Tuesday, March 25, 2008


A quick phonecall has established that the last post should have been about 'Hats' and not 'Cats'. Frankly it doesn't really matter as I can't listen to that sort of stuff for more than 10 seconds without screaming. A whole industry has grown up around the idea of churning out guff to captive audiences and I want to be part of it.

For a modest fee, a representative of Chalk Enterprises will come to your school, talk rubbish for a couple of hours and get you playing some simple games. We will offer a cast iron guarantee that the day will be no use to you whatsoever, but it will all be very warm, safe and comforting and you will feel like you are eight years old again.

Actually, thinking about it, an even better idea would be for me to turn up personally, so that you could shout at me, tear up a few exercise books and generally vent your frustrations. I could say patronising things like 'Let's get into small groups and investigate different methods of learning' and you could all scream abuse. I would also provide you with a liberal supply of eggs, rotten fruit and tennis balls. I reckon I might be on to something here...

Enough of that; it's NUT conference time and they are balloting about strike action. Not effective strike action, ie get together with the other 57 Unions and have every teacher in the land downing tools and not coming back until they get a pay rise, some decent working conditions and a few brats expelled; goodness me no, a one day strike which can be safely ignored by the Government.

They are also up in arms about the military recruiting in schools and are outraged that they only tell the kids about the best bits (skiing, windsurfing and shooting people) I believe that is called advertising. The Accountancy company that visited Mrs Chalk's school also forgot to show people working through the night at the end of the Tax Year in their presentation. Let's face it; the teachers who attend these conferences are invariably beardy weirdies (of both sexes) with no hobbies to persue in the holidays. They hate the military with a vengance, because it opposes the things they stand for (beards, dangly earrings and facial ironmongery)

Here's my take on it (from last year) which will doubtless prove unpopular:

If you are born into the Underclass, doomed to attend a dustbin of a school, then a career in the Army might well be your only ticket out of the slums. Yes, if you are unlucky you might be shot by some toerag in Iraq or Afghanistan; but if you manage to avoid that unfortunate outcome, then you can pick up a decent pension after 22 years or look for another employer who will snap you up, knowing that unlike most applicants; a) you will actually turn up to work and b) you will get on with things that you might not want to do without moaning too much.

Alternatively you could of course just remain in the Estate from Hell, where there are no employers and you stand a good chance of being shot by a rival drugs dealer or ending up behind bars for most of your life. The NUT would like to remove your only hope of escape.


Sandy said...

Ah yes, the coloured hats. Been there, done that - still have the mental scars to prove it, too!

In our 'educational environment' (i.e., college) we do it for the little ones whose English isn't too good. It helps them learn the colours, you see.

It also gives the teachers a few hours off from teaching anything vaguely useful, so it's an accepted and established wheeze here in the UAE.

At a conference I went to (I had to go, arm got twisted) last year, the whole Thinking Hats charade was presented yet again - but this time within the framework of a Critical Thinking Syllabus (or was it Curriculum?).

Different coloured hats? Critical thinking?!? I could not think of anything less critical, or removed from real thinking, as this old b*ll*x.

Of course, the rest of the teachers lapped it up. I went home early for a kip.

Anonymous said...

Two things: First, the last training day we had, we all had to say what was unique about the college in which we worked. I stood up and said what made our college unique was the fact that it was actually in (insert name of town here) and sat down again. This was recieved with huge cries of laughter, from my friends and collegues (though not by the management). Then we were asked what was the most unique thing we could do that day. Again I stood up said that the most unique thing I could do was not listen to anymore of this crap, when I have a ton of marking to do. I then immediately walked out and went home and yes I'm telling the truth.

Secondly, in relation to the one day strike, having worked in Australia, they only have 2 teaching unions over there and when one goes on strike, the other automatically joins them and they do not go back to work until they get EXACTLY what they want. As the union bosses say (and definately mean) WE DO NOT DO COMPROMISE! Having witnessed this at first hand they certainly do not compromise with the government.

We moan so much in this country about how unfair everything is yet we don't have the balls to do anything drastic enough to change it. One day strikes are not the answer, 6 months to yearly long strikes are! Wake up teachers of Britain and get a backbone.

muso-tim said...

"you will get on with things that you might not want to do without moaning too much."

To be frank, Frank, soldiers rival teachers for moaning. In fact, if moaning were an olympic sport the final would be a team of teachers against a team of soldiers. Neither would win, and both would be found dead a month later with enormously oversized jaws.

Now I'm off to indoctrinate some youngsters, on a CCF camp.

Anonymous said...

-do your courses include a special way of writing English?We had a meeting with our youngest child's principal;she said what are you aiming for? and I said I would like him to stop hitting the other kids and to actually learn to read and she wrote for a few minutes and then said- right I've got- i would like J to explore and develop embracing less physical and less negative means of peer interaction and to target with a multidisciplinary approach the seeming dichotomy between his apparent intellectual potential and his achievements in government benchmarking assessments-and I said to my husband -did I just say that and he said I guess so.Did I?

lj said...

