Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cheltenham Races

Just to prove that I'm always behind the times, here's a story that's ten days old.

They spent £1624 of their training budget on a day out at the races. What an absolute disgrace. They should have wasted it on Inset training instead.

That money could have been used to hire a group of odd looking people from the Council to hold some 'Diversity Training'. It could have funded half a dozen experts with large earings and funny shoes to conduct a workshop on 'Gender Awareness', 'Behaviour Management' or 'Different methods of Learning'.

Instead they chose to blow the lot on the gee-gees.

I hope they had a great day out and well done to the Head for showing some initiative. If it had been me, I'd have spent next year's training budget on champagne as well.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Internet Recommendations

The internet is a vast and confusing place. Here are some sites that I've used and been impressed with. Send in you own recommendations or feel free to slate mine. Let's try and get a top ten list of sites which are really good.

Try Laterooms for hotel rooms (Worldwide) up to a year in advance. I've used it twice and you get a huge discount off the room rate. You can read reviews of the place which hopefully haven't been written by the management.

Confused.com will almost certainly find you a cheaper insurance quote for your house or car. You have to type in endless tedious details, but it's probably worth it. I renewed my house insurance for little more than half what I was paying before. If you manage to get a good deal, please be so kind as to send me a cheque for 10% of whatever you save.

ps I've now got my car insurance with them also.

Take a look on tripadvisor to see whether your 'quiet and romantic' hotel is actually above a nightclub or has a nice view of an oil refinery. There is obviously some debate as to the validity of the comments but I've found it spot on.

cdwow! have sold me cheap cds and dvds which actually arrived.

Flickr is a great place to find photos of just about anywhere. Print them out and pass them off as being from your last Round The World trip.

Google Maps is astounding. Zoom right in on your own house and...wait a minute- that's not my car in the driveway and who is that with Mrs C?

Bonusprint do online photo printing. I've used them half a dozen times and they are great. Top quality even for large blow-ups and very fast. Make up a nice calender and give it to Granny for Xmas (your Granny, not mine)

None of the above sites are paying me a penny for these recommendations, but I can assure you that they would get far better reviews if they did.

Friday, May 25, 2007

More Selection but Different

Several times in these ramblings, I've proposed creaming off the top 10% or thereabouts of kids, regardless of background and providing them with a decent education. (Grammar schools if you like) No mainstream political party supports this idea.

Here's another one they won't like either.

There is another group that we simply can't cope with, who are also deserving of special treatment. These are the kids who destroy every one of your lessons, are running wild at night terrorising the local inhabitants, and who are basically out of control. They vandalise and steal cars, burgle houses, mug people and generally cause mayhem. I could spend forever discussing the reasons why, but I'm more interested in getting them out of your classroom. (Actually the reason why they behave like they do is very simple; it's great fun and there is no reason for them not to.)

'Borstal' is one of many words that you simply cannot mention in polite educational circles. Let's call them something different then. Most 'initiatives' for naughty kids have extremely cool names invoking sport, fast cars and success. Let's call them 'Second Chance Turbo-Charged Rides For Winners' (feel free to suggest better names).

Heads would have to justify sending their little brats to these establishments but they should never be made to feel that doing so will count against them in any way. The regime would consist of early starts, lots of hard physical outdoor work, education and discipline. Exactly the same as basic training in the Army but perhaps we won't teach them to shoot straight though.

After six months if they have behaved, they leave, hopefully having gained the following

1) Able to read and write better
2) Able to make their own bed, keep themselves presentable and clean
3) Able to get to where they should be on time
4) Able to communicate with an adult
5) Maybe, just maybe discovered that they could actually do something for the first time in their lives.
3) Determined not to return because it was pretty unpleasant.

And you have had six months without them.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Somebody will be in trouble.

When I read this article I was appalled. Shocked to my very core.

How can anyone be so stupid as to leave such a valuable document lying around in the street?

A representative from the school today confirmed that they had visited Mrs Scroggins to apologise for describing her as 'quite rough' in the report and that she had accepted their offer of a large bottle of tequila and 200 fags as a goodwill gesture.

