It’s Tougher for Kids Today?

We say it’s tougher for kids today than it’s ever been. But are we not just a tidgey widgey bit wrapped up in our own time when we say that? In the 1800’s if they survived childbirth they could look forward to working in a mine, a mill, on the farm, in a ship yard, up a chimney, or even in prostitution to name but a few. In 1914 and 1945 they were expected to fight for King and country when they were eighteen (where most of them were slaughtered). In Vietnam the average age of a US soldier was nineteen (according to Paul Hardcastle). As for the 60’s and 70’s, oh yes the good old days.

In the 60’s and 70’s we left school at fifteen and worked a forty hour week.

The Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals was created in 1824. Which was 67 years before the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which was created in 1891. – Thomas Agnew SPCC.

Today, ‘they have so much pressure put on them.’ Do they? I spend all my working week with 16-18 year old’s. Two thirds of them have problems with numeracy and literacy, so what were they doing for the eleven years at school? But what about the advertising someone cries? Oh dear, I forgot, they are bombarded with advertising, so many choices. Apparently this is the main cause of worry for young people, choices. Personally I would rather be assaulted with advertising and choices than have to work for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in a mill where, if I survived I would probably be dead by the time I was 40 years old.

Of course you have to understand I am generalising here, I am talking about the vast majority. There are some kids out there who have serious problems which are a bi-product of our society and they do need our help. Society will have and always has had problems and there have always been choices to make  Elizabeth Bennet for example, marriage or poverty, phew!

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A Language of Your Own


This is a couple of years old, but does tie in with the last post, so I thought I would follow on with a prequel (doesn’t make sense but neither do I most of the time) :-)

Originally posted on Charliecountryboy's Blog:

When I was a very small boy I didn’t speak English. My family communicated with me by using pictures. I would say something and they would get out various  books and when I spoke they pointed to things until I nodded.

An example; I once informed them that there was,”A howashay bin da cowashay”. After several books, even more tantrums (they weren’t very good at it) and a walk around the farm they finally understood. “There was an elephant in the cowshed”. Of course, I was the only one who could see said elephant, so much had to be taken on trust.

One day an electrician came to do some work and so I assisted him (fresh meat). Upon leaving he posed a question to my mother.

“Nice kid, when’s he going back?”

“Back where?” asked mum

“To France, he is French isn’t he?”

“No! He’s my son.” Picking up…

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Astronauts, Superheroes and Cowboys

As a four year-old, Space Exploration was something I took seriously for a short time.            Spaceman1

The wood pile could supply the resources to build a rocket but no rocket fuel and Dad said he needed all the tractor diesel. He also told me, ‘Things burn up when they leave the atmosphere.’ (no idea, but it sounded bad). So it was back to cowboys and indians, Native Americans for a while. That was until I discovered Superheroes, I tried Batman


but I realised I was an impostor, so the quest for a new Superhero began. Many boy superheroes were already taken such as Superboy and Robin, etc. I considered Daredevil Boy, but Daredevil was blind and my mum became increasingly worried for her ornaments as I crashed around with my eyes shut. Spiderboy was an option but I couldn’t get a spider to bite me, my mum and sister’s screams as I ran around with spiders crawling up my arm gave me the impression this was not a popular choice. Then I had it, Hawkboy, there was a Hawkman, but no boy. I developed a costume, a yellow polo neck and a pair of my mum’s old tights over a black pair of shorts with a cardboard mask (I wasn’t planning on leaving the atmosphere so cardboard would be fine.)


One August day an eight-year old and his mum are picking blackberries, she has no idea that her son is a Superhero and wearing his costume beneath his ordinary clothes. I knew there was going to be a crime wave that afternoon but, as I sank into a lethargic state of heat exhaustion I began to have doubts about said costume and confided in my mum. A mother’s intuition is a wonderful thing.                                                                         Apparently she was aware of Hawkboy, but had no idea it was me. We discussed the possibilities of a crime wave on a farm that was five miles from the nearest village and then came up with a solution. If I was to change into my alter ego, Hawkboy he could assist this strange lady (as a superhero I had no recollection of who my mum was) by protecting her from the bramble thorns. During the day my mum pointed out to me that it was commendable to want to protect the planet but Roy Rogers and John Wayne never got covered in bramble thorn scratches. Maybe being a cowboy wasn’t such a bad gig after all. ;-)

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I’m Amazing (I Think)

During the dark early hours I was reflecting upon my life and I suddenly realised how amazing I must be. When I was a child I can recall my mother saying to visitors, “You’ll never guess what he’s done now.” She would have been describing some wonderful construction of mine which, I admit, did carry with it some collateral damage.                         One day I built a boat, in truth a prototype, OK I found a log. At seven years-old I was too big to sail it so I considered my niece, but at five years-old she was still too big. Now my nephew, at two years-old was, just like Goldilocks, the right size. I think that was possibly the flaw in the plan, he was too young to understand the intricacies of sailing a log in a stagnant pond. We fished him out, eventually and sneaked him into the house where we dried his clothes.


The adoration was continued by my teachers who clearly compared me to Martin Luther King when often stating that I was a ‘dreamer’. Although some of my teachers were prophetic. My Art teacher told me that I would never make anything of myself and he was right I cannot to this day sculpture. My headmaster spotted an early likeness to JFK when he told me, or should I say bellowed at me, “This school isn’t about you LAD!” We all know where he was going with that. When I started work at fifteen my employers were also suitably impressed and often said that in all their years they had never seen anyone attempt a task in the way I did.

