Thursday, November 29, 2012

Comment Verification

Several readers have complained about how difficult it is to read those distorted letters that appear when you try to leave a comment. Apparently they are supposed to verify that you are indeed a real person leaving spam rather than a computer programme.

I apologise and admit that they are a nightmare. Unfortunately when I tried turning the feature off a few days ago as an experiment, I was immediately bombarded with almost a hundred comments hiding links to all sorts of rubbish.

Now this makes me wonder. Everyone operates on the same cost-versus-benefit rule, no matter what line of business they are in or whether they are honest or not. No matter how cheap it is to send out spam, it isn't free. Nor is it free to host a website. Therefore somebody, somewhere must be following these links and buying the products on offer.

So this begs the question:

Just who exactly believes that they will get a cheap Rolex watch by visiting a website based in Russia? Or that a reputable chemist is waiting for them at the end of a link entitled "Best Cheap Price Viagra"? I want to meet the person who sends their money off to buy a "Lois Vuitton" handbag from Nigeria and more importantly, I want to know who was responsible for their education.

We should teach kids the meaning of the word 'gullible'? (Which by the way, isn't actually in the Oxford Dictionary)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tutor Kings and Queens

"If you want to be a top tutor, it definitely helps if you are young and attractive" says young and attractive Kelly Mok from the amusingly named Hong Kong tutoring company- King's Glory. More on the phenomenon of celebrity tutors here

Must dash, as I think the postman has just arrived with an invitation to start a new life in the Far East.

Monday, November 26, 2012

New Teachers

It has been fashionable to criticise the younger generation ever since Ug was a caveman, but nevertheless, you may be interested in a conversation I had last week with  two Science teachers James and Ivan. Both men are in their mid-fifties and I was asking how teaching had changed since they started in the late 1970s.
(Please bear in mind that this is not a Scientific experiment with reproducible results- it's simply three guys talking in a pub).

Their first admission was that the new teachers worked so much harder than they ever did. Ivan pointed out that 'in the olden days' the staffroom was always full of people chattering and at lunchtimes they would play darts or pool. Nowadays they said, the room is almost silent and the young teachers are always marking and planning.

"They are under so much more pressure than we ever were" agreed James.

"We were pretty much left to get on with it, whereas nowadays you always feel like there's someone looking over your shoulder. "

Both men admitted that they were glad their circumstances would enable them to retire within the next few years and felt that they were luckier than young adults nowadays. They had not had to pay to go to University, could not imagine teaching until the age of 68 and felt sorry for people starting off in teaching.

Ivan qualified this by pointing out that half the country goes to Uni nowadays, whereas it used to be much more selective academically, so many of those who get a degree today would never have been given one in the past. We got slightly sidetracked at this point with a calculation that our nearest University now had four times the number of students that it had thirty five years ago. All three of us agreed that a huge con was being perpetrated on the current generation by telling them how clever they all were and pushing them into 'debt and dodgy degrees'.

This led to James claiming that the present generation of teachers were on average less intelligent than his own. He emphasised the 'on average' bit, before adding that in his opinion half of the 'new ones' wouldn't know how to work out an average anyway. Ivan agreed that subject knowledge along with standards of English and basic maths had dropped considerably in the last 30 years, but also pointed out that he had heard the same claims from older teachers when he was young and it was blamed on the arrival of electronic calculators.

"The young lads dress better than we did" admitted Ivan. "I used to wear a leather bomber jacket for school and you used to wear jeans half the time (indicating James)- whereas they tend to wear a nice suit nowadays."

"Yeah, but what some of the young female teachers wear these days is unbelievable!" Announced James enthusiastically, spilling some of his pint and barely able to sit still.

"Teaching methods have changed massively too. We just did chalk and talk so if you were having a bad day you just sat down, buried your head in a pile of marking and got the kids to do an exercise in silence from the textbook. Both laughed. "Now you're expected to provide non-stop entertainment".

They agreed that the job had become much more demanding. Ivan had started out when their school was a Grammar and recounted the shock that they all had when the Comprehensive intake arrived and suddenly the ability range broadened.

"The older teachers (at the time) just couldn't cope with a load of kids who could barely read. But even so, they were streamed from the minute they arrived in Year 7, not like now where you've got two years of mixed ability to deal with and all the Special Schools have closed so you've got all the head cases in there as well"

"And all this multicultural stuff- all the problems with the foreign kids' different culture and language. We never had to deal with any of that." James added.

"Looking back the discipline was so easy. We might have complained about the odd naughty kid, but nothing like today. At least there was a little bit of respect for teachers back then, both from the kids and parents- now we're just dirt.

Finally I asked them both whether they would recommend the career to a bright 21 year old graduate.

After a slight pause, they both shook their heads rather sadly.

I pointed out that job security counted for a lot these days and teaching was pretty safe. They agreed, although James pointed out that this would not be the case in a few years time when most schools had become Academies and could hire and fire teachers much easier.

He paused and added:

"Accountability and professionalism are all very well, but once they go too far and the job just becomes unpleasant then you'll only recruit those who can't do anything else"

"Like you, Frank!" They both added in unison.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Doom and Gloom

So inflation's going back up, the gas companies are ripping us off, the BBC's in crisis- can it really get any worse?

What? They've let who out of jail?..

Monday, November 12, 2012

International Aid

How on Earth can we expect India to fund an £800 million space exploration programme if we're going to start penny-pinching and not send them any more money after 2015?

Likewise, if we cut back on the river of cash flowing to Nigeria each year, how will they afford to let people know about their £251 million win in the Lagos State Lottery? Or that a long lost Auntie has unfortunately been involved in a plane crash and left them a fortune, which can be sent out after a small administration fee has been paid?

Still, at least we are boosting aid to Pakistan. Their defense budget rose by 10% this year and some of their nuclear reactors could really do with a bit of modernisation work. Maybe they'll be able to sell us some electricity once our lights start to go out?

It's no wonder Amazon, Ebay and Google don't want to pay taxes in our Country. They're just saving us from ourselves.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Obama Wins

Well at least we don't have Mad Mitt in charge of things over the Pond, although the impression I got last year was that most people would reluctantly vote for Obama simply because there was no serious alternative.

Oh and today's top tip- don't go cutting any of your pupils' hair (even if it is too long)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

School Dinners and Jamie Oliver Again

The canteens in schools which have become Academies don't have to follow the same nutritional regulations as those in schools which haven't. Now I've no idea whether these rules make the food better or worse (anyone can call themselves a nutritionist as it's not a protected name like 'Doctor').

However I do know that if nothing is done, then Jamie Oliver's chubby grinning face will appear on the telly faster than you can say 'chip butty' and we all have a duty to try and prevent that.

We need more rules for Academies
Governing chips, potatoes and peas.
So write to your MP today.
And together we'll keep Jamie away!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Vanessa Greening and Jeremy Vine

A quiet word from the Head should have sorted out this nonsense, but instead Vanessa Greening received an assault conviction and her school will now 'carry out an investigation' before deciding what to do with her.
I don't mind admitting that I did exactly the same thing a dozen times.

Do we hear her Union speaking out in her defense, as they would do if she didn't know anything about her subject, couldn't be bothered to try and control the kids, or never came in to work?

Also, well done to Jeremy Vine last week for highlighting the madness of teachers marking their own pupils' coursework when they are themselves judged on how good the marks are.
More on this in