Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Twas the night before strikeday...

Twas the night before strikeday
and all through the schools
not a creature was stirring
no year ten fools

the banners were hung
by the schoolgates with care
in the hope that no teachers
would walk by there

the teachers were snuggled
all up in their beds
with dreams of marking
in piles in their heads

And then a noise
from beside them did scream
and rudely interrupted
their  placid dreams

alas, an alarm,
forgot to unset
provided unwelcome,
6 o'clock threat
but then, a memory
a inkling of reason
a moment, lo, day,
of institutional treason

Oh joy, oh wonder
oh sheer delight
a day in the bedclothes
no marking in sight

but whats that that sits
in the corner disdainful
a stack of bad essays
whose grammar is painful

but the union rep said
no work to be done
so they'll open on Sunday
at a quarter to one

its not a day off
they say; its a shout in the dark
while everyone in briefing
wonders on thorpe park

but what is the point?
the kids'll be there
and the last thing you want
is them in your hair

Instead we'll shy away
from what moves outside
and instead of accusation
of shirking we'll hide

under blankets and duvets
and let the phone ring
and convince ourselves
that strikes really mean

Monday, 5 August 2013


My life is one of subtle tragedy and an overriding fear of the outside world. I also enjoy late night sojourns through suburbia with no agenda apart from feeling the world drift along underneath bare feet. But enough of my profile from

(Incidentally today I saw an advert for the aforementioned dating website and, with some disbelief, heard their claim that they are the most highly rated dating websites by single people and I just thought, why would i go to a website rated highly by single people. Surely I would be most attracted to a website rated highly by happily married couples who have met on Bizarre)

Today, while reading the TES (other educational papers are available, apparently.) I mused, once again, on the thought that I would be quite pleased to be one of their weekly space-filling columnists, ranting aimlessly about nothing. I quite admire some of them, but one of the things I greatly enjoy is the absolutely redutionist attitude to biography for a lot of them. For instance:

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a teacher in the North of England.


Mike Kent is a retired headteacher of a school for children aged 4-11 in England

'Why So Derivative' I hear you cry over the other voices in my head. I have no idea, but must we really label ourselves as simply teachers? Are we just a reflection of those we teach? Isn't Mike Kent's school a primary school, really, and doesn't need to be referred to as 'a school for children aged 4-11'? It is a plea to the Tes that should I ever become an edge-of-page columnist I wish to have the following printed as my bio:

Calamity Teacher is of indeterminate gender and may or may not live in England. The Teacher enjoys walking, but not in the rain, steak, but not lobster, and sport, but not football. The teacher has a morbid interest in extinct punctuation and enjoys the subtle juxtaposed ambiance created by an out-of-reach iPod on shuffle. Also the Teacher is a secondary school teacher that claims a hatred for children, despite an overriding commitment to unpaid extra-curricular activities. Most of the words in these articles have been chosen at random from those written on the bottom of rubber ducks fished with a tiny magnetic wand out of a paddling pool.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

I'm Always Serious.

When I was training one of the most useful things I ever did was have a seminar in one of my placement schools as part of professional development from the deputy head of said school. This placement was about behaviour management and it totally changed my attitude towards managing the classroom. The core point he told us was

'Try to not put students in detention.'

This, to my wide eyed and naive noggin was revolutionary. I started to try it. I started to aim not to give out detention and instead manage my classroom in a way that developed positive behaviour instead of constantly battling negative behaviour.

This deputy head did, however, recognise the need for detentions at certain times and I grew to learn that the most important thing isn't the detention itself; it is the idea of the detention and the inherent fear of it. Students should remember and fear your detentions. They should come as close to being banned by the Geneva Convention as possible and they should, inherently, be utterly pointless. If a student does not do homework they should not have to do that homework in detention because that defeats the point. They should have to do a miserable detention and then still have to hand in the homework.

In order to make your detentions more memorable for students I present an accrued list of suggestions gathered from family reminiscences, hushed staffroom whispers, student recollection, the testimony of criminals talking about their childhood and my own list of detentions I would like to give but will definitely get fired for.

1: The pointless essay.
The students are forced to write an essay on a ridiculous and absurd topic, often in a hideously short timeframe. Examples of this are primarily discussion topics such as: 'The air inside a ping-pong ball', 'Water' or 'This sheet of paper'.

2: The Pointless Task.
Students partake in something that has utterly no consequence except to annoy them. Normally this task involves a piece of paper and a pen in order to focus the pointlessness. An example is to draw a line between every line on a piece of lined paper. This particular example accentuates the failability of the pointless task. In this example the student was told that if, at any point, they crossed the printed lines with their ink line they had to start again from the beginning. Reportedly one student failed with such regularity that they started crying. Crying is a hallmark of this detention. I once heard a tale of  student made to colour in both sides of a piece of plain paper with a biro. When the biro ran out they were given a new one. After a fortnight of consecutive lunchtime detentions the child finished and the teacher picked up the page, neatly tore it into four and put it into the bin. Tears ensued.

3: The Community Service.
A real classic this one. Students are forced to improve their own personalities by removing chewing gum from tables, or clearing up, or alphabetising the exercise books for every class. There should be a special note on this one for a school that, during the early twentieth century, realised that it wanted to flatten off one of its school fields so that both cricket and rugby could be played. To do this it installed a short section of railway tracks down one side of the sloped field and placed a newly purchased railway wagon on these for the removed earth. PE lessons were then devoted entirely to the process of removing some 32,000 tonnes of earth. This process took students four years. Now THAT would be a detention.

I feel as if I've let you down; There might be a nugget of truth in this one. Also, using any of these will probably get you fired/killed/cause a student irreconcilable mental issues. You've been fairly warned.

Prof. Teacher.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


And there I was, alone in my room, reading, of course, and, because I like to live dangerously, my iPod (other digital music players are available) was hooked up to my stereo. Not inherently dangerous, you may think, but it was playing on shuffle and was well out of reach.

(as a side note, if you ever want to judge whether a relationship is going to be successful or not while it is still in its infancy simply look through the person's iPod to find the most embarrassing track on there and then draw this to their attention. Anyone who tries to fob you off with poor excuses (Its on a compilation, its my teenage sister's/mum's/grans, how did that get on there?) is not worth your time. Be proud of your own embarrassment.)

So, to return from parenthesis, there I was. And there she was, well, her voice, and who was she? Kelly Rowland. As the opening strains of a song long and oft forgotten My head rose from the dulcet, casual prose of A M Homes' 'Jack' and I smiled a smile borne by a 10 year old radical departure from the up-tempo pop stylings of Destiny's Child. Ah, sighed I as I sat back against the wall and listened to a sad lament of a school shooting. And then, the chorus began.

Mary's got the same size hands as Marilyn Monroe

And then I remembered what was about to happen.

She put her fingers in the imprints at Mann's Chinese Theatre Show.

Books flew asunder as I leaped from my duvet nest.

She coulda been a movie star, never got the chance to go that far

I crossed the room in a bound but my foot planted on some unmarked year nine work and I fell, ankle twisting, room listening furiously in my view. And the lines I had sought to prevent rang loud in my ears.

Her life was stole 
Now we'll never know. 

NOOOO I shouted. NO. Her life was not stole! Her life was STOLEN. He stole her life, Her life was stolen. Verb forms should not be the victim of sloppy half-rhyme songwriting.

Guess I need to switch off sometimes.

(for those people without a clue what this is about, click here.)
(for those interested in a better artistic appreciation of school shootings, try Killing Time by Simon Armitage. This is an excellent 1000 line poem written in 2000 as a tribute to the closing of the last millennium. Part of it is a treatment of the Columbine Massacre. It is, sadly, out of print, but is available sporadically on eBay. Extract here, although badly laid out.)

