Laying slabs

I recently spent a few days laying 60 slabs in the back garden. I’m a complete novice to doing such tasks and in hindsight, perhaps should have paid to have the work done. I didn’t because, 1. I’m tight and didn’t want to spend the £2,500 I was quoted and 2. because I think I can do anything if I put my mind to it (Carol Dweck eat your heart out). Upon reflection of the work, I realised that some of what I learnt from my mistakes could be applied to the classroom. This is inspired by all the great posts by @BodilUK.


1: Looks can be deceiving

  • The ground I planned to lay the slabs on had a lot of grass – 60 slabs worth in fact. My plan was to quickly remove this to start preparing the ground for the slabs. I assumed the grass would come up easy. It looks lovely and soft, so I went to work with my edger and spade. This turned out to be the most challenging task and if you have ever tried it, you will sympathise with me. Blood, sweat, tears and a whole lot of time went into it.
  • Applying to education: The thing I learnt very quickly was that looks can be deceiving. In lessons, we spend a lot of time observing our learners, whether it be their faces, or the work they are producing. What we see may not necessarily be representative of what is going on between their ears.

2. Patience is a virtue

  • Once I start a job, I’m pretty rubbish at taking it steady. When laying the slabs I wanted to get as much done as possible each day. I found myself cutting corners occasionally and thus making mistakes. For example, rather than removing some of the excess concrete to lay a slab flat, I gave it a few too many whacks with the mallet instead. This resulted in several cracked slabs, which obviously needed replacing.
  • Applying to education: It is good to be efficient; there’s a lot to get through, but sometimes things need time. Know when to take it steady and give learners enough time to really think about the content.

3. Checking work

  • As a result of moving quickly, there were times when I would lay a new slab next to a perfectly flat one and as soon as I gave it a little mallet, the original slab moved out of place. I would then have to go back to re-level the slab. This was highly frustrating, but came as a result of me rushing.
  • Applying to education: Ensure that learners are able to consolidate their understanding of something before moving on. If they’re not ready, then continue to support them.

 4. Being organised

  • Now when laying the slabs, I didn’t really think strategically about the order that I would lay them – I suppose it was very adhoc. The problem was that when it came to me filling the 5×5 square with the last slab being going on the edge in the middle, I had a big gap either side. I suppose a gap was better than not being able to fit the slab in, but it required a bit of extra mortar to fill the space.
  • Applying to education: Suffice to say that when you teach, planning is essential. If you plan the building blocks of learning wrong, learners will need a whole lot more support than a bit of extra mortar.

5. Care

  • As I didn’t have any, I didn’t wear gloves when completing the work. I handled the cement like it was play dough. Three days of this left me with sores on the tips of my fingers that were so painful that I couldn’t do anything with my hands by day 3. I mean anything! I was useless to my wife for a good few days after.
  • Applying to education: Look after yourself. You are no good to anyone if not.

Believe it or not, the job isn’t such a bad one. Where I made my mistakes, I have now strategically placed a trampoline to cover them.IMG_0793


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