There is a clock in every classroom and it usually hangs on the wall in the same location.  At the back of my science lab it is a little different.  At the start of the year, out of the corner of my eye, I catch sight of pupils and I by now know the look of realisation.  Some of the pupils hate it and others love it.

It is all a bit of fun and a novelty.  However, on two occasions I have seen something a little more interesting and unusual.  Numerous times I have seen a pupil try and catch out a friend who has never seen it, by asking innocently, “what time is it?”  And on two of these occasions I have seen the unsuspecting pupil read the time without even thinking about it or realising that something was not quite right. On both of these occasions the pupil read the time correctly and then had to have it pointed out to them that they had in fact read it backwards.  This highlights something that I have seen many times as a teacher; we do not all think in the same way even though we are taught in the same way.  For reading the time there is a system to follow.  For most of us we have a set of patterns imprinted on our minds….half past…..a quarter to…..five minutes past.  But for some they follow the circular number line then follow round to the minute hand, then finally translate it into quarters and halves.  And I believe that for a very small few it does not even matter if the hands and number line are clockwise or anti-clockwise.

It is also a talking point for questions about time.  This always leads to questions about time travel and we all try to bend our heads around the fact that you can travel forward in time faster than other people but not backwards.  I tell them that if you move fast enough then time will slow down for you but the rest of the world will carry on moving through time at their normal rate.  Some don’t believe me so I like to give them real world examples.  I tell them that the clocks on satellites all run at different speeds due to them all moving at different speeds in space.  I then tell them that scientists have invented a little box computer that can actually listen to the clocks on these satellites and listens to their constantly wrong internal clocks.  This little box then realises that slow clocks must be moving faster than not so slow clocks and it uses this to do a bit of nifty maths and then uses this information to tell you to…..”turn RIGHT in one hundred meters then carry on for HALF A MILE on the A1”.

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