Sunday, 18 November 2012

I don't know that actually.

Its a difficult thing to say to a student that you either don't know the answer or that you are wrong. Hubris like this is a dangerous thing. I was reminded of this when cycling home on friday evening. I am a fairly fast cyclist, or at the very least competent, and I can weave my way through traffic better than I can control year 9. In order to get home i had to ride through the centre of a town whose road system looks like it was put together by a child who had just received the traffic lights expansion pack for their toy roads but was waiting until christmas to get the roundabouts. This was interval training at its grandest scale, and all the time in the middle of rush-hour, rainsoaked, angry traffic. I did a little bit of skipping queues down the middle of the road but got pretty bored of this pretty quickly and just took the queues on the chin.
Unlike my new found calm a number of cyclists were legging it along the road like year tens after a healthy dose of orange sherbert. I wasn't terribly insulted or challenged by this, but it was their whole aura of invincible arrogance that appaulled me. They had this horrible 'come and get me' attitude towards drivers. These past couple of weeks there has been a number of incidents involving international cyclists and coaches that have caused injured cyclists. I cannot judge who was at fault in these, but i'm afraid that the common cyclist has developed this idea that if any driver hits them then it is immediately the drivers fault. I have seen crashes before and I can assure anyone that the fight between a tonne of steel and 10 kilos of aluminium is pretty one sided.
It would be easy to ignore this petulant behaviour and simply claim that these riders will reap the dubious rewards found underneath a car but it is the attitude that purveys through driving culture that causes the rest of us to suffer. If cyclists ride like arseholes then drivers will act like arseholes towards us, it is simple.
How does this react to teaching? Well it is reasonably tenuous I must say, but this week I found myself in a situation where one of my classes felt like a battlefield before I even walked in. There was a sense of battlelines drawn across the classroom floor between a particular group of students and myself and I thought; 'Wait. Maybe this isn't just them. Maybe they aren't just little shits. Maybe I need to start to move this into a more comfortable attitude in the classroom.' So i tried something. Something learned from a lecture a long time ago and ignored a long time ago as well. I declared that I didn;t know the answer to something and i wrote the question on the board and then i went home and found it out and told them. It didn't change everything straight away but it did seem to help change the atmosphere and the next lesson, where I presented my researched answer was a lot better in terms of work ethic. I think showing that you care about your own learning sets the precident that as cyclists we should also set if we expect to be respected by drivers.
Enjoy Monday.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

How to survive parents evening and other tales.

This week has been a wrench. And the primary reason for this wrench is that lovely late night extravaganza of Parents' Evening. First of all, i have no idea why it is called Parent's evening. It is not their evening. It is my evening that they are destroying. Parents' evening is a difficult and distressing time for us all as teachers and so I would like to give my advice on surviving parents evening. 

1: accrue data this doesn’t mean generate data. This means go in prepared: CATS scores (or lies as I affectionately call them) SEN and G and T registers, levels, target grades and all of the other stuff that you can use to distract the parent from the fact that you don't have a clue who their child is....

2: Prepare your filler statements. There will be times when you have nothing to say. You need to have your go to statements to use to make yourself look like you aren't a/are less of a bumbling idiot. I suggest some of the following:
Teachers aren't meant to have favourites but....
The way teaching is moving is towards discussion based learning
It is too early to predict GCSE results but...
Do you have any questions for me?

3: Euphemisms avoid complaints and anger. Make sure you have slightly distracting/misleading/pleasant sounding ways of telling the parents how much you dislike their children and how badly they are doing. You can use these as lead in statements to more brutal comments like 'In my opinion her/his best hope is that they can find a benevolent pimp.' but this particular comment is highly inadvisable. Try some of the following:
We haven't yet established our positive learning environment.
[insert name] is still finding their place in the classroom.
I think we can put this behind us and turn a corner.
Sometimes they can be a little too keen. 
 I don't feel like they are embracing the learning style I advocate.

 4: Smoke and Mirrors. We have all been there. That hideous sinking moment when a child and their parent sits down in front of you and you swear to whichever deity takes your favour that you have never seen them before. They know it, You know it. You cannot remember their name and they could be any one of the four or five frankly anonymous children in the classroom. Those children that both complete all the work and fail to inspire you with their answers. The squeezed middle that never say anything in class but also give you no reason to say anything to them beyond the average random-name-generator-of-your-choice driven question. I find it happens once every PE. These are my sequential steps. 
Book appointments this never works but it just might pull off once in a while
have your sims open with photos. Then stall until you match up. This is potentially risky but can work. 
If these two fail you have to fall on my silver bullet solution. Quickly try and appear like you are trawling through a massive excel spreadsheet. Then complain about the length, telling the parents that you're just pulling up the data. At this point use some filler comment such as describing what the students are doing this term. Do not make eye contact. It will give you away. At this point, while trying to look exasperated, use this comment: 'I'm sorry about this, my spreadsheet is ordered by surname and yours has just slipped my mind. Can you remind me. I hate technology. This should get you out your tight spot. You could complain about government funding and how bad your laptop is at this point as well. At that point you can fill the rest of the meeting with comments about the data and then a courtesy comment about how their child is never a problem in class but could be a little more outspoken and then you are safe and free. 