They added that the comment will be changed in future editions to 'very rough'

Sunday, May 20, 2007

No Escape For You, Ashley.

David Willetts, the Conservative education spokesman announced last week that his party did not support any kind of academic selection and that Grammar Schools were the instruments of the Devil. (Conveniently forgetting that he wouldn't have had a chance of ever getting his own job if he hadn't been fortunate enough to go to one himself.)

David Cameron (Eton) hurried to enthusiastically support him. He certainly doesn't believe that some children should have a better chance than others.

It's all about as convincing as me claiming to be off with stress. No doubt it is just some clever political move, as these announcements always are.

Read the third paragraph in this article to see just how bright this Willets bloke really is. If you happen to be a Head in a crummy school, nervously expecting a visit from on high, then simply hire a string quartet for the day, get them to wear your school's uniform and you will have no difficulty pulling the wool over the visitor's eyes. Money well spent.

Academic selection is the only way out of the slums for many poor but bright kids. It really is the only chance they will ever have. Academic schools attract academic teachers, inner city hell holes do not; they attract those who are very good at controlling unruly pupils and those who simply could not get a job anywhere else. Let's not pretend that anything other than riot control and baby sitting go on in these places.

I'm not big on personal anecdotes as they are rarely significant. However here's one for you.

In 1952 my father passed his eleven plus and went to a grammar school where he was given an education that was better than I received from my Comprehensive 25 years later. He was from a working class background as were many others in his school. If I had stayed in the same area my children would have to go to a school which is now far worse. This neatly sums up the decline over the last half century.

For 99% of people nowadays their future is sealed from the moment they are born. Infant schools now have behaviour problems unheard of thirty years ago which disrupt their efforts to teach reading, writing and basic sums, all that young children really need. A much broader curriculum which insists on them being taught unnecessary gumf further hinders the teachers' efforts. Therefore it is left to the parents to teach the basics, which further increases the divide between those with good ones and those whose parents couldn't give a toss.

The kids who are bright at 5, 8 or 11 would benefit from an academic education and ought to be given the chance of one. The ones who aren't should be given the chance to do non academic stuff that might at least hold some interest for them, rather than the present system of ever larger schools trying and failing miserably to cope with an ever greater range of abilities. However, it doesn't seem like anyone likely to get into power in the near future agrees.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sorry, We Cannot Take Your Call Right Now...

Bring-Bring, Bring-Bring...

"Congratulations for correctly dialling the number for St. Thickchilds School! Your call is important to us, so please select from the following options:

If you are unsure about the specific nature of your complaint, but would just like to moan, press One

If you are phoning to let us know that all the teachers are picking on your child, press Two

If you wish to make a false allegation against a teacher; press Three, or contact 'Ambulance Chasers' on 0870 565 8484. We will not be able to tell you which solicitor is best for suing us.

If you have a ludicrous excuse for why your child has been absent, press Four. Please note that we are unable to suggest one for you.

If you would like to know why your child is not allowed on the school trip to Scagton, press Five

If you would like to request a School Permission Slip to allow your child to spit on pedestrians whilst travelling on the school bus, press Six.

If you would like to verbally abuse a specific teacher; press Seven, or simply race up to school and demand to see them immediately.

If your child is socially inept and would like to change forms yet again, press Eight

If it is a crucial time in your child's education and you would like to request two weeks off to go on holiday, press Nine

If you are a parent who appreciates the efforts we make to educate and discipline your child then hang up and do not try again later."

With due regards to the teachers from Pacific Palisades High School, California

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Good Advice, even if I say so myself.

'Overly dedicated'
'Concentrates on every Detail'
'Works too Hard'
'Unable to let go.'
'Unwilling to Delegate'
'A Constant Worrier'
'The School is his Life'

None of these phrases have ever been used to describe me, I can assure you; but they are applicable to many teachers. 'Vocation' is a word used by employers to describe jobs that are poorly paid for the hours they demand and have awful working conditions.