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Message From The Chief Of Medicine.

It has come to the attention of the Ministry of Health and Education that the end of term is a stressful and potentially dangerous time for those in the Education Profession. To help you ease your transition from term time to holiday the MoHaE suggests you follow the following steps to gradually ease yourself out of teaching and into normal life.

For the first week it is recommended that you awake at the normal hour, and go through the normal routine of having a cup of tea, then checking your emails, then another tea, then a coffee, then a period of gossip and then a briefing. There is a selection of 'token' head teacher's briefing's available on our website for you to use for the week. There is a choice between male and female orator and a variety of vacuous faux-inspirational messages to convince you that, while you may be at home in bed, you are still on the road to being outstanding. These include notices about school trips and plays, notices of new staff joining in September and, for academy staff, notice of a financial restructuring that will suspend all pay rises until the end of time.

If, during the first week, you find yourself overly grouchy and in need of a vent for this repressed emotion it is recommended that you use public transport to travel to the nearest 'trendy' shopping area. It is almost guaranteed that you will find yourself in a situation where it will be socially beneficial for you to 'let rip' on a number of belligerent youths, some of which you may even know. If this still doesn't work then use the public transport to travel to a theme park where you will be able to appoint yourself 'guardian of the queues' and vehemently control the multitude of smoking, swearing youths with no respect for the fine English tradition of quietly standing in line while muttering dissidence. It is important for your self-esteem as a teaching that at least one youth wants to kill you on a daily basis. Without this you may have a potentially dangerous psychological episode.

If these minor interventions do not assist your transition then you will have to resort to living in a constructed fallacy. The easiest way to do this is to have children of your own and run enforced summer schools with them. To enforce the feeling of still being in a school it is recommended that you forget your children's names on a regular basis and apply ridiculous summations based on fabricated data. (if you are unsure how do this then write a selection of numbers from one to eight on eggs and try and juggle them. The last one left unbroken is your child's level. This is the current system used in educational establishments across the country.)

In the event that you are both a teacher and do not have children of your own. (although why this would be true I, along with all of society, cannot understand) then the former recommendation can be used with pets, especially cats and guinea pigs (who bear distinct similarities to students) or, at a push, a selection of boxed original star wars action figures.

These suggestions were brought to you by the Ministry of Health and Education in partnership with, who, incidentally, own your life.
(your life is available for sale back to you on selected platforms including Kindle)

Thursday, 18 July 2013

notes on a vandal.

While i assassinate your personality
because, you see, you're flaccid
in every regard you think you're
hard but really you lack the drive
to survive outside this giant
so hush little baby
and listen and we'll find an event
that may prevent you, now 32, from sitting alone,
council home, you malcontent
with both shared rent and growing brood.
Despite attempt, failed, derailed perhaps
by rubber factory error
she is forever eight months in.
Is that worth this lesson,
BBM message session
while George and Lennie
have a different touching moment
to the nighttime frequent you are planning
with Chantelle Stanning,
11B, now 33, your two kids, three more (one his.)
and an iGCSE, but kids ain't free
and that inspector ain't as convinced
by your bad limp that's been knocking round
for years and years and Chantelle's night tears
are getting louder in competition
with the little, brittle, possibly half, yous.
But don't be daft, of course you'll be fine,
you'll wait in line, on results night for that
'might have got a C' and then college will
be a brief fragrant thrill of freedom.
But let's look into your vacant eyes
there's no surprise
no words reflected there
despite the book I see is opened now
I could let my hope end for ever reaching you
but if I believe that's true
If, now, between me and you,
that's how you'll win and lose
in tandem
I will not apologise for
your lack of imagination
it represents your ineloquent station
and your frustration that no-one's
holding your grubby hand.
Why don't you understand that
your diurnal excitement is bland
and tediously unthinking
turn the phone off and drop
your perpetual scoff at life
this strife you claim to feel
is not real it is the fetid creation
of a generation that 'can't be arsed'
so look passed the blinking top corner light
and realise your fight is with yourself, not me
perhaps we'll see that you have some integrity
and you'll find that you are more and more besides
that which anyone has ever told you.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Sports Day, or, How To Piss Off Everyone.

Not everyone likes sport. I get this, I understand this. I, on the other hand, utterly live for sport. Sport is my foil that retains my sanity in the classroom. Outside of school I coach, watch and compete (with decreasing levels of aptitude) in about four sports.

And this is why I should not be allowed anywhere near a sports day.

It began in the morning when they appeared. The other teachers. I, of course, turned up to the sports day in a school sports staff polo (thoughtfully purloined) acceptable shorts and plausible running shoes (just in case some moron volunteered a teachers race and I could faux-reluctantly agree) Unlike my humble self, the interpretation of the dress-code by some other members of staff was an utter catastrophe. Let us put to the proverbial dogs some potentially anonymous examples:

The 'I could do sport in this if i have to' 
 It's a classic look. Black t-shirt on a steaming hot day. Denim shorts. Or maybe cargo shorts that, although absolutely practical for running down the high street of some godforsaken 'strip' in Zante or Ibiza at four o'clock in the morning in the vain hope of finding some chicken, are simply too constraining/inflexible/baggy/tasseled to afford the staff member a potential 400m PB. I can respect these people, for in general these staff members do not do sport, but they have tried here to find something that looks vaguely athletic. This outfit should be accessorised with 'sports' trainers and a cap. For some reason there is always a cap. Or a Kevin and Perry style rave hat.

The 'I don't do sport. Sweating is beneath me.'
This group is split, I'm afraid, between reasonably overweight office staff and young female teachers with a penchant for attention. They wear a floaty dress, or something extremely figure-hugging, that would be in no way applicable to a sporting event. I have no problem, per se, with those that do no sport or just don't want to, but sports day is not a fashion show for teachers. The whole concept of a teacher on a sports day hinges around looking like a complete tit. Face paint is obligatory. Stupid dancing, humiliating teachers' races and some little shit pouring a drinks bottle over your head are to be expected.
At my school we wear house bibs, regardless of whether we are student, staff or, in fact, competing. These bibs are flourescent and shamelessly unflattering. The saddest moment of the whole day for me was when I saw one of the female science teachers wonder along the front of the stands wearing her bib tied into some sort of sarong/tankini top/god-knows-what in an attempt to glamourise than unglamourisable (definitely a real word). I looked down at my own gnarled branches of legs, worn-out shorts and ill-fitting flourescent yellow vest (magically both too short and too wide) and all i could think was 'just get over yourself. How do you expect our year ten girls who pour themselves with makeup and false hair/nails/god-knows-what to actually find a positive self image built around self respect. As teachers we have to be positive and sensible role models. I have miles more respect for those teachers dancing like lunatics and enjoying themselves in a carefree fashion than those that are worried about how they look. If you want to teach, stop worrying about how attractive you look and instead use that newly found time to inspire some students to pursue some dreams while having fun. I would have told her this, but instead I was too busy losing my voice cheering for my house's relay team.

The 'Actually, none of you know I'm actually an incredible sportsman outside of school and I will now expose this by wearing the outfit of this sport with pride.'
one of these little bastards always turns up don't they. Then they wear some sort of lycra skinsuit that makes everyone feel a touch awkward, enter the prestige event and get pasted, mercilessly, by a science teacher wearing combat shorts.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Get Your Proposals In.