Thank you all, And to all a good night.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


Just a short and piecemeal post today, predominantly based on some beautiful questions from students this week.

'Sir, is King Kong a real place?'
King Kong? is it a real place?'
'Do you mean Hong Kong?'
'Is it ia real place?'
'Yes. Yes it is.'


'Sir is the First World War the one with the wall?'
'Do you mean the Berlin wall?'
'No it's not. That wall separated Berlin after the second world war, and Berlin is of course the capital of?'

These kids really have no world view. They aren't stupid, they just have no idea what is going on in the world outside their facebook friends.
I have a new way of making students think you have lost the plot. My shoes were killing my feet today and so I took them off and taught in my socks. My mismatched one-pink one-orange socks.

Thats all. for now. I'm sorry for the sparse nature. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Empty Vessels Full of Shattered Dreams

Professional education is a minefield. How do you play it? stay quiet and get it over with quickly or throw in some off-the-wall suggestions to entertain yourself or agree wholeheartedly with everything and maybe lick a bumhole or two in the process in order to put yourself in line for a sure fire step up the pay scale next time your up for review. 

Big suggestion today That split the groups. Some stayed quiet, hoping for it to end swiftly. Some sat alert, practically jumping out of chairs in order to climb on every speaker's minor inadequacies of thought and some standing high above tugging on puppet strings attached to PGCE, NQT, veteran and course leader themself: Is it right to admit to students that you don;t know something.

My response, of course. The kids never try and learn anything half the time, so why try and lie your way around the fact you don't know something. Half of the kids have no positive role model outside of the school and the rest couldn't give a shit either way. What is the point in not admitting to a student that you don't know the answer when instead you can model to them the process of research in order to discover, together, in some sickly sweet Dead Poets Society means, the magic of actual learning!

 The teacher as a quasi-celestial being seems to have hubristic ownership of a power of pure insight. Every teacher believes that they can see through students lies like they are the windows on anti-drug school's toilets. Why does the education profession believe that it's charges do not have this sense and instead of our white-hot rage they care so little they just ignore us. They just feel jaded enough to not mention that they know their teacher is a patronising, superior arsehole who believes them to be empty vessels that will only fill themselves with White Lightning, class-A drugs and lies about friends. Even if they do not demonstrate learning of any type and would be better off eating their textbooks than reading them, they have opinions and they have them of all teachers.

I offer a challenge because today at the end of my appallingly underplanned lesson I spoke to a very disengaged student about teachers he likes and dislikes and why he holds these beliefs. There were suprising insults based primarily on those teachers expectations of him. In all likelihood this child will be in prison by the time he is twenty, as, he revealed, has been true of every male member of his family for two generations. Despite this he was genuinely hurt by some teachers, particularly one that told him he would never amount to anything. I found this quite sad today. Perhaps in the labelling him of difficult by the entire school I manged to forget the poor kid has feelings after all. Tomorrow, ask your most difficult student to tell you their thoughts on their teachers and why. Do this without repercussion and let them include yourself. I think, like my accidental stumble today, you may find it interesting. 


Sunday, 4 November 2012

And Now, The End is Near.

See that bit in the profile? yeah that it, the one with the bit that says updates Monday, Wednesday and Friday? Yeah that was a lie. I apologise. I am a terrible person. I have let myself go. I am sorry, it is half term and bad things have happened to me. By bad things i mean i made an excelloent plan based around alleviating all my stress for next term through an extensive and intensive programme of marking, planning and theorising. What I have actually done includes watching films, digging out the N64 from the loft and going running. I have had a happy time.

What I am not happy about is that come monday I am totally screwed. For now bliss is found in beautiful ignorance.

I have been reading some educational textbooks, which makes me feel like I don't know who I am anymore. I got voluntold recently that i need to do some work on G and T. This seem to be the dirtiest term in education at the moment. The sheer amount of literature for G and T provision is tiny compared to SEN, and SEN seems to be the Cinderella of teaching and specialties- grimy and difficult at first but guarenteed to make you famous by association, whereas G and T seems to be the Mulan - largely ignored by seasoned critics and  but potentially spectactular. I am unsure where I sit, and I am also ensure of the literature that I have read so far. It seems to predominantly just theorise good teaching instead of anything specific to very able students. It seems as if noone really know what they're doing with this G and T milarky. Seem like the perfect home for a revolutionary.

If only I could get through this level on Goldeneye I'd get to work.