carrot Motivation
What is that motivates us? How do we motivate others? For me it’s one word – passion. One of the most motivational people I have met to date in FE is Nikki Gilbey and it was Nikki’s passion for her job that gave you that ‘can do’ feeling. You can read Nikki’s thoughts on education here  www.  Although I do consider myself lucky as this is spread across the board in my college, from the top down there are people that have that ‘can do’ approach.

corporal-punishmentI wonder if anyone remembers the good old days when to motivate students you commanded them and they did as they were told through fear? That is how I was taught, that was my motivation, if I didn’t do as I was told I got a beating. Thankfully we now find other ways to motivate.

We know that completion a course is not always motivating enough, hence innovative ideas are always sought out. Something that will give someone that desire to complete, but complete with the highest possible grade. Some people underestimate feedback, if feedback is bland and obviously written as a stock phrase then it will not motivate a student. Whereas  feedback that clearly states a genuine desire to help them achieve may give them an extra boost.  That to me is half the battle. Students can be motivated simply by understanding that it actually matters to you if they achieve and that you believe in them, rather than just doing your job or that you are aiming for higher statistics.

Magical Mystery Tour

I find some students give up easily because they have always failed, they are used to failing. In over stretched schools they can escape/disappear within a classroom. Hence their poor literacy and numeracy grades.

So how to motivate them? Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has to be top of the agenda, we all know what that means.  We have smaller classes in FE, we can do more one to one, we can motivate at group level and individually. But, we need to be passionate, we need to deliver with a passion, we need to sell the subject.                                                                                     I was asked by one of my students if I get bored teaching the same old subject. My answer was no. I love construction, I love the problems it can bring and the never ending solutions that we, as construction workers, discover. I love to debate with so called intellects and academics when they sometimes state that construction workers are thick. Pointing out that it would be difficult to develop nuclear fusion or antibiotics in a field or a cave. Everything people live in, work in, study and learn in was built by us. I explained that I was glad he had expressed a wish to be part of that industry and in a few years time he will be the one building all those things.



He replied, “A simple no would have done, Charlie.”

Hey ho. ;-)


Posted in Carpentry, Education, Further Education, Life, Opinion, people | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments




Innovate; vb. To invent or begin to apply (methods, ideas, etc.)                                                 So that’s what it means! Some of the synonyms I like are; change, transform, reorganise and renovate.

As you are all aware innovation is, and has been for some time, one of the key ‘buzz words’ in FE. (Can I still say buzz word?) There are some that would call me an innovator, although I believe that sometimes I’m just an adaptive thief. The real key to innovation though is not to innovate for innovation’s sake. If you actually experimented with everything you came across it would be very confusing for all. I have heard teachers being told to be brave and experiment in classes. This is not something I would advocate on a regular basis. “It doesn’t matter if it goes wrong, at least you tried.”


No, actually it does matter if it goes wrong (OK maybe once is cool) but young people can have a intolerance of fools just like ‘grown ups’. I do advocate courage though, students (like a lot of people) don’t always take well to change. Henry Ford once said, regarding the Model T Ford, “ If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said, a faster horse.”

Something I began to apply this year is a diary, a kind of lesson diary. It’s ‘reflective practice’ but sounds less academic. One thing that has come out of the diary is that every lesson that was planned down to the final detail was a good one. Even when it went pear shaped it was still a good lesson. In fact I think a lesson where the planning went pear shaped was better, but maybe it was more challenging to try and pull it back and so more interesting for me. I like to think of a lesson as play. If all the actors came on stage without learning their lines I guess the theater would be empty in about ten minutes, but then you get a golden moment where an actor adlibs and the play takes on a new breath of life. In the acting world it’s called improvisation.

Now is that innovation? Because I sometimes think that in today’s technological society unless it’s on a laptop, tablet or pc then you’re not a true innovator. My latest idea is ‘UniCarpentry Challenge’ Yes it’s the same as University Challenge but for Carpentry students. I don’t intend to do this until next year, as having conceived the idea, I realise that there is going to be a lot of work getting it right, although I may have a trial run at the end of term to see how well it is received.