We are approaching, with agonising haste, that most important part of the year for teachers: The Summer Holidays. With this true institution of teaching under threat it is a last opportunity to do those things that you have always wanted to do but never find the time. Please submit you forms in detail for your head of department to be shredded by the end of the week. If you are having difficulty then please read the below exemplars as inspiration:

1: Firework Wheelchair.
2: Build a model city, buy a dinosaur costume, pretend you're Godzilla.
3: Build a brick wall. Crash a car into it.
4: Make yourself a bubblewrap suit and roll down a hill.
5: Have a summer romance.
6: Have an evening burning incense, listening to Hotel California/Hunky Dory/Tapestry, drinking red wine and reading books by the light of a lava lamp.
7: Read one of the books on the list of longest novels. Brag about it incessantly.
8: Write a devoted and unrequited sonnet series.
9: Stage a wholly unsuccessful Guinness World Record attempt.
10: Learn an obsolete/extinct language.
11: Dress up as a superhero and make it into the local press with your exploits.
12: Enter local folklore for kidnapping gnomes and leaving ransom notes.
13: Hold a series of kitchen chemistry experiments, release the footage on youtube.
14: Run an ill-fated pop-up restaurant/shop/nightclub
15: Write a series of letters about trivial subjects to major newspapers/points of view.
16: Spend a day/a week/six weeks naked.
17: Take up an extreme sport
18: Make a terrible arthouse film and then hold an elaborate front-room premiere of the abhorrent monstrosity. Spend a great deal of time talking about your ouvre.
19: Claim conversion to a different religion every day.
20: Begin a subversive cultural movement and become its anonymous figurehead.

If you are unsure about any ideas, please send them to @calamityteacher for vetting. 

Monday, 8 July 2013

A Message From The Principal.

Hello. My name is Mr. F Agin OBE and I am the new principal here at the Huxley Free Partnership Link Academy of Science. As you may know, since I took over the school last year I have turned around, single-handedly I am reticent to add, a failing school into a school that was judged (by my old friend from my economics society at Redbrick City University) to be Definitely a School that Could Potentially be Successful with Another Three Million of Private Funding. Obviously, we in the directorate are very pleased about this, but due to our focus on progressive mindsets and out-of-the-box, blue-sky, green-field, brown-cow-shit thinking we are forced to turn to ourselves and consider who we can fire to improve our own reputations.

At first we considered the ways in which we have streamlined the freecadamy over the last year and thought that the most cost-efficient way of pushing the school forward would simply be to repeat these measures but it wasn't long before our sub-committee on human resources realised that there are no support staff left to fire and we've run out of photocopiers to sell on eBay. So we had a conundrum. We formed an open forum group where an members of the school could talk and give ideas and some of these were even given a second thought, we even invited the black cleaner woman with the dodgy arm and let her have her say about washbuckets or whatever. Then, however, we came up with a great idea. We asked every member of the staff who earns more than 50k to write down their idea for what they thought the best thing the school could do in the journey to being outstanding. Totally anonymous except for the genetic accountability fingerprinting. And there it was. The head of Humanities, someone we thought lost from our cashmere fold had written down 'why don't you just get rid of the fucking kids this time, you may as well.' Now obviously they were swiftly removed due to their use of non-academy-approved language, but the idea stuck with us. So. There it is, we are to remove all the students from the school and we firmly believe we will be well on our way to Outstanding.

The benefits are almost ineffable: A new Starbucks franchise will serve hot drinks and food throughout the day without having to deal with all the grotty free school meals kids. We will be able to hire out the hall and other spaces all day, and whats more we can streamline our teaching staff to save a fortune on pay every month, while delivering lessons with exceptional behaviour management and paperwork accountibility. People will be clambering over each other to come to our school for a coffee. We are to be a model for a new generation of successful schools.

I hope you understand why this decision has been taken and you have my sincere hope that you find the required school place for your child when they are removed from the site with understandable police brutality on the most convenient date we can (May 10th). I apologise for any disruption this may cause but if you wish to raise any issues there will be a gala dinner in two weeks in the new-look multi-use dining centre. Tickets will be £200 a head for a three course dinner, wine and dancing with a celebrity memorabilia auction. I'm afraid I would be in attendance but i'm sure it will be a lovely evening.

My Fondest Regards,

Mr. F Agin OBE

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Toilet Humour

Opening a new free school? Knocking down a perfectly functioning old school so a famous architect can have their wicked way with you site? Building a brand new sixth form centre? You can maximise work efficiency with the new OFSTED endorsed toilet from American Company G-Love.

We all know that teachers will find any opportunity to slack off and research has shown that some teachers spend up to an hour a week crying in the toilets. G-Love industries is pioneering the one-size-fits-every-school toilet cubicle that can just be hoisted into your failing academy to improve workrate and teacher acumen. Inside the cubicle teachers are provided with a desk that instantly appears when the teacher's overpampered buttocks hit toilet seat; A seat especially designed in partnership with representatives of countries who are proponents of violent torture to be as uncomfortable as possible. This desk provides the teacher with blank lesson plans, the satisfactory completion of which is the only way to access the required toilet paper.

In the very rare case that the teacher is up to date with their plans then the toilet will ensure that the teacher's failing subject knowledge is bought right up to date by video lectures from eminent celebrity quasi-intellectuals such as Jamie Oliver and that guy from that programme about animals.

In the rare event that a teacher is in the toilet for reasons other than purging their body of canteen food and low-grade instant coffee, say, for instance, crying themselves out of their nervous break-down then the comforting words of the man himself, the minister least sinister, the sensationalist educationalist, The man who puts the Fun in Fundamental skills teaching, Sir (nee Mister) Michael Gove will agitate them out of their emotional quandary. A number of speeches have been commissioned to ensure that he is always revolutionary and inspiring to the teacher, therefore ensuring staff morale continues to be at the highest it has ever been (fact not verified).

As an added extra, any school that rushes their order in without a second thought for the future will qualify for the special standards improvement upgrade that includes the catapult attachment to forcibly eject any teachers below the expected standard of outstanding from the building and out of the school grounds, hopefully into the kind of grotty and unsightly PRU that doesn't need good teachers anyway.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Teacher's Code of Conduct

To be included in every new teacher pack.

1: Teaching is a noble profession and should be treated as such. Whatever should occur, the teacher should maintain the constant facade of calm indifference; this will help the students know their place.

2: Clothing should never match. Always aim to display at least three different prints using five different colours.

3: The teacher should never use the language of the heathen child. The constant use of outdated colloquialisms such as 'hip' or 'snazzy' is encouraged however.

4: The teacher should survive using only four liquids: tea, coffee, red wine and gin. If these are not available in a situation then the teacher should leave the situation in immediate pursuit of one of these.

5: The headteacher should never be trusted. They should be trusted less if they refer to themselves as a 'principal', 'lead educator', 'director' or anything else suitably abhorrent.

6: It must be held in regard that governors do not exist. They are a lie told to the teacher by senior management in order to endorse unpopular decisions.

7: The teacher must never take work home. To do this is a failure of the school to give them enough PPA time.

8:When the teacher leaves school they leave the expectations of the school behind. As they leave the institution they are obliged to immediately drink copiously, swear and display dubious tattoos prominently.

9: The teacher should never, under any circumstances, find themselves on the dancefloor of a nightclub co-frequented by students. If found in this situation steps should be taken to ensure the students are immediately ejected.

10: The lesson plan is a myth told to PGCE students and students. Teachers should, at all times, strive to perpetuate this myth by constant references to 'the plan' in lessons and carrying around reams of paper at all times.