Hi all,
I am trying to find out what people feel about their HR departments and would really appreciate your comments on my blog

I wonder do teachers have any relationship with HR? Do schools even have an HR department? If not what do you have?

Anyway - hope you can find the time to comment - will be really interested in what you have to say.


Anonymous said...

I didn't think you were still allowed to say 'coloured'. Shouldn't that be 'mixed race hats'?

paul coombes said...

I know it is not good form to point out spelling mistakes but "persue"?

Nick said...

My tutor at teacher training college described that coloured hat thing as 'a theory that was discredited twenty years ago and now for reasons unknown seems to be back in fashion'. In my NQT year the head, who should have known better, waxed lyrical about it.

Re. NUT and the Army - spot on as usual, Frank. I felt like cutting up my union card and sending it to the general secretary when I heard some of the guff they were saying about the military on the radio.

Sadly unions of all sorts tend to get monopolised by tedious lefties with no personal life; the NUS is exactly the same.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget it's us "lefties" who are the ones that are usually the instigators of strike action. If there were no lefties and only conservative right-wingers, there would probably be no strike actions, therefore us teachers would have to put up with all the crap the government throws at us. We may not be perfect but at least we try to be the antithesis to all this neoliberalist, market force driven guff that the government wants us to swallow.

Everybody needs to get behind this strike, not just teachers but every working man/woman. Completely agree with first anon, we should have more balls and follow the example of the Aussies. Having also worked over there myself, I have also seen what a "no compromise at any cost" mentality gets you....it gets you EXACTLY what you want. It's time to kick this quasi-torry government in the balls! Brown is Thatcher's bastard child

Ranting Teacher said...

How topical (hat) is this - last week I was on a course when I was handed a bunch of photocopies containing just the outline of a bowler hat with a word inside in extra-large comic sans font that said something like "thinking" or "feeling". And it wasn't the first time it had happened.

I just sat there staring at these bits of paper feeling like I'd be propelled into a twilight zone as all around me people twittered about what a good idea they were. I asked a woman at my table if she actually used them.

"Oh yes, they're great."

"You mean, like proper hats. You make the kids wear different hats?"

"Yes, I made them all myself. Took me a whole evening. Different colours for different activities."



"I mean, when the kid puts the hat on, they can't see what colour it is any more. What's the point?"

"Well, it, um, focuses their thinking."

"Does it? Does it really though?"

"Um..." At this point her eyes started to water, betraying the inner conflict she was feeling between an evening spending making pointless hats and the realisation that she's been hat, sorry had, by Mr de Bono's "Emperor's New Clothes" philosophy...

Anonymous said...

I was utterly disgusted by the comments made by the NUT. Regardless of your feelings on the politics behind what the Army is doing, the soldiers deserve our support. It wasn't their decision to go to war!

The hats are surely the most pointless thing ever, I had to try and use them on a training course, and my group ended up having an argument about which hat we were using! (I think we were in a red hat kind of mood). Slightly more useful than trying to solve a problem from the point of view of Miss Piggy or Santa though. I have yet to suggest using either of these excellent techniques in a team meeting...

Anonymous said...

What a lot of twaddle and yet they let you mix with children.
It might be better if teachers were abolished and parent left to work out some arrangement.
At least then nobody would have to indulge in the 'education' theories that abound.
And most people would be better off.

Anonymous said...

My take on the military issue is that the majority of teachers have only ever been in a 'school' environment. They have no knowledge of the real world of work this can be shown by just how unprepared youngsters are when expected to start having to earn a living.(I am referring to time keeping, respect for others, dress codes etc etc) I can therefore understand why they are so critical of an organisation built on discipline. What rankles is when they themselves then bleat about the lack of discipline in the classroom!

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with this current subject but i was wondering why i cant find anything further education blogs. I was at a training day and I think it may have been useful but as it took our team approx 20 mins to do what we needed I successfully got paid for drinking tea and eating free cake. I use this analogy because it is similiar to the entire futher education system... instead of teaching students we keep them off the doll (and unemployment stats) by paying EMA. To be fair to the gorvenment this was a supremely skillful move... I dont think most of the tax paying public is even aware that students get paid to come to college. In theory this should work like a job so that if you dont turn up you dont get paid unless there are unavoidable circumstances... "high winds making it impossible to ride a bike to college", "being tired" etc. (I kid you not these are real excuses) do not count. If so then the refraction of sunlight through rainwater makes it impossible to drive with 100% safety meaning that I can not possibly attend work due to the stress created by this climatical obstacle and the lack of risk assessment completed and signed off.

Anonymous said...

