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