11: The teacher will never generate their own resources. That is clearly the job of TES

12: The teacher shall never compromise, even in the face of Armageddon. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


I told Sam, one of my students, off today for doing a forward roll in my classroom. He said that he was facilitating a flipped classroom and I was wrong. This incident is the latest in a long line of similar arguments. The week before Easter I put him in detention for drawing on desks, he said he was expressing his creativity. The week before he was kicking a football down the hallway. His parents rang in complaining that their son had been discouraged from leading an active lifestyle. I tell him off for calling out, he tells me he is taking an active role in student-led learning. I just can't win.

Well today I just reached the end of it and had had enough. I realised that really, it's all just Sam's antics.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Get Me A SENCO Up Here Right Now, Our GATCO is Down and They've Taken The EAL department With Them.

I don't know about any(thing)one else, but it's quite often I find myself in meeting so infected with acronyms and that I have no idea what is going on.

Best Practice: An unobtainable standard that constantly resists precise definition.
Constructive Marking: Using kids' books to build a fort to protect oneself from the constant assault of the real world.
EAL: Educators Articulate Louder
Flipped Classroom: 1) The appearance of a classroom the morning after the staff party. 2) The point where one knows one's classroom management has failed due to chairs and tables being upturned by students.
Gin: Common substitute for water. Drunk by the litre.
GandT: Generally Artistic, Nerdy or Delusional
INSET: Inane, Non-Specific Educational Training
Learning Bicycle: When a class is taught something for a whole lesson, but they do not understand it and therefore the lesson just goes around and around in circles, always returning to the beginning.
Mufty: A way to ensure students are well aware of their social standing and relative affluence by making them pay for the virtue of the clothing they wear everyday. 
OFSTED: Oh Fuck, Shit, They're Entering, Dive
Parent's Evening: A way to ensure that department printing budgets are used up at the end of the month. 
PEP: Piss-Easy and Pointless

Response Marking: Marking a book in order to show that students are making progress by writing targets in line with work that they have already done. Most commonly seen on the night before an OFSTED inspection.
SEN: Generally, An euphemism for 'I don't have a clue what this kid's problem is'
SIMS: Sometimes Informative, Mostly Stalling. 
SLT:  Sarcastic and Light-Timetabled
Twilight INSET: A way of ensuring that staff morale is constantly at a low by forcing staff to cancel appointments with loved ones at the last minute.Commonly forgotten by all

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Look At Them; They Have Nothing.

I have sat through an assembly today that truly typifies a terrifying trope in the teaching of today's teenagers. (ooooh, alliteration)

I think that you are likely to have seen this assembly, or something painfully like it. It normally begins in this way:
Now, I know that we're all going to have a good time over Easter eating our eggs and having fun with our families, but we shouldn't forget that some around the world have less than we do. These images are to give you an idea of how lucky we are in this country. 
 And then the powerpoint inevitably racks its way through heart-wrenching images of impoverished children, homeless adults and amputee dogs.
And then we all feel guilty for having a little bit of cash in our bank accounts and a tv and our good health andthe numerous other things that make us lucky. And we are lucky. Even teaching in a school such as mine where a large proportion of my students are eating free school meals the student body still represent some of the wealthiest people in the world. At least they have the (part-time) support of a country that attempts to helps its citizens.
These students, are in my opinion having any sense of pride eroded. This is especially true of young white boys; A group who are now rapidly rising to being a statisitically failing group across the country. These students are not taught to take pride in their heritage because it is constantly demonised. It is only correct to teach about the plurality of social histories. I also firmly believe that equality among genders is paramount. It can, however become an extended trial where white male students feel accountable for the horrors of their race. Slavery, yes, was a western invention, but it was white males who stopped it as well as started it. White men were a major part of the feminist movement.
I apologise. That was deviation. I am being caught up in speaking for the defence in a centuries-long trial. It is not just white Boys who are stigmatised by assemblies of horrors. Students from difficult backgrounds who now live in more comfortable scenarios are now watching the scenes of those left behind. I teach a number of asylum seaker children and refugees who had no choice but to leave people behind. I firmly do not believe that they should feel guilty living in comfort. It is a positive thing. As a cultural group we should ask our students to recognise that they are in a better position than others, but to inspire them to help to exact change. Why show pictures of poor starving African stereotypes when you could show the Medicins sans frontieres nurse or doctor helping? Why show the injured animal when you can give the aspiration for students to become vets?

Just seems silly to me.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


The Department for Education is proposing a large-scale change of the education foci in light of the societal changes the country is undergoing. This 'return to our roots' education system will be focused around a re-invigoration of the STEM core foci. Please read the summary below and familiarize yourself with it before the extended details become available in the summer. 
STEM has always been a focus of the employment market but with students facing a world which is placing increasing onus on the real, vocational skills students need to prosper in life. With this in light the definition of STEM has changed to the following key areas:

Social Media.
Incorporating units of Facebook, BBM and Instagram. Students will learn key skills such as how to bully and ostracise those of a different race and sexuality.  Creative students will be able to explore the ways an Instagram filter makes everything look nicer; with suggested coursework topics of 'What I Ate for Dinner' or 'Snowy Streets That Look Exactly The Same.'

Students will explore the way in which they communicate with the world in a number of interesting modules. Students will develop speaking and listening orientated skills around unintelligible contemporary colloquialisms and then in an examined format they will complete tasks such as reducing the works of renowned authors to the minimum amount of words possible. Exemplary courseworks for this module will be available on twitter.

Earthenware and Porcelain.
This course aims to develop students knowledge of the wide range of earthenware products that can be used instead of polystyrene containers and paper bags. Parts of this practical assessment course will include how to correctly present fish and chips after removing them from the bag as well as an exam based around the choice of bowl or plate for various takeaway meals.

Motherhood and Fatherhood.
Students will engage in a nine-month modular programme that can be retaken in order for students who do not pass in the first instance to retake as many times as required.
Topics include a multi-modal project on identifying fathers, 'developing the shouting voice' and 'how to ignore successfully'. Expected entry requirements for this Level 1.5 vocational part GNVQ with 0.5 of an HND referral credit are for students to have achieved part one (of three) of their McDonalds chip fryer basic training.

Expect further information on these exciting new courses in May.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Please pick up, Please pick up.

I love a good initiative.

I even love the word initiative, with its facets of both an innate ability to succeed and the beginning of something enduring.

I love initiatives for those with initiative.

I especially love iconoclastic, establishment-questioning ideas that give a little hint of an idea to students that they should constantly question, constantly create, and, just occasionally, defy.

When I spoke about five things to tell NQTs I missed out a couple of important things. One of those was that you should never expect a student to do something that you are not prepared to do yourself.

It was with great pleasure and a wry smile that I told a group of students about poetry, because these students were sat, at lunch time, listening for about the twelfth week running to someone talk about novels, or plays, or poems, and this time I was encouraging these students to read their own poetry. By the end of that lunchtime nine students, along with three teachers, would have read poems to forty assembled students and staff. The lecture series was started as a way to provide students a path to exploring off-curriculum literature. (I started it. Me.) Each week someone would present on why it is they love the piece of literature that they do. To date there has been ten teachers and eight students who have presented to the thirty-odd audience, and we thought it would be a nice thing to mark world poetry day last week with a poetry reading by anyone who wished a voice onto themselves.

The week before the recital I had issued a challenge to my assembled bibliophiles; To hide poetry around the academy in books, in stairwells, on classroom doors. (that actually happened) Students took this challenge to heart and poems have been turning up all over. I adored this. It is a beautiful thing. Of course, in qualification of my previous statement, I joined in the game.

And here in lies the anecdote about my crass ineptitude and comedic lack of common sense, for I haven't told one in a while.

I am not a terrible poet. I am also not great. I am also not a children's poet. I had to make sure that if no-one as ready to read at the poetry recital I would be able to fill for a while. I dug up a load of poetry and hastily edited out the sweary bits with a biro. I read, They went down okay. Then, In a moment of vicious clarity, I placed some poems of mine in some books in the library. Then I taught my last lesson and got on the train home.

