Like blogging, but slower

When I didn’t blog

I write. I proofread, change a few things and add the links. And then I press ‘Publish’ and my words appear on this site, for all the world to read.

(Okay, ‘all the world’ may be a slight exaggeration. But my site gets visitors, and I’m pretty sure some of them are actual people. The comments are hugely appreciated, honestly.)

So almost a year ago, I was halfway through that process when I paused. I read through my text again, about a way to teach mathematical relationships that wasn’t so, well, mathematical. And then, instead of putting it online, I sent an email wondering if it might, with editing and improvement, be worth submitting for publication.

And I was told that yes, I should consider it.

Time passes

I want to emphasize that the following process was worthwhile. The end result – which is linked below – was far better than the first draft. It was better worded, the language was clearer, the ideas were better reasoned and better explained. The examples were improved and expanded. I’m really happy with it and proud to be published.

But it took so long: eight months from first draft being shared to publication. I didn’t keep a clear record of each step, which I now wish I had. (Did you know that you can name versions in Google Drive to summarise the changes? I do now…) The points below are a rough idea of what happened, not a precise timeline.

  • First draft of ‘Maths Narratives’ shared in April 2017: is this worth submitting?
  • Yes, but might be worth changing X and Y, and have you thought about Z?
  • Second version submitted to SSR.
  • Helpful comments and gentle prompt to refer to submission guidance.
  • Third version, in house style, submitted to SSR.
  • More helpful comments, query about word count.
  • Fourth version, with further improvements, shared with a couple of science teacher friends via twitter.
  • Fifth version with changes made following (very helpful) comments from those twitter friends.
  • Wait.
  • Feedback from SSR reviewers via email, all very constructive.
  • Some of the suggested changes were included, some were not. None was ignored; in several cases I changed the text to better explain what I was saying in response.
  • Resubmitted to SSR.
  • Final editorial feedback to increase the word count with longer explanations (my piece was now being accepted as an article, not one of the briefer ‘Science Notes’). This meant adding an abstract and other academic features.
  • Final resubmission, accepted with provisional publication date.
  • Proof sent to me for checking, legal form from SSR.
  • Final proof sent as PDF.
  • Wait.
  • Formulae as Scientific Stories published in December 2017 issue of School Science Review.

Lessons learned

  1. Don’t underestimate your work. Being a classroom teacher means that clear explanations and innovative approaches are what you do. If something’s worth blogging, then it’s worth asking yourself if it would benefit from more development and a bigger audience.
  2. Trust your colleagues, near and far. Every single person I approached for opinions, all of whom were busy and overworked, were supportive, helpful and made good suggestions.
  3. Expect it to take time. Lots of time. No, more time than that.
  4. Recognise that some of the stages will make no sense to you. It’s just the way academic publishing works. Recognise that the boring tasks are the price you pay for the support that lets you improve what you’re making.

Usual appeal for feedback

It’s possible I may have been procrastinating. I have loads to do, with the conference I may have accidentally agreed to lead starting tomorrow. But I’m glad I took this half-hour out, partly to calm down and partly because it’s long overdue. I’m proud of what I wrote, damnit. (I considered sending a copy for my Mum to put on her fridge…)

I’d really appreciate some responses to this, on two levels. Firstly, have you considered turning a blog into an article – or are you thinking about it now? And secondly, please let me know what you think of the ideas in the paper itself, PDF linked above for those of my readers who don’t have access to SSR.

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Maths Skills For Science Lessons

After taking part in a recent online CPD trial with the Yorkshire and Humber Science Learning Centre, I’ve been trying to find ways to help my students use their maths skills in a science context. (And no, this wasn’t prompted by the recent SCORE report.) As we discussed during the course (and yes, I want to blog about it in more detail) the issue isn’t always that they don’t have the skills – it’s that they don’t use them. Sometimes it’s about language differences (positive correlation vs directly proportional, for example) and sometimes it’s just some kind of mental block. I’m trying a few different things:

  • providing science formula sheets to Maths to use for practice in lessons
  • producing data sets that they can use in Maths lessons
  • display work highlighting similarities and differences between science and maths vocabulary

But the focus for the blog post is something different. I’ve produced (but not yet finished trialling) a booklet for students to use and refer to in Science lessons. It covers a few areas identified by students and colleagues as causing problems. Each page includes an explanation, worked examples, hints and tips, possible applications and practice exercises. I’m making it available here in this untested state for comments, suggestions and improvements; click on the image for the pdf.

To Come (Hopefully)

  1. Corrected version if (when?) you find problems with it, with included pages for write-on answers/notes
  2. Markscheme/answer booklet
  3. Accompanying A4 display pages with extracts
  4. Additional pages if sufficient (polite) demand

I’d really love some feedback on this, everyone – please comment with improvements and suggestions.