time teachers!

A Cinnamon Danish and an Oddly Seductive Picture of George Osborne

There are things in life that we may not necessarily like. If this (and the really rather strange title) seems like a strange way to start a blog post, bear with me and it should all be a little clearer soon.

As I said there are things in life we don’t like but regardless of personal feelings we have to do them. For me, one of these things is going to London. I can’t stand it. Nevertheless at 7:15 I was entrenched upon the local station platform surrounded by an ocean of commuters, some dressed rather scruffily for work in my opinion whilst others (myself included) were dressed to the nines. There was a rather sombre mood permeating the atmosphere, not only owed to the pregnant pause between the weather waiting to rain and actually raining. No, as if to add to the drudgery of my days task the train was delayed. Combining the shambolic attempts of a certain UK rail provider (who shall remain nameless but whose name does indeed rhyme with the phrase “Burst Eight, Heston!” You make your own deductions from there)  to organise a train on time for once, my general disdain of the general public and the fact that I was on my way to the urine soaked, antisocial hub of wretched debauchery and assorted unsavoury miscreants shining jewel of civilisation and prosperity that Is our capital, it was safe to say I wasn’t in a brilliant mood.

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The trains had been delayed for so long that people abandoned all hope of going home and set up camps on the platform

Soldiering on like the trooper I am I suffered through a rail journey (once the train arrived of course) spent entirely stood up for an hour whilst penned in shoulder to face with my fellow cattle passengers. I eventually emerged at London Paddington and with surprisingly little fuss I was on an underground train and arrived at my final stop before a short walk to the secondary school that was to be my final destination for the day.

Just before moving on I’d like to briefly mention that for all the fuss made about how fantastically amazing and modern and culturally advanced London is I could not, for love nor money, find anywhere to buy a coffee that wasn’t out of the back of a gentleman’s Peugeot106 (and I use the word gentleman very loosely). Whilst I do love coffee I prefer mine not to be purchased in a car boot sale style, only being one small step away from swapping a manilla envelope of cash for a brown paper bag hidden cup of java underneath an underpass. If this is what being modern and culturally advanced is, I’ll stick to the dark ages thanks.

Skipping ahead my mornings plight was rewarded at registration for the event (which was a meeting of network connected geography teachers as I know you were clearly wondering) with a large cup of steaming hot coffee and a gigantic cinnamon Danish (ooh mystery 1 solved) it almost made up for the events of the morning. Almost.

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The event itself was actually quite interesting, sharing good practice ideas over pastries (a practice which needs to be adopted as the sole way to do this in any situation) before having some interesting talks from members of the Royal Geographic Society on the changes made to GCSE and A Level geography in the UK.  All in all a useful and thought provoking few hours which I’m very glad I got the chance to listen to. The real treat however was still to come.

Post comfort break (as teachers we can’t be expected to sit still for more than two hours without moving around or else we begin to act like our students during after lunch lessons) we were treated to a bit of subject knowledge enhancement on the topic of Hydraulic Fracking (which was fracking interesting if you ask me). It was during the lecture that the aforementioned picture emerged. When discussing the pros and cons of the process as a viable source for meeting UK energy needs in the near future an oddly seductive picture of George Osborne became emblazoned on the SMART BOARD to highlight the fact his views are that we should push on with fracking despite the impacts that this may have and use hydraulic Fracking as a transition or “bridge fuel” between the current over reliance upon fossil fuels and sustainable alternatives. To use the really rather brilliant metaphor that the teacher leading the Hub shared with us, Fracking can be seen as the methadone to the heroin addict, a way to wean us off an unhealthy and unsustainable addiction to fossil fuel.

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All in all the experience of working collaboratively with other teachers in the network, some of whom have been teaching for years, some like myself at the beginning of their careers and some at the very start of it all doing their training year also known as the worst year of your life and a surefire method of driving you to alcoholism in order to survive was incredibly positive and it was great to get view points from different perspectives and to, as the horrifically irritating man stuck in my group much to my chagrin (well it was going too well for him not to be) kept saying, see concepts through a different lens. I’m not sure if he was an idiot. No, actually I’m positive about that point a secret lover of photography and ophthalmology or just a man utterly in love with metaphors but if his point was to leave a lasting impression of the complexity with which we should examine  global issues as opposed to the simplistic, singular point of view that we often take then he most definitely succeeded in changing my thinking.

Even if it is only until I get back in the classroom tomorrow…

Teacher Training as told by song titles (or how the most stressful year of my life can be summed up musically)

I haven’t written a blog post in over a year. That’s actually a lie, I’ve written lots of them for about 5 minutes each. Then I’ve realised that I have too much to do and gone back to my work instead of procrastinating with the hope that I may actually get to bed before my alarm goes off in the morning. The reason behind my absence is that I have been doing my teacher training this past year. Yes, I am now a qualified Geography Teacher and although the process of getting there was incredibly arduous and resulted in a lot of blood, sweat and tears (and the largest amount of coffee that I think I’ve ever consumed) not to mention the constant feeling of stress, I believe that it was all worth it to have a job that I enjoy (that no doubt will turn out to be equally as stressful in the long run but ho-hum).