It's amazing, that cold feeling in your stomach when you realise you have done something wrong and have absolutely no way of fixing it. The last time I really felt it properly was when I hadn't done my maths homework and the teacher was on their way around checking books. You can actually see it in their eyes now. It's sadistically amusing to watch it develop as you wonder from seat to seat checking homework. I was on the phone faster than Gotham city gets on the batsign. My head of department might just be at school. As soon as she picked up all I could hear was the unmistakable distant sound of someone on a hands free kit. The first think he heard me say was a shouted expletive about as socially acceptable as the ones that were only just scribbled over in the poems that I was pretty sure I had erroneously put into some collections of kids poems.

At that point I had no choice but to explain the error I was pretty sure I'd made. The next morning I was in school OFSTED early hoping that I hadn't inspired any kids to read anything. Thankfully I hadn't. There they were, tucked in Tennyson and hidden in Harry Potter. Smiles all round.

#Moral Write poems about happy kittens.



In his eyes, the teacher sadly,
surveys a scene of students madly
fighting over pens to scribble
nonsense and ill-thought out drivel
to be explained, badly, later.

He sits and checks chain emails
from old school friends and females
that he used to sort of know
but who used to flirt and go
around with better boys than him

It is only seven lessons left
until the much needed gift
of two weeks without these kids
their lies, their tales, the insipid
catalogue of little niggles

The independent project is genius
despite being simple and tedious
little do the children know
that it is all a sham and show
to gain an extra double free.

Monday, 25 March 2013

As Jane Will Expect, I Have Ignored Her.

I am an NQT. An angry, sighing one, but an NQT. It's one of those admissions like being eighteen and admitting you're a virgin. There's nothing wrong with it, it just seems to need qualifying, and despite any realistic qualification (I wasn't popular at school/I had appauling acne/I was a teenage chess prodigy) people will still look at you as if you have done something incredibly wrong.

It was with great trepidation that I stepped back into the hallowed halls of learning that eventually fed me, with abject prejudice, into the world of being a real teacher. I had returned, suited and booted in a way I never expected, and was ready to talk. I tried to give them a day in the life of a typical NQT and managed, instead, to talk for about an hour before reaching 9 o'clock in the morning. I cannot, due to both short term memory erosion (factor: Weekend of the sort of alcohol abuse I tell my students will kill them.) and my own lack of preparation, actually remember quite what I said, but I do remember one student actually in tears with laughter at one of my true stories of my own ineptitude. (I actually have a new one to add to this blog, but later.)

I am not sure whether that is a good sign.

The tutor who had led me along the treacherous path of PGCEism asked me to deliver a set of five things I wished I'd been told at the start of my NQT year. I of course totally ignored this and got on with a rambling diatribe. I decided, however, that I would atone for this enforced ignorance by coming up with a list and publicising it here.

5 Ways To Survive NQT

1: Find the teacher who has been teaching at the school the longest and talk to them about every single one of your students. The chances are that they've told some of their parents and will tell you more than any SIMS page.

2: Support your students outside of lessons. Even if you hate sport, get outside in the pissing rain and watch them be crap at whichever sport their parents are pressing them, mercilessly and vicariously, into. The next day, talk with authority about how well they played.

3: Find something that they're interested in. I hate football. I can't even bare to call it a sport, but that doesn't stop me picking up the Metro every morning, turning to the back pages and reading through some godforsaken illiterate article about some godforsaken illiterate footballer's affair with a girl more silicon and fake tan than human. Why do I do this? Because half my students probably wouldn't talk to me if I had no knowledge of sports trivia. That sporting chaff gives me an in.

4: The most important people in the school goes in this order (most important first) Students, Resources and Reprographics, Canteen Staff, Reception, Cleaners, LSAs, Teachers, Leadership. AND NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND

5: Never shout at an individual child. Just stop, Have a sip of tea, and then deal with the situation calmly and with authority.

(Honourable mention; Always have a cup of tea to hand.)


So there I was, calmly watching students predictably fail a mock GCSE when BAM, I get inboxed from the IT teacher down the hall whose probably doing the same with this!

I think I would genuinely like to try this some time. It very much feels like a sixth form game, but I'm not sure. I would love to see it work with a year 7 class as well. Hmmmmm, the thoughts. I've often thought that games, particularly complex ones, are a potentially great teaching tool. The designing of a game like Magic: The Gathering is an engulfing process with a number of cross-curricular applications. Next term perhaps I'll get my students to design a playable game that can be used in the classroom with real-world applications.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Student Email Error of the Day

From: Desdemona
Sent: 19 March 2013 20:22
Cc:   Desdemona, Calamity Teacher
Homework Essay.doc (21 KB‎)

Miss Teacher

There's the Proposal, Media Review and Essay
From: Desdemona
Sent: 19 March 2013 13:03
To: Juliette

try and change the word alot so ours arent exactly the same, just move around the sentences!

I think I can let this one speak for itself. Names changed as usual. Oh the dangers of modern technology.

Oi Mate, Mate, Mate, Where's Your Placement?

The return of year ten has been anticipated with some degree of trepidation. I don't know the root cause behind it, and would hesitate to give an answer beyond 'fate', but in every school i have ever attended/worked or observed there has been a 'bad' yeargroup. At my current school it is undoubtedly year 10. The students range from exceptionally clever, Hannibal-style psychopaths to students so vacuous as to be endearing, passing through a spectrum of inevitable generalised insults in the middle of these off-centre poles.

The reason that Year Ten are returning is because they have been absent on that most English of compulsory school activities; Work Experience. I wonder on the point of this horrifying disservice to the reputation of schools everywhere because all it does is seem to make fractured mockeries of the youth of today.

Work Experience is an opportunity for students to fail and by gum by golly do they embrace that opportunity with their sticky, tobacco-stained hands. This year my school had three students who were genuinely asked to leave their work placement. Why? How? I hear your exasperated voices cry. I hesitate and fail to answer, my tongue a fragile, flailing dancer. Part of me imagines that the students sat in front of me, are honest, hardworking parents-to-be who'll honour and abide the law so to nurture and provide for bouncing, smiling little kids who'll lick the bottoms of yoghurt lids.

But this assumption is false. These children have no acceptable world view. They are insipidly useless. I hate to be the sort of person that advocates tough love and rigid structure but some of these students have no idea about the world outside is actually like an environment of consistent stifling. Although, when I say stifling what I really mean is constant lies. I've previously stated that students should know that if they work hard they will do well. Perhaps this is a fallacy.Perhaps it should state if students work hard they will do better.

I am guilty of the lying as I'm sure many of you are. I have always stated I am not a very good teacher.I am guilty saying 'maybe if we retake this and you work really hard then you'll do it.'I am also coming to realise that i should actually listen to the voice in my head that asks me why I am lying to this child. They have failed, and will fail because they have not been told an honest truth for the last 10 years of their live. At no point have teachers been encouraged to tell students how good they actually are and what they should be aiming for. If you are terrible at English there is a strong chance you will not become a Doctor. Or Lawyer. Is this unfair. No. It is very far from unfair. Unfairness is prejudice. Unfairness is also lying to some students and not to others. Unfairness is not being honest with students about how much they are chipping slowly away at their future because they can't be bothered.

I don't quite know what this post wants to achieve. And perhaps tit merely reiterates earlier posts, but it is the students returning from being fired on work experience that have really drilled this into me and left a significant amount of swarf behind.  When will students be told what their attitude towards schooling will do to them in the working world? Will we continue to pander every child at all times. Offices do not have exclusion centres, or reintegration meetings or time out passes. We as educators set children up for failure.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

What Do You Eat?