So, lest we forget, change, transform, reorganise and renovate. I do like those words.



Posted in Carpentry, Education, Further Education, Life, Opinion, people | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Change, Evolve, but Make it Better.


Since my last post on the subject of education there have been many changes not only for me but, as you will all be aware, FE itself. We accept that FE is an ever changing beast, personally I think we foot soldiers accept this as a kind of comfort blanket excuse to cover the fact that the people at the very top (Government, not FE management) don’t know what they are doing. That is a different post and not one I will deliberate on today.

The last year has been eventful to say the least. I completed my DTLLS, and my Assessor Certificate. Our construction department has moved into bigger better workshops, wonderful new classrooms and offices, so we are very lucky, now we need to up our game to justify the investment. That’s great because it means a challenge and don’t we just love challenges?

New Classrooms

‘Cut to the chase Charlie people are getting bored.’ We had a training day yesterday (booo) no actually it was quite good (hurrah) Maths and English were top of the agenda (booo) Stop it! Maths and English are very important (hurrah). We have been invited, as construction lecturers, to volunteer for a programme that will improve our Maths and English so we can become GEM’s. Which stands for, Great at English and Maths, instead of being SEM’s (I’ll let you work that one out). This is all aimed to improve overall student standards in said subjects. After the training speeches we retired to our own departments where we were asked to address the challenges of attendance revolving around Functional Skills Maths and English.

Teaher Improvement

This is what we came up with:

At present FS is spread over a whole year with their classes in the middle of the day and GCSE at the end of the day, which causes gaps in timetabling, particularly for the students who have GCSE C’s and B’s and so don’t need to attend any of these classes.  Sometimes students have to wait around for two to three hours while the others go off to Maths or English. So, why not teach FS in a block preferably at the beginning of the first term. Students are generally more easily manipulated (bad choice of word perhaps, but you know what I mean) in the first few weeks and are more likely to attend and behave. For the rest of the year we could concentrate on the core subject, with no distraction and lots of reinforcement of English and Maths through embedding.

This is where the GEM’s come in, because it would be taught in house. Students won’t have to trail across to the other side of the campus to the English and Maths department  which will eradicate the excuse of, “I didn’t know where to go, I got lost, I couldn’t find it, when we arrived there was no teacher there so we went home,” etc, etc, the teachers come to us and as GEMs we get stuck in too. We are constantly told that, as lecturers/course leaders they are our students, we are responsible for their attendance/behaviour in FS and it’s up to us to monitor it, but it’s very difficult to monitor when they are at the other side of the college. If FS was taught in house we would be a constant presence, teaching or not.


English and Maths are not going to go away, we are going to be under increasing pressure to improve the students level of achievement even though they have failed to achieve during their twelve years in school. I really believe that changing the way we teach these subjects is the only way we will succeed.

Posted in Education, Life, Opinion, people, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Consigliere


Interesting ideas and comparisons

Originally posted on Teaching Reno:

Been a while since my last post and there have been many ch-ch-changes.  The main one is that I have a new job!  Having worked at my current college for over 8 years I began to have ‘itchy feet’ and started to feel that I had completed all I was ever going to achieve here so I know that if I’m to stay in the education game then I would have to move on.  This is going to be a huge change for me as I will no longer be actually teaching anymore.  Well, not teaching students that is, as I’ll be focused on training other teachers.  But it looks like for the time being, my days as a Film Studies teacher will be coming to an end.

My new role will see me as the Learning Technology Manager for a General Further Education college. The role is an exciting…

View original 543 more words

Posted in Life | Leave a comment

Paris, Moulin Rouge and Hot Chocolate

imagesCAJBSB01Back in Paris, I love Paris and it seemed the perfect place to take my wife for her birthday. It’s been a while, but nothing has changed. Parisian’s do not build towering office blocks around Notre Dame or place skyscrapers in front of Sacre Coeur as some cities do; no names no pack drill.SONY DSCFrom the Gare du Nord to our hotel was a short journey, or it would have been if we had been on the right metro. To be honest it was the right metro we were just going in the wrong direction, but, hey this is exploration. There was a conscious decision not to do the galleries (they had been done years ago). We did the Moulin Rouge for the first time and it was fantastic. You do have to queue (trip advisor) but how else are you gonna get hundreds of people into a show? And yes there are lots of breasts, but you kinda get used to them after a while (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)