When you are near the end of your life, will you look back and think "I wish I'd spent more time on my marking"? 'Course you won't.

Teaching is one of those jobs where you could work 24 hours a day for your entire career if you chose to, but when you drop dead of exhaustion, nobody will ever thank you.

My advice for what it's worth is:

Teach what's important as best as you can, do the odd 'out of school activity' and go on the occasional school trip. Get some exercise and fresh air every day and make sure you have a few outside interests or hobbies that are nothing to do with school.

Every so often look back on the last couple of years and ask yourself: "Do I really enjoy this?"

If the answer is 'No' then go and do something else. It's easy to get trapped in something that isn't right for you because change is always more difficult than carrying on doing the same thing. Life is simply too short to spend it doing something you don't enjoy and few people realise this.

If however the answer is a resounding 'Yes!' then remind yourself each day how incredibly lucky you are, put a big smile on your face and say a cheery hello to Mr Grumpy in the Staffroom.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Study Leave

In many schools the Year 11 leave this Friday on what is laughingly called 'Study Leave' but which should more accurately be known as 'Playstation Holiday' It is nothing more than an opportunity to make an early start on the summer crime spree.

As the great day approaches, teachers at the Nations Crummiest Schools face important decisions...

Do I take my car on the last day? Will Dwayne know which one mine is and take a horrible revenge for my attempts to instill some discipline in him over the last five years? How far from school should I park in order to hide it? Will the school pay for any damage? If Shane throws an egg at me, can I punch his lights out?

Take my advice and get yourself a wireless cctv camera from Maplins (the type Ashley installs near cashpoint machines to record your PIN) Have it watching over your car and recording any wrongdoing. That will certainly spoil Wayne's day when he ends up in front of the Magistrate to be let off with a caution.

To be honest your best hope is that it rains heavily.
Best of Luck!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You Not To Do This...

Thanks to Nick for this story.

If your judgement is ever called into question, just reply: "Well it's not as bad as theirs" and you should be fine.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Teaching Instructors

I've been trying to find out the extent of this for a while.

Basically people are taken on by schools as 'Teaching Instructors'. They cover lessons but have the work set for them and do not mark it. They must have a degree but do not need any other qualification.

Here is an article about it (with some interesting comments at the end)

I finally met someone who was working as a 'Teaching Instructor' recently. He had graduated the previous year and was doing it as short term employment whilst he 'worked out what he wanted to do with his life'.

He said that the work was always set for him and he hadn't been asked to mark anything. He told me that the SMT bloke hiring him explained that he was basically a 'Supply Teacher but Cheaper'

He started off covering the subject he had a degree in but after a week, the school offered him work doing general cover. He was paid £95 per day and had been working for three months. He told me that "It's been interesting but there's no way I'd go into teaching". He was incidently, very impressed by the 'real teachers' he had met. (Except for me, I suspect)

It does raise a few interesting points:

1) How widespread is this practice? I think there are probably thousands of them, but I cannot say for certain.

2) Presumably the parents have no idea what is going on.

3) How different is this situation from having Supply Teachers? I regularly covered subjects that I knew nothing about for weeks on end.

4) How on Earth did this get to happen without the Unions doing anything effective to stop it?

5) Would you be happy going to see your doctor and hearing "Dr. Jones is away today but I'm a 'Medical Instructor'. What seems to be the problem?"

Hide Your Tape Now!

Here's something else you'd probably better not do today. I suspect the incident didn't actually resemble a Hollywood kidnapping, with screaming, threats and an entire roll of gaffa tape, but was probably a gentle and harmless bit of fun. It was nothing more than a light hearted way of trying to remind the children to sit quietly and listen. (Which is doubtless frowned upon nowadays anyway)

Needless to say the reaction is hysterical and you can already see one of the parents angling for the 'allergy' angle. No doubt 'trauma and distress' will soon follow, which can only be soothed by a large out of court settlement.