I'm sat in a cover lesson. It's not me covering, it's just my unfortunate luck that they've stolen my classroom.The lesson is some sort of strange blend of 'catering studies' and 'PE theory' and students are being asked to come up with a weeks worth of diet for an athlete. The students seem to barely know what an athlete is, let alone what they might eat. They are asked to explain how it might be different from what they eat and at this point the true horror becomes as evident as the white smoke from the top of the Vatican (although I should remind you that there are similes about other sights of major religious interest available.)

I should deviate here for a second. Where I work is not inner-city, but is brutally suburban and annexed to a town that is best described as vile in the extreme. On my way home I walked passed a chipshop that advertises a lunchtime special. This special contains not fish but Chips. Curry Sauce and an Energy Drink. I wonder on whether they could genuinely be prosecuted for criminal negligence. I have no problem with a chippy. I myself stop there for chips occasionally. I also do a great deal of sport and eat healthily the rest of the time.

Unlike Ophelia. (other pseudonyms from literary works that are vastly different to the real names of the children are available)

Ophelia, when asked what she ate for breakfast yesterday said
'McDonalds Chips and Two pieces of KFC chicken.

Now that, is absurd. The horror, of course is this. It doesn't matter how healthy the food is in schools. It doesn't matter that this girl is on free school meals. It matters that fast food is so pervasive and insipid that they will just buy rubbish regardless.

On my school trip on Friday one of the museums had had a plumbing issue and its toilets had failed, meaning that we had to take a few students to the nearest available public toilet to save them from the sort of coach-borne incident that would open them to a lifetime of bullying. The nearest public amenity was a McDonalds. They were specifically told not to buy food. By the time they returned to the coach they had, between 8 of them, 6 big-macs, 4 quarter pounders, 6 packets of chips (large) and two strawberry milkshakes.

The little bastards.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Is This Okay Sir?

This actually happened.

A set of students are doing a task that requires them to read a newspaper article and respond to it. They are diligently reading through copies of the Metro and finding articles. I go up to one student and ask him how he is getting on and whether he has found an article. He points to one. I say

'But that is a Specsavers advert.'
'But what would you write about?'
'Like it's real expensive and stuff.'

I think I'm checking out on this one. That's it. I'm not sure I can really take this anymore. I'm pretty sure I'm not cut out to be a teacher; I haven't taught anyone anything.

Friday, 8 March 2013

AQA owns you and your future.

I think we are all aware, in the secondary sector at least, that this week someone told us things that we, for the most part, already knew about the children we teach.

The C grade is an ephemeral fantasy that one day, hopefully, will fade into a horrifying social history lesson about how the devolution of British society began. Until that moment, fragrant as it will be with the stale smell of underfried chips and own-brand energy drink,we are constantly fed fat-soaked lies about the existence of some sort of magical Berlinesque (as opposed to burlesque) wall between success and benefits cheats. Why does the C/D borderline sadden me so? Because it rewards mediocrity. The C/D borderline is an arbitrary social construction that is as clearly defined as the threshold between success and failure; there is no reason behind this apart from someone telling us it is so.

What annoys me about this situation is the amount of resources that are dedicated to extended provision for students that genuinely do not care about advancing their learning. There is a total and utter disregard for any sense of aspiration beyond the grade borderline in society. Striving to achieve the highest of grades is constantly demonised in order to preserve the self esteem of those that do not care anyway. This attitude can easily be seen as pejorative but I also worry about the lack of support for all those who will never get the C and so are a lost cause to the school's stats reputation.

 It worries me that as a country we feel that we cannot simply reward excellence or effort in children. This is not about oppressing those who are disadvantaged, it is about making it clear to students that if you try hard you will do well and if you do well then you will do well later in life. I told a student today something I firmly believe to be true; Never again in a student's life will they be surrounded by so many people who want them to do well. This should be a cultural ideal pervasive through education; That we, as teachers, are here to help you if you want it, not to hunt you down and press you in order to assert our own competance as teachers and institutions. Teaching is not about numbers, it is about students doing well. It is not about students who are 'at risk of not acheiving potential' it is about students who work hard.

Next week, tell a student who has done well that they have done well. They have undoubtedly not heard it enough. And then, ask a student who is failing at everything what they are interested in. They have had similar problems. Maybe this will even the score across the board. Every child matters is a lie. This is every child who is within range of a C matters to your league table result.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Typo of the day.

There is many points in the book where it shows the relevance that Frankenstein has to modern life. I can justify this by stating and analysing cretin points in the book. 

Yeah. You take that you lousy novel. You're a cretin. I said it. Now what you gonna do about it?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Ofready, Ofsteady...

So i've been a little quiet this week. It is understandable. My darling school received the phonecall at almost precisely 1:34 on Tuesday afternoon. THEY were coming. A solid number of teachers then spent the next twenty six minutes until the end of lunch running around and telling all those who didn't (or did) know that we were all definitely up for it this time. What I hope to present to you below is a blow by blow account of the unbridled horror. I cannot promise to tell you everything, but I can promise that most of this is true, more or less; that these things happened; Someone really did forget their laptop.

It began, as I have said, on Tuesday lunchtime.An emergency meeting was called. Students were told that it was a great opportunity for them to show off how good they are. Staff scoffed as they delivered this second hand message. They peered at the note with disbelieving eyes and then locked their eyes on classrooms of fighting, biting children lighting cigarettes under tables and telling fables of weekend hazy drunken sexual exploits in night-clad parks or dark corners of train stations and abandoned parents' homes.

When the meeting began, the hushed whispers of the brand new auditorium knew that the inspectors would not give a crap about the plush, school branded seats or last weeks brave version of some contemporary British theatre. It was the best attended briefing in some time; the audience including even the more disinterested office staff who, simply put, don't care about the teaching and instead devote their mornings to actually doing their job.

 A question piped up from the front of the gathered staff. The voice was a response and the stimulus was the powerpoint.The powerpoint, as they are so often, was a wall of text, only separated by the ominous black spots of bullet points. The voice was a little angry, a little despairing, and well known. Many people sank in to their own private miseries when they heard it. Those that didn't were rewarded with a one-of-a-kind diatribe at the insinuated late night. Her words were dripping with disdain. 'And when are we meant to print off this data? I am going out tonight.' It was a beautiful moment. It was a beautiful point. Her point was solid, the list of tasks needing to be done by the next morning was longer than the complaints list for the curriculum reform. The point was silenced with a wholeheartedly unconvincing 'well it should have been done already'. We left the briefing tired and worried. NQTs could be seen attaching themselves to veteran teachers like marsupial babies, attempting to suck from the nipple of experience any shortcut that might get them home before the TV with swearing in began.

At this point I would like to interject with a comment. I feel, like parachute troops or McDonalds workers, we should get little stars on our name badges for survived OFSTED inspections. That would be nice.

We were there late. Whether it was fabricating data, printing things directly off of SIMS, or writing lesson plans impressionist in there beauty, we were there late. It was about 7:30 when the pizza delivery runs began. English made the bid early; They sent an NQT to sort it out. You could see the poor twenty-something jogging around the school trying to sort out the order before the finance department went home, presumably because he had been told if it wasn't paid out of petty cash then his credit card was next in line. The plethora of toppings that arrived was manna from heaven. Suddenly everyone loved the English department, a fact that would be repeated the next evening when preliminary reports showed teachers being sprung badly for not including literacy.