Bad building

All my girlfriends and wives, there have been a few, often told me, ‘You are totally unbelievable and you make me want to scream. High praise indeed. A constant reminder of my good looks has been that classic statement. “Just go away, I can’t bear to look at your face”.                                                                                                                                                     Don’t knock the compliments I say ;-)

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What Happened to Identity?


I have heard a lot recently about young people lacking identity. I have heard a lot recently about radicalisation of kids that are looking for identity. There are scholarly articles explaining the social and cultural problems in our society and lots of psychoanalytic articles explain the why and wherefore. But, are they supposed to ‘fit’?

Skinhead Rockers 2I am talking about ordinary folk. When I was a lad I never felt part of society, in fact I didn’t want to be part of it. I was a Greaser, or if you prefer a Rocker as were all my friends. The enemy was the Skinhead. Later I became a Ted and the enemy became the Suedehead. Each group was united by fashion and music. We had our leather jackets, t-shirt, black drainpipe jeans and crepes or creepers (shoes). They had their Ben Sherman shirts with braces, Harrington Jackets, Levi’s and of course the Doc Martin Boots. We loved Rock’n’roll and they loved Reggae, Two tone and Ska.

Suedeheads      Ted   Before that we had Mod’s and Rockers and after that the New Romantics, Punks, Goths and on it went until; nothing. What do they have today? I see the odd Goth or Punk. But, they have nothing to belong to. What was the point of the rebellion of the 50’s and 60’s and the creation of the ‘Teenager’ which didn’t exist prior to the 50’s. Kids are supposed to be rebellious, they should want change and identity. I guess you have to feel sorry for them, maybe we sucked the teenage rebellion dry and left them with Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian. OMG ;-)


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Reflective Monkey

Is reflection really a good thing? I guess that depends on your state of mind, character, and status at the time of the reflecting, doesn’t it? I have read some Twitter feeds that are reflective, and felt that it was a shame the ‘Twit’ was obviously under the influence of a libation and probably not in a good place.

In other words the only way to reflect seriously is to do it regularly. Easier said than done I hear you cry. You are right, but as my old foreman used to say, “If it was easy, Charlie, everyone would be doing it.” I believe it is worth the effort, particularly when something goes well, it’s extremely motivating. That’s why I want to reflect upon Friday 3rd July.       Six weeks ago four students transported on to the Starship Charlie.


For many reasons they were behind on their course (I mean really behind) So my HOD and I worked out a plan of intense training, lots of TLC and food bribery. It’s amazing how much more work you can get out of kids when they aren’t hungry.


Five weeks later and with a week to the end of term three students had completed and just like the song, there was one green bottle left. Friday the 3rd July arrived at the last chance saloon; one student and one exam that had eluded him five times already. A two hour revision lesson was planned, half of which was carried out in the car. (you didn’t expect him to turn up did you?) Actually, revision for a Principles of Building exam works very well in roadwork’s on the A32, you are surrounded by houses, gable ends, fascia and soffits, bargeboards, eaves and verges. Maybe next year I’ll take the whole class for a walk around the estate.                                                                                                                                          So, cometh’ the hour and cometh’ the man. Off he toddled, confident, nervous? Yes, but also trained, tracked, assessed and knowing that we cared. In fact I think the whole college was behind him. Oh! the infamy of your sixth attempt.

walking alone                                                                                           When he returned I had the result ready. The recognition and smile as he read the word ‘Distinction’ will possibly keep me motivated for the rest of my career, not to mention the scream that emitted from his Auntie’s car when she picked him up.                                           So yes, reflection does work because when I sit down and analyse the past six weeks I think there will be some pretty good stuff come out of it. Never give up.



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Supporting the 25% ‘ers

25% er

The last few weeks in FE can be, dare I say, a little stressful. Although that can depend on your attitude towards the less capable of your students and the poor attendees. We are now at that stage where we are running out of time with the above students and so 1-1’s and extra lessons are paramount to their success and indeed our success. Personally I like to concentrate on their success, in industry I always maintained that you didn’t need a monetary plan for success. If you did a good job, looked after your customers interests and had some integrity you would succeed and hence make money. I apply the same thesis to teaching, let them know that you are there for them and it is their success that is important.

Goodbye Mr Chips

Last week one of my less capable students had an exam. The appointment stated he had a reader and 25% extra time. This gave me cause for reflection. If a student requires 25% extra time to complete an exam why doesn’t same student have 25% extra time in practical/theory lessons? You could say that compensation week is just that, but it’s not. Compensation week is a week tagged on at the end whereas 25% of all practical/theory lessons is 81 hours. You could say that it is the students responsibility to do extra studying in their own time to compensate. You could say that; if you had never had any contact with these students. In reality it can be a challenging task to get them to study during class time. You could say that it is the teachers responsibility to identify extra needs and then instigate extra teaching time. But, there are only so many teaching hours in a day and even the best FS maths teacher hasn’t found a way to fit a pint into a half pint glass.

What I am suggesting here would be difficult but, there could be ways around it. We have found ways to include directed study/enrichment/tutorials and employability, which are responsible for 144 hours or 25% of my entire course.

So, my question is: If we give students that struggle with the subject matter 25% extra time to complete an exam why don’t we give them 25% extra time to learn the subject matter in the first place?

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