I just notice the above comment "the majority of teachers have only ever been in a 'school' environment."
Is this based on sound research? Because I have never met a teacher who has not work in another vocation or outside the 'school' enviroment. Also unless I work on a different planet I seem to rememeber the fact that I HAVE to turn up to work on time, show respect for others, including those disrepectful to me, stick to a dress code etc. the key difference that these employers dont see is that they can sack useless staff and are not force to take on the worst that society has to offer. I'd like to see how well the military coped if the worst punishment they could inflict was staying behind for 5 mins or waiting a week, quite often longer, to inflict the dreaded 30 min detention for crimes such as violence, theft, or destruction of property...

Broon's Talking Bawgie said...

I've just read your book and laughed my arse off, but then I got angry.

Looks like it's time to start scraping together school fees.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2307
Well - my wife teaches and I have been a school governor. I am all to well aware of some teachers idea of following a dress code and setting an example. How do you tell pupils that jeans are unacceptable when you find the Art teacher or whoever wearing jeans. That jewelry is unacceptable but the English teacher looks like a Christmas tree? When staff don't turn up on time for meetings and disappear faster than the pupils at the end of the day. These are the examples that pupils see and emulate. BUT I have seen those staff that motivate pupils without raising their voice, that turn up early and finish late. That always dress smartly and set an example, oddly enough these nearly always are teachers that moved into the career after experiencing working in industry or some other profession. Sadly too many in my opinion view teaching as an extension of University life.

Ranting Teacher said...

As for teachers not having experience of work outside the education system, I'd say that is ill-informed. The only reason I became a teacher after sampling several other professions was for the short working day, opportunity to dress like a scruff, and only having 12 year olds to answer to when I bowl up half an hour late.


AnneDroid said...

What a great blog, and a good debate here.

I've just looked up "coloured hats" in Wikipedia and am almost speechless ("almost" being as close as I ever get).

It sounds like the modern equivalent of what my mum describes. She did her teacher training the best part of fifty years ago. She had done a maths degree and had to do one year's teacher training to become a maths teacher. She often described the low point as when they all had to pretend to be seagulls. Why? No idea.


Anonymous said...

I grew up on a Council estate in the North East during the late 50's and 60's (an area which would today be called a 'sink estate populated by the underclass'. Permission was refused for a military recruiting team to talk to my school, where I left with 7 GCEs, though quite a few union officials were allowed in. Despite this, possibly due to talks I had with my History teacher who was an Major and served in the Second World War, as an alternative to the dole (and possibly a life of crime) I joined the Army at 16 years of age. A culture shock which led me to learn self-discipline and gave me the courage and incentive to see how many challenges I could meet. After retiring from the Army I became a Police officer in a County Force (NOT a natural progression for many reasons) retiring a few years ago. I have watched my children, and now my grandchildren go through the schools system with varying degrees of agreement, annoyance and disbelief. Schools seem to want no overt Government intrusion but will gladly embrace political influence (usually somewhere to the left of Josef Stalin) which fits in with their own personal prejudices and desires - so much for the impartiality of teaching staff. Visits to schools seem to offer sights of teachers accepting behaviour which, in my day, would have been quickly dealt with. My choice would not have suited everybody in my class but at least I was given an opportunity to make an informed decision which I have never regretted. Let the mil;itary teams into the schools. If the pupils are interested they will learn to ask the correct questions and make informed choices - isn't that what education is all about? By the way, why are so many inset days during term time? Why can't they be taken in the few days holiday teachers have each year?

Phil A said...

What a jaundiced – but devastatingly accurate and utterly true summation ;-)

The sound of a person who has had reality inflicted on you sufficiently often to now be unable to bury it in whatever theory ‘they’ are pushing.

We each possess a certain capacity to ignore reality. Only the truly gifted can keep it up indefinitely The NUT would appear to be Olympic class at it.

muso-tim said...

"By the way, why are so many inset days during term time? Why can't they be taken in the few days holiday teachers have each year?"

They WERE taken from teachers' holiday when they were first instituted. We now have a week less than twenty-odd years ago.

Anonymous said...

I'll never forget one training day. Everyone was sitting in our allocated room in a nice circle (yes, aren't we all equal today!!) and in walks the training facilitator. My first thought was (holy molly, he's got "priest" written all over him".
he gave a saintly smile and said to us "stand up". everyone got up but me, that is. He then asked me why I hadnt stood up and I said "I don't know who yu are and you walk in here and order me to stand up without giving a reason or saying please so I don't feel obligd to comply,". Flutter, fluuter he went, on and on, about how people folow orders woithoug thinking (i sat there grinning smugly)...the funniest thing: at a later point he let out that he used to be a vicar but now was into teacher training. I DID smell "priest" first thing..............

Boy on a bike said...

"soldiers rival teachers for moaning"

The old saying used to be, "When the troops are moaning, everything is ok. you only need to watch out when they stop moaning!"

zz said...

salam sejahtera..buka minda juara

Inspector Gadget said...

Sorry Frank but the ex Army employees moan about everything, all the time. I should know. I am one!

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