Most left the school around nine. There were emergency meetings scattered across the whole site, with members of leadership running in a way akin only to poultry with missing braincases. I am sure what they were doing was important. After all, to a man (or woman) they had important looking folders under their arms, and anyone carrying a folder and walking quickly is always doing something important. Especially if it is a red or green folder.

Despite the abandonment of the school site at nine, it was the war stories the next morning that truly uncovered the horror. It does not hep that I have spent the last two weeks almost solidly watching Band of Brothers followed by The Pacific, but people's stories were that of the warrior.

'I was up until two last night and got up at half one. I actually got minus thirty minutes sleep.'
'My lesson plans were so bad that they have had to file for emotional sickleave.'
'I feel like I am no longer human.'
'My body is half caffeine.'
'I've forgotten my laptop'

Oh, Wait. That last one actually happened. He walked in to the staffroom with the sort of wild eyes that only come from a lack of sleep and knowing that you are totally, irrevocably, screwed. The poor kid is an NQT, going through his first OFSTED. It was with admirable haste that a more senior teacher sent him straight to IT to borrow another and the process of rapid reconstruction began. Oh, alay, the beatiful fear seen that day in eyes as wide as caffeined plates rewriting plans from obsolete dates and just fabricating data in the hope of no observer later.

There was more coffee than I have ever seen. I saw one teacher resorting to the sort of sports drink you would not want to be drugs tested while using. Later in the day they were visibly shaking. I'm not sure they knew what day it was. It worried me that I had slept. I felt behind the drag curve; My thin context folders belied my preparation. I had made a choice at about eleven the previous night to just get some good sleep in order to actually be able to teach coherently. The auditorium for morning briefing stunk of the black stuff when they walked in. It was instantly them and us. They tried to introduce us in a friendly way. They used all the right words:

'We are not here to make you look bad.'
'We are excited about working together.'
'We are here to find positives, not negatives.'

You could taste the embattled smirks from the crowd. The battlelines were drawn cordially but with blood. It was as if an officers salute had taken place and now the men would be sent to fight. All I, hidden in the shadows of the sound desk at the back of the room could think was 'Who wakes up and thinks 'I want to be an OFSTED inspector when i'm older''.

Noone, That's Who.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

With The First Pick Of The 2014 Draft, Shitsville Academy Selects...

And welcome to ESPN's coverage of the 2017 teacher draft. This year's crop of NQTs shows some great depth in a lot of positions, and it has certainly been a hard job for a lot of scouts to pick out their first choices. For those of you new to this programming, ESPN has been covering this process since it's inception, when the first teachers from the '14 class were drafted, according to league table position and available room in the salary cap, into the schools. Each school should have done it's homework by now, no pun attended, and each school will have only 60 seconds on the block in the first round and then 30 seconds after that. Everything moves pretty quickly and news is already coming through of some aggressive transfers for early picks in the second round and yes, Grange Hill has traded its second round pick plus Mr. Gray in Maths to Englefield Green for their first round pick. Mr Gray is a second year teacher currently in charge of KS2/3 transition. This will free up some of Grange Hill's salary cap and will give them two early picks in the first round.

So here we are: ten seconds until Shitsville Academy, last year's worst school on league tables, makes the first pick of the 2017 draft. Remember, this could have massive ramifications for next year's league tables, so all of you who play fantasy school tables will I'm sure have their eagle eyes and pencils ready for this one. The forums have been red hot for weeks waiting for this moment and here we are.

With the first pick of the Shitsville Academy of Science selects Tania Simmonds, PGCE Science with ability to teach Psychology, University of Brobdingnag.

Now I'm sure you'll agree that That is a controversial choice!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Why Are You Late Boy? Slept In, Sir.

Today I read this.

It's a tricky one isn't it. When I started my PGCE I was introduced to a particularly tricky year 10 class. I still have the notes for this class tucked away somewhere and it says next to one of the boy's names, in quotations marks, never attends on Tuesdays. I asked, at this point, why (insert pseudonym here) never attended on Tuesdays and the LSA attached to the class said, in very calm tones, that he was a school refuser. I believe my response, and this is as close to verbatim as possible was:
'What the fuck is a school refuser?'

I was not aware that this was a thing. A thing with a name. That not only exists but people, including professionals, accept, almost irrefutably, and label and continue with their lives unfettered by any sort of real panic that this is being identified.

I think i must have been sheltered as a child; I went to a nice Grammar school in the heart of the home counties and grew up knowing that unless you were bleeding out of your eyeballs you went to school and damn would you enjoy it. I had no real concept of the truant apart from occasional whispers in the playground about the kids that had skipped double french to go for a smoke. That was it really. My PGCE and then subsequent employment opened my eyes to a subculture of kids that really don't care and parents that are powerless to stop them.

Life is controlled by the mediating factor of the fear of repercussions. Teaching is the management of those fears. The only thing stopping a child standing up, swearing, and walking out the classroom is the fear of repercussions. When these repercussions disappear, or the child realises that they simply do not care about the punishment, they are free to do whatever they please. The article at the top of this ramble seems to demonstrate this quite firmly. The children do not care that their mother is suffering. The parent may well not care about the sentence. The deterrent is not working and so there is no longer any fear.

Teaching is profoundly just smoke and mirrors and once you swear at the mirror and realise that it can't do anything there is nowhere to go for professionals. Inclusion centres are just areas where students can avoid work and don't get shouted at by teachers they hate. Being suspended or expelled just lets the children avoid school; something that they are aiming to do anyway. Punishment in all its contemporary forms does not work because there is an attitude problem from the young and their parents. A decent chunk of the population seems to mistrust, hate, and seem to think they are in a battle with schools. I have no idea how this attitude can be adjusted. It seems to be inherently a lack of internal attribution of blame. I know that as a teacher if I teach a bad lesson then I go away and think about how I can improve. I wonder whether there will be a review of this process by the LEA. Cornwall Council's principal education welfare officer, said: "Prosecution is a last resort when everything else has failed." and they are correct here, everything has failed, and is still failing. This is not an end result. Has it helped the students go to school? No. All this has done is ostracised the family and imbued them with even more distrust of schools because the school, in the children's eyes, has taken their mother away. 

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Grand List Of Things To Do At Half Term

Officially, we are half way through the year. What is really true is that we've broken the back of this guy. The hideous loading of weeks into the abhorrent first term means we are rolling on banked time. Unfortunately for those of us who teach courses that are (still, despite the impending efforts of an assortment of automated, suit-wearing robots from a dystopian future) modular this means that short half terms are a kick in the balls to the unplanned teacher (such as me). Half term is now on its third day and I have been hideously nonproductive (read: drunk) and so I thought it would be best to form a list of all those things I need to do this half term in order that I am fresh and prepared come Monday morning. Just like a widely unread facebook status about lent, I feel that the best way to make this list real is to publish it in order to make other people feel slightly awkward and provide myself with some internal accountability. And so here it is; the alternative list of tasks for half term:

1: Sleep. A Lot
2: Get needlessly drunk on a weekday.
3: cry aimlessly and at length.
4: climb a hill and shout from the top.
5: read a book without taking notes
6: read a textbook because i am interested in it.
7: swear.
8: swear some more. In public
9: stay in bed and watch crappy tv.
10: show more emotional range than the accepted annoyed or apathetic or happy
11: wear grotty clothes
11b: hang around naked.
12: write creatively/destructively.
13: scream insults at characters on tv.
14: use the punchbag.
15: destroy something beautiful
16: Try and cook something amazing and subtle and ultimately fail.
17: listen loudly to guilty pleasure music. (The Lion King soundtrack seems appropriate here.)
18: Have a substantial (3 course plus) meal for lunch and take my time over it.
19: talk at length with/to the cat.

