Showing posts from April, 2012

Letting Go: how a night of violence taught me to be a better teacher

'Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.'

Do you remember what it's like to be a new teacher? Perhaps you are one, in which case this isn't difficult. One thing that marks the baptism of the classroom is the stress; the frozen moments of paralysis and anxiety as you crumble under the weight of approbation, effort and worse, ridicule. This is no small problem; I reply to weary, worn teachers all the time who have almost nothing left to give, so eroded are they by the death of a thousand cuts. But new or not, everyone wears the strain between the desired and the delivered; the tension when twenty five people refuse to pursue their collective interest and seem to aim for your disintegration.

Instead of crumbling, some shatter. We have ALL lost our temper; we have all blown a seal. The pupils can often see it coming; watching you as the rivets eke their way from their seams before erupting like champagne corks. This anger, while understanda…

Transvestite Cage Fighter becomes spokesperson for Healthy School Lunches

In a seeming attempt to implode the abstract concept of irony, Alex Reid, better known as Jordan's tabloid fluffer, was speaking- and I am NOT making this up- to MPs at an all party group about the impact children's diets have on their ability to concentrate:

Mr Reid, ex-husband of celebrity Katie Price, said he wanted supermarkets, banks and big business to fund free, healthy school meals for all children.
He said pupils were eating chocolate and crisps which were "affecting their ability to concentrate in lessons"

Mr Reid told MPs about plans to raise £1 billion by offering companies promotional opportunities, including direct marketing to parents, in return for investment in a scheme called Let's Do Lunch.
Which is exactly the sort of hideous name you can imagine a bunch of stockbrokers coming up with as a beard for turning schools into workhouses.

So, in return for all…

Razzle Dazzle 'em in education: why teachers need to beware of Billy Flynn

Spent Saturday at the TES Resources exhibition, delivering a couple of lectures on behaviour management. It was, as ever great fun- LOVE speaking to fellow teachers and scratching my education itch. I've never even been to a teaching exhibition before so I was curious what they actually were. I think my confusion spun around the problem of what they would have on each stand. I mean, what can you sell in education?

Oh boy. As I walked around the stands I saw the answer to that piece of naivety: there are plenty of things to sell in education. For a man like me, who feels that two marker pens and a spare exercise book is over planning it, I was astounded. Do people really use all this stuff? Apparently so. Stand after stand, hawking interactive games, software (oh, there was a LOT of software, believe me. I wonder how anyone learned anything before Pac-Man?), and more SEAL resources than you could club in a month, and lots of colourful toys and play benches. If you have a large bud…

Does water make you smarter? QTWTAIN

Is it silly season again? Oh yes, it's always silly season when it comes to the latest social science confection about education. And this one's an old one, with grey whiskers dangling around its ankles: the claim that drinking water raises exam grades. Or, to be more specific, that taking water into the exam hall may improve grades by 'as much as five percent.'
Can you hear that rapping sound? That's me, drilling my head into the table like Woody Woodpecker. Statements like this keep my holy mission lamp burning- to expel as much wooly-minded bollocks from the already heavy burdens of teachers as possible. But oh, the bollocks falleth passing hard, and often.

Let's take a slightly closer look at this, in the manner of a post-mortem crime scene investigator. Which is appropriate, because this theory is ripe, mature as a good Roquefort. Some of you may have heard of Brain Gym, one of the most knuckle-headed moronisms ever dropped in our classroom laps. It belie…

Barbie Girls in the Classroom: How Mattel sees us

"Whoever fights with monsters should see to it that he does not become a monster in the process. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you."
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, aphorism # 146. Oh, Freddie, how wise you were. When Morpehus asked Neo in The Matrix (an A-level Philosophy staple) 'Do you want to know how far down the rabbit hole goes?' he could have been talking about the past half-hour of joy and dread I have had exploring the delights of yet another 'how others see us' meme, in the form of Teacher Barbie, one of Mattel's many clever attempts to illustrate the militant feminism of Andrea Dworkin in plastic miniature mannequins. (And if you haven't read any of m'mselle Dworkin's books, then do, do. They're a LAUGH a MINUTE)

There was a Barbie everything (Dworkin Barbie alas, failed to launch, having split the focus groups), so of COURSE there would be a teacher trope; of course. And not just one but se…

What would you like me to ask Charlie Taylor? #asktaylor

Remember #askgove? Of course you don't, it was a fraudulent merkin of a listening exercise, designed to give the appearance of consultation but with all the structure and definition of a collapsed duodenum. Teacher Voice, as regular readers might already know, is somewhat of a hobby-horse of mine, inasmuch as it occupies my every waking thought and damns me in my dreams in a feverish chase. Quite simply, there are next to no (*checks*....sorry, that should be just 'no') effective avenues for the opinions of the teaching profession to be communicated in a meaningful way. Any consultation is ad hoc, cherry picked and designed to confirm the desired answer. C'est la guerre.

Any opportunity to match the profession with those directing the course of the profession is something to be seized. So I was unusually happy to be asked to host an on-stage interview with Charlie Taylor in this year's Festival of Education. Who him? Shame on you; he's been christened the Beha…

Teachers- what kind of reality judge are you? Voice or BGT?

A hundred years ago there used to be a Saturday night humiliation-fest called Blind Date, where gormless ninety-somethings (in IQ) would volunteer to tenderise their dignity on the pounding board of prime time. It was a somewhat more coy version of Take Me Out, although to be fair, most things are more coy than TMO (motto: let no entendre go un-doubled).

I was, of course,  a participant. I don't like to talk about it.

It was hosted by Cilla Black, who in those days was hotter than Simon Cowell, Graham Norton and Alan Carr in an enormous Human Centipede of light entertainment and populist whimsy. It was on just after Gladiators, in which I also harboured a dream to participate (my battle handle was going to be 'Plato', who incidentally was a wrestler before he realised the big bucks were in moral cognitivism).

It was an early precursor of the tsunami of cheap humiliation fare we currently describe as reality TV. Joe Public is cheap, unsophisticated, and liable to do someth…

Nights in White City: On the BBC Breakfast Sofa with Charlie and Louise

Somewhere there is a Rolodex with my name on it. Because I am a teacher who hops up and down on the hilltop, pretending anyone reads me, I sometimes get asked to do rentagob spots on TV. It's always very enjoyable, although it does little for my sleep pattern the night before (editor's note: the Talisker may be a contributory factor. Memo to self: ask science, later).

THE CALL happens the day before, usually speculative at first- they sniff out where you stand on an issue to establish if you've got breakfast chemistry, I presume (swearing, corpsing, streaking, being deal breakers, I imagine). In fact I can usually tell when it's the BBC because it comes up BLOCKED on my phone, which either indicates the Auntie or a significant creditor, so I play roulette with my day and answer. I'm thinking of having a large red Bakelite phone installed that flashes red, just for these occasions.

When I first started doing this a year or so ago, they sent you a taxi there and bac…