Friday, March 29, 2013

Teachers' Union Conferences

One of the main reasons I and many others went into teaching was for the long holidays. They are a great perk of the job and it always saddens me that many teachers don't make more use of them. It's not lack of money holding them back (how much does it cost to go for a long walk?) It's all too often lack of imagination.

One Easter Holiday activity to avoid at all costs however is the various Union Conferences, whose main purpose is to provide the tabloids with more headlines to turn public opinion even further against us. Every daft proposal and every foolish statement is Manna from Heaven for the journalists.

Here's a much better activity for those readers who live in the North. Build yourself an igloo following the instructions below

The internet never ceases to amaze me. On learning of Amazon's purchase this morning of I repeated a phrase that I must have uttered hundreds of times over the last 15 years. Namely "Why didn't I think of that?"

Thursday, March 28, 2013


As a teacher it is important to regularly express your distaste for the Conservative Party and the 'Establishment' and absolutely vital that your colleagues know how much you hate the Daily Mail.

Such sentiment is not always unjustified. The Mail keeps its niche readership in a state of constant rage by playing to all their fears, whether it be of immigrants eating their babies or asylum seekers murdering them in their beds. It is not exactly renowned for supporting State School teachers, whom it regards (sometimes correctly) as a bunch of raving lefties.

The following article won't be news to anyone who works in a hell hole school, but it's worth a quick read if only for the comments. If you select 'best rated' then you will be surprised at how supportive of teachers they are. (Well they were at ten thirty this evening anyway). There's also some useful illustrations to remind you of what teachers, pupils and computers look like.

School Bans Triangular Flapjacks

For years I have warned of the dangers of these lethal biscuits, but would anybody listen?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Financial Advisers

For some reason an oily man who described himself as a 'Financial Adviser' wanted me to "talk over some investment possibilities" with him last week. (Seriously, this is how these people speak).

"Do you have an enormous house, a selection of holiday homes in desirable parts of the World, a posh car and a yacht?" I asked.

His baffled silence saved me from asking the obvious followup:

"If you don't know how to make a success of your own finances, why on Earth would I want your advice on mine?"

Taking financial advice from someone who isn't ridiculously wealthy, strikes me as being about as smart as listening to my views on diplomacy.

(Oh and someone is going to pull me up on the punctuation in that first paragraph).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kids of Today

Here's a bizarre BBC News article where a man in his early 50s goes back to the rather nice school he once attended and wonders why it it's full of aspirational, well behaved, mature young people rather than mindless yobs, vandals and dropouts. (Which of course is exactly how it would have been when he went there).

Did the BBC never think to send him to St Thickchilds? Our inner city hell hole could have supplied him with plenty of miscreants to keep him happy. I'm sure that his face would be a picture of delight when some 'rebellious pupil' swore at him or spat on him as he walked under a classroom window. Just imagine how proud he would be on returning to his car to find that it had been scratched with a key by some young 'challenger of society's values'.

Most kids today are fairly sensible. Most kids always were.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Facts and Learning

When I did my teacher training in the late '80s, advocating any sort of rote learning (or indeed any learning) was about as wise as openly declaring your love for Margaret Thatcher. When I asked how kids were supposed to learn their tables or spellings, everyone laughed at my old fashioned foolishness. This is the modern world, our lecturer told us. There are new and more exciting ways to teach nowadays (and one day there may even be telephones that do not have to be plugged in to the wall.)

This is still the situation today. Critical thinking, group projects and working things out for yourself are far more important than simply learning facts. Why would children need to waste their time and clutter up their brains learning things when we have Google, which can tell us anything we wish to know.

Now my problem with all this is that if you have no facts to compare an answer with, then you can never judge it's authenticity. For example, if I ask you what the Gross Domestic Product of the UK was back in 1970 and you tell me that it was £25, then I need some related knowledge before I can say whether this is likely to be correct or not. We have been brainwashed in teaching to regard everyone's views as equally important and we think that simply having an opinion somehow has some value in itself.

Now whilst I'm not saying that everything should simply be learnt off by heart, I don't agree that it is a waste of time. Rote learning teaches young children to concentrate. We are forever hearing that pupils have much shorter concentration spans than they once had and this is blamed on the increased pace of modern life. Why don't we try and improve their concentration rather than just accepting it? There's also a nice calming effect which we could really do with later on as well.

Repeated practice is also immensely effective and enables you to recall a skill or fact years later. I still say "amo, amas, amat..." whenever anybody asks me whether I did any Latin at school, whereas I just stare blankly with my mouth open if they enquire about anything I did in Geography. I also never had a clue how long division worked, but was perfectly capable of doing it. Debates and peer-centric review? No, just learn and practice and you'll be fine.

(By the way, this post is not meant to offer any support for the teaching of Latin in school, which is a complete and utter waste of time).

Friday, March 22, 2013

Snow Again

Apologies that my recent output has been less than a Cypriot cashpoint machine, but I've been busy. (Well by my standards anyway).

Right, here's two things that have caught my attention recently

1) Many young teachers seem to be applying for promotions incredibly early on in their careers. Eg  a second year teacher got a deputy head of department job and another became a Head at 31. Now this either means that they are incredibly aspirational and talented, or that there is a preference for younger staff, or simply that older teachers just don't want the extra workload and stress that comes with these positions.

2) If the parents of kids at the top or bottom of the ability range at Secondary school ever found out how much resources are concentrated on the C/D borderline kids, there would be uproar. Getting Harriet an A* grade or teaching Jayden to read is of no importance whatsoever. The best teachers along with extra revision classes and intensive tuition days are thrown at that one important group.

(Oh, for those of you outside teaching, the A* grade was brought in because the ordinary A grade became devalued as they were awarded for little more than filling your name out correctly)