This will be a good half term.

Monday, 11 February 2013

School Trips and Other Tales

This week I finally completed the paperwork for an impending school trip. It has been a fight to say the least. I went up to the big smoke to do a full trip recce and realised the horrifying facade that the school trip has become. Having done the things I needed to do I dropped into the Tate modern on my way passed the gargantuan, monolithic brick structure. It was horrible. Quite apart from the fact I thought the exhibitions,  aside from a couple of notable pieces, were terrible, the entire place was full of school trips. Mostly sixth form art trips by the look of them. Students who you would think have a lot to gain and be interested in.You are wrong. These students didn't look like they could have given less of a monkeys if it was dipped in peanut butter and rolled in money.

These kids were dotting from room to room, notebook in hand occasionally jotting down a half-arsed attempt at imitation. I felt genuinely sorry for whichever teacher had done the acres of paperwork required for that trip to happen. The biggest problem? My scapegoat in all this? Camera phones.

There was a hideous amount of students who never looked at a piece of art in that gallery. All they did was take photos of them and then walk away, Despite my feelings of reticence at engaging with the art on show I appreciate that you have to give some pieces a little time to develop on you. Sculpture should be observed from a number of angles and, if possible, heights. Had I been that teacher I think I would have banned photographs of the works. This, however, would have been nigh on impossible. The ubiquitous nature of digital photography technology has reduced its impact. It has devalued its effectiveness. It has lost its nature as an artform and become just a poor-quality substitute for memory/actually paying attention.

These students forgave their opportunity to find something that they may have loved by reducing its gravitas to the size of a inch by inch-and-a-half blackberry (tm) screen. I think my dismay and amazement is best caught up in the following overheard conversation. I have attributed to the unknown female students names from plays. 10 points for naming the plays and the writer behind them:

(Two girls enter and see two others sat on the floor, sketching)
Laura: Oh, are you girls done?
Blanche: Nah, we were gonna go and sit in the cafe and drink hot chocolate innit.
Stella: Yeah we're bored.
Amanda: You do know we've only got like ten minutes left?
Blanche: Have we, Ah it's fine. I took a photo of something and will draw it from that with cake.

I didn't know whether to be wholly disheartened or applaud their ingenuity.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Games To Play In Controlled Assessments.

This post, in a first-of-its-kind manner, comes to you love from year 10s GCSE controlled assessment. As I stare in the children's cold, dead eyes, bordered with either hatred or an overuse of Girls Aloud endorsed makeup I wonder on the amount of money I am being paid to sit and watch students try their hardest to fail their GCSE and whether it is truly worth it, or why i got into this profession. I consider the six weeks of summer holiday and the amount of marking and paperwork I will be able to get done without any kids around. I also sit and muse on the ending of Watership Down and shed a slight tear.

The unchecked mind is a dangerous thing, particularly in a room full of students who personally blame you for putting them through three hours of silent work. Gove has announced that this no longer going to be the way. That there will be a new deafeningly silent light at the end of the tunnel. That we, as teachers, will be absolved of the maniacal dearth of noise that fills our eardrums with repressed rage every time we begin a lesson with the words. 'okay guys, you know what to do. Exam conditions, go.'

I always tend to start by imagining that I am involved in a serious accident and that I am being woken up by a doctor for the first time. Which of these students would wish to be that doctor. Which would you definitely not want.

One of my students just asked me for more paper. We are not far in. This is dangerous, they may be abandoning their previous answer to try and start again. Then I notice, the curse of rainforests across the world, double spaced one sided. There must be about twelve words on that sheet. This event does mark the opening of a new game. I stare into the eyes of my LSA. She stares back, quizzically. She does not know the game. I prepare myself for the first point. It is crucial to stamp your mark on The Game. I narrow my gaze. She looks at me as if I have deap-seated mental problems. Sometimes I even think I don't. In a flurry the first point is over, even before I could realize it began. The hand shot up. The words didn't quite leave the girl's mouth before I had plucked the paper from the desk. Outside a bird seemed to fly almost impossibly slowly in the air as time dripped ever slower and slower.Flap. My hand placed on the desk and my body lifted in the vault. Flap. My feet hit the gum-encrusted carpet and just slid a touch before I gained my grip. Flap. The floor echoes with the landing. Flap. My hand, paper pressed against it by almost visible air in the stillness windmills and slams the paper onto the student's desk. Smack. The Game releases it's hold on time.
'Paper?' I ask nonchalantly. I look at the LSA and wink. She shakes her head at me. I have this game under the cosh. Now to just keep the vigilance. One fucking Nil I think.
'No sir, How do you spell machine?'

Sunday, 20 January 2013

But what will you do after football?

This weekend I read this article that highlighted the fragility of dreams, particularly sporting dreams, and particularly the dreams of hundreds of thousands of aspiring teeneage footballers at schools around the nation (world).

At the end of an important week in the premier transfer window the stark realisation that not every aspiring footballer will be watching a hundred thousand pounds fall nonchalantly into their bank account every week. The story of  Michael Johnson is one that every careers advisor will be laminating and sticking to their careers wall with a certain complacent smile. It is one of those stories that proves a plethora of worst fears to be, in some cases at least, true and really presses home the need for students with exceptional sporting talent to always have a continguency plan. The idea of a fallback is very much the key to this, because I firmly believe that if someone truly views sport as their life then they should be encouraged to pursue this. Students should, however be encouraged to do to things: firstly to consider, realistically their life if sport does not work out, and secondly to consider why it is they are pursuing the sport in the first place.

The first of those reasons is, I hope, reasonably obvious in its importance. From a personal perspective I knew four peers who where signed to academy teams for premiership rugby and football teams. None of these made the cut. The world of sport is competitive and cutthroat and this is correct. In order to run a successful team you have to recruit agressively and cut to only the best in order to remain economical. Sport is a competitive buisness. Sport as a social entity has evolved (devolved) beyond the functional leisure activity and into a vile characature of itself. Football, in particular, has a reputation of a violent, churning treadmill of prospective teen sensations that are dissolutioned, washed out and left with less qualifications than the prerequisite amount of sticks needed to rub together to make a fire.

So close down the football academies, because they are the root of the problems. This is clearly a hyperbolic fallacy.Close down football then, because it gives unrealistic expectations to students? We must know our range, and our range does not extend to this, and so the answer is to educate. The answer is to firstly investigate why it is students aspire to this football ideal. From my experience football aspirationalism propagates in its strongest form in areas of economic depression and this is linked to the ideal of a masculine cinderella complex. Young boys do not want to be good at football. They do not want to work hard and play for the love of the game. They want to, in the words of one student 'Have bare loads of dollar and smoking girls.' (This is not a fabrication. This is a factual quotation. This child really said this.) Students are losing the concept of working hard in order to gain something and this is why football is seen as the easy way. In many students' minds they believe that in order to be good at football you simply need to be good at football. They do not realise that in order to gain the lifestyle they fetishise (word of the week) they need to be out running every morning, and in the gym lifting weights, and constantly running drills. These young impresionable boys need to understand this and understand that even if they do have the skill level and the commitment and are in the right place at the right time they may still get injured and their dream may crumple like a striker as a result of a malicious tackle.

It is imperitive that students are not put off their dreams but they need to understand what it entails to achieve. It is imperitive that students are prepared for continguency and, although it sounds a little harsh, failure. It is particularly imperitive that students realise that nothing is free, or innate, or easy, and that in sport, particularly, there is no hiding, no easy rides and no certainties. In many sports, it is a sad fact that if you are not already competing at at least a national standard by the time you are sixteen, you are extremely unlikely to succeed at the highest level.