I have just come off the phone to my parents and we are preparing our own legal battle for justice over a similarly brutal event that has traumatised me since 1972. I knew education would make me rich somehow.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Teaching Toughness This Week

Have a read of this and try not to laugh (or cry when you consider the cost of sending all those teachers to the USA). It would be a hell of a lot better to teach kids that when you are told to do something, you actually have to. Sorry, that idea's a bit too radical.

You can only imagine the sort of guff Prof Seligman can come out with. I just wish Chalk Enterprises had come up with the idea first.

Hang on a minute. Weren't we Teaching Happiness last week? Just make sure you don't get them mixed up.

ps There's some new links on the sidebar to various 'Rate My' things

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Scrounging Gits

Two familiar problems are in the news again:

1) Kids making false allegations against teachers.

2) Scrounging parents pursuing compensation claims against schools knowing that it will cost them nothing with a solicitor willing to work on a 'no win, no fee' basis.

I went through a few examples in my book, but basically the problem as with so many others in teaching, boils down to 'lack of backbone'

Ask yourself the following:

1) Why do Local Authorities not adopt a policy of fighting every case in Court, rather than paying out almost automatically. It might cost something to start with, but long term there would be savings as spurious claims would dry up overnight.

2) Why don't Heads and Local Authorities insist on prosecutions of claims shown to be fictitious. This is perfectly feasable on the grounds of either 'Perverting the Course of Justice', 'Wasting Police Time' or 'Conspiracy to defraud'. Even if the CPS refuses, there is nothing stopping them taking out a civil case. Again, expensive for a very short while until after a couple of prosecutions, dodgy claims don't seem so appealing.

3) For something that can be done immediately- why doesn't every teacher in a school simply refuse to teach any pupil who makes an allegation later found to be false? Those in charge might bluster but they would always back down against a united staff.

The policy of 'Hit hard and you won't have to do it for long' has been known since ancient times. It's so much better than simply lying down.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Man on the Telly

After some high powered negotiations; (they make an offer and I say "What does that word mean?" I have managed to sell the TV rights to my book. Hoorah!

Now these things take a long time to come to fruition ('Life on Mars' took seven years!) but hopefully one day we will all be able to watch Mr Chalk on the telly.

Now I don't get to have the last word on what gets made, so I suppose we could all end up as a bunch of elves, or floating around on a space station. However, the production company seem like a decent bunch to me so I'm sure everything will be fine.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

No Playground? Where Are They Supposed To Have Fights?

Whoever came up with the idea of the brand new Thomas Deacon City Academy in Peterborough is mad in three different ways.

1)£46 million to build it. Someone's making a fortune out of that.

2)2200 pupils is far too big. We should be moving in the opposite direction; to smaller schools where the teachers can get to know every child. Kids just become anonymous in a place that size.

3) Building a school without a playground is the craziest thing of all. Boys especially need to burn off suplus energy at breaktime and lunchtime otherwise they cause mayhem in your lesson. The Head, Alan McMurdo has clearly lost the plot. He reckons:

"They won't need to let off steam because they won't be bored"

Hmmm... They will be the first kids in history then.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Step Away From The Refrigerator!

Miss Wade heaves herself out of her chair on the other side of the staffroom, wittering about how she has requested a new padlock for her store cupboard. "It's a padlock for her fridge she needs if you ask me" I foolishly mutter to the table I am sitting on.

Guardians flutter, hands wring and there is a hushed chorus of "You can't say that!" along with vague suggestions that some people who are absolutely enormous might have a medical condition. I'll say they do- compulsive bloody eating that's what.

It's not so much a case of spotting her out of the corner of my eye- she's filling my entire visual field. I can actually see light bending around her. As she finally manages to stand up, a tv remote falls out from where it had been trapped in a wobbly fold. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a kid stuck in there as well. She is clearly one cream bun away from a gastric explosion. When viewed from sideways on she appears to either be wearing one of those medieval hooped dresses underneath her straining trousers or have a shelf protruding from her waist. I might try and sit on it to get a free lift.

Believe it or not she is about to go and teach 'Healthy Eating' as part of PSHE (Personal Social and Health Education). There is a certain irony here; how do the kids keep a straight face? It would be like me teaching them Diplomacy.