Boromir knows the deal for all PGCE Teachers

If anybody out there among you readers is wondering exactly what it takes to undergo your Initial Teacher Training (through a PGCE course at least, though I’m sure that many other trainees will tell you the same regardless of how they underwent their training) then I am here with the answer. This post will explore the entire year from beginning in September until the end, with Graduation in July and even a little bit of starting the new job! Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Let’s begin…

Day 1: It’s A Beautiful Day – Michael Bublé

That first day of the PGCE: nothing can go wrong, you’re starting out on a new path, finally going to take the career world by storm. You can’t be stopped, you’re on your way to the top and today is your first step on the path. You’re excited, nervous and enjoying the world; whatever this year throws at you, you’ll be ready for it. Nothing can ever bring you down.

First day of placement: Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble – PJ & Duncan

You’ve sat through three weeks of lectures and countless seminars on subject knowledge and the importance of a good starter activity. The big day has come and you’re ready to get out there and inspire some pupils!

First full week of placement: Gonna Fly Now – Bill Conti

The training wheels are off and you’re in school full-time, no more Thursday or Friday lectures for a while! This is the time when you’re sure you’re going to be amazing and nothing can stop you! You know what you’re doing after all!

Final day of the first placement: Farewell – Rihanna

You’ve completed the first 3 months of your training and you’re ready for a holiday. You’ve laughed, cried and loved the kids you’ve taught, as well as hating them on occasion (it’s okay, we all feel that way). It’s your last day at School number 1 and it’s a sad time for you. That Christmas break looks REALLY appealing though…

First day of the second placement: Starting Over Again – The Dollyrots

Christmas has come and gone and you’re back to start your second placement school. Buoyed by your success at the first placement you feel ready to completely boss this placement stage and become the outstanding teacher you know you can be. Time to begin again!

The day you get a job for September: Everything Is Awesome – Tegan & Sara ft. The Lonely Island

You went through all of the possible questions you might be asked, planned and re-planned your lesson and checked it through with every member of your department and guess what? It worked! You’re employed! Hooray! (This step may come earlier or later in your year, it came right around this point for me though.)

The day you start struggling to balance everything: In Too Deep – Sum 41

Again, this stage can move around in your year. Mine came just after half term where I had spent the week doing nothing; no marking, no planning, no nothing. I had just finished my second written assignment for the course (which i had decided to take at Masters level because I am an idiot and hey who wants any of that “free time” stuff anyway?  it seemed like a strong career move, thinking about the future.  You will struggle and everything will start to become too much. Just cling on and make it through!

The day you have the observation that gets you back on track: Not Afraid – Eminem

You’ve been struggling, swimming against the tide trying desperately to claw your performance back to where it should be and that day arrives when you will be observed to measure this performance. This is a big one, if you mess it up then there’s a very terrifying conversation (which is in no way a conversation at all, more like a character assassination of your flaws) in your future…

But you’ve got this. You’re ready.

The day you realise everything is awful and you start hating your job: Welcome To Oblivion – Madina Lake

That’s IT! YOU’VE HAD IT WITH THIS JOB AND EVERYTHING TO DO WITH IT!!

You’ve had a really bad day and, most likely a really crappy few weeks. My moment like this came straight after the third and final assignment. I had a complete melt down and everything started to go to pot. My department weren’t overly supportive of me and I’d been feeling the growing disinterest from them for a while (ever since they didn’t hire me actually, but that’s an escape I feel lucky to have had) which when combined with the department shake up and my mentor becoming the new head of department lead to me feeling isolated and unsupported which resulted in a colossal F-Up. Know this: it gets better.

The day after the meltdown: I’m No Superman – Lazlo Bane

You’ve had a breakdown and you think you’re alone but trust me, you’re not. This is the day where you realise that you have friends around you. Those people on your course with you are there for you, they know what you’re going through because they’re in the same boat. You’re like war buddies, all fighting together and forging an indestructible bond with each other. You don’t have to do this alone, you can get help from them as long as you’re willing to help them out when they need it.

The final day of Placement: We Made It – Busta Rhymes ft. Linkin Park

It’s finally here, thank goodness. The day you’ve been waiting for since you started hating your job and focussing on “getting through it”; the LAST day of placement. You’ve got through it with some help from your friends and those around you. You are finally here, despite everything this year has thrown at you. Now just a final week at university to finish off the course. Whew.

The day you graduate: Celebration – Kool and the Gang

Enough said, right? Enjoy this day. You earned it.

So that’s the PGCE in a nutshell. This is how I’ve spent my last year and now I have the new challenge of being an actual qualified teacher ahead of me. It can’t be that bad, can it?