TOSHIBA Exif JPEGLe Deux Magots still has the best hot chocolate in the world, the ambience is the same as it was when I was there fifteen years ago and the same as it was in the 20’s when Hemingway, Joyce, Fitzgerald and the rest of the ‘Lost Generation’ were there. I am always told how expensive Paris is, hmmmmm? A glass of wine in the Cafe de la Paix would have cost me nine euro, whereas the delightful cafe around the corner cost me three and a half euro. Get a grip people.  Of course we did shopping at La Fayette and I have to say shopping here is a little different to the Mall ;-)Galeries Lafayette - ParisBut after all the razzmatazz and great food I just got to spend some time with my wife with no particular place to go  xx

in love in Paris






Posted in Entertainment, Freedom, Humour, Life, Opinion, people, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why Good Teaching is Good for You

According to Ofsted Observation’s there are four types of teacher – Outstanding – Good – Hmmmm? and Ugh! According to my students there are three. Alright – Dunno and Crap. Since I started teaching eighteen months ago I’ve been judged ‘good’ by all, except myself. Everyone was happy, except me.


During the past three months though something has changed. During a DTLLS class our Learning Technology Manager Nikki Gilbey gave me some great innovative ideas of how to use emerging technology and I tried them out. My students loved them (really, not just liked but loved) The classes became different, one student who was generally negative in class said, ‘I’m enjoying this lesson.’ Eureka! I then started looking at other ways of teaching in lessons where I don’t use emerging technology. I suppose you could all it transference.                                                                                                                                                I’m more confident and I sleep all night. Since then I’ve found some of my work on the college Blog, my Head of Department did an observation on Friday and was ‘very’ happy and I look forward to every lesson. I don’t think about how others judge my lessons anymore, which as a new teacher was a constant worry.  All I concentrate on now is making my lessons as enjoyable as I can for my students as a result my students are enjoying their lessons and they are enjoying learning. So, being a good teacher isn’t about Ofsted it isn’t about graded observations or pay increments. It’s about you and your students. Happy days ;-)

Posted in Carpentry, Education, Humour, Life, Opinion, people | Tagged , , | Leave a comment




I’m not sure if I am doing the right thing here, but this is the first draft of the the first part of a possible book I have been considering for a long, long time. Curious to see the reaction ;-)

Bradford: Spring 1976

He wondered if he should retire and then smiled to himself, would it be classed as retirement he thought, when you’ve only been boxing for three years and you’re seventeen years old, but Billy had made a decision to leave and he couldn’t see how boxing would fit into his new life. ‘Move on and leave the baggage behind,’ he thought. That was the way it had always been and not always his choice. A heavily built awkward youth appeared at the door.

‘Hey Billy, great fight, man.’

‘Thanks Stevie,’ he smiled, but it was an outward smile.

‘Second round, POW, he was gone, you really showed them tonight mate. Old man Reece was really pissed off coz you missed all that training, I think he was even more pissed off that you won. Hey, guess what?’

Billy didn’t answer, he shrugged keeping his eyes to the floor.

‘You’ll never guess who’s out there, not in a million years. You could have knocked me over with a feather, honestly.’

Billy looked up, ‘Sheila?’

‘Yeah, how’d you know that? She said she’d never ever and I mean never, come.’

‘She came to say goodbye, Stevie, that’s all mate, just came to say goodbye.’

‘Why? Where’s she going?

‘Nowhere, it’s me that’s going.’

‘Noooo, where you going? I mean you can’t, I mean where can you go? What about me? Anyway you’re too young. You really going Billy? When?’ Stevie was upset and confused, Billy had always been there for him he couldn’t comprehend life without Billy, then someone nudged him out of the doorway.

‘Tonight, apparently, hey Billy?’ Sheila stood just inside the doorway, looking and acting way beyond her sixteen years, she was a good actress.

Stevie was still confused, he was confused on a good day and this was far from a good day.

Billy was fed up of life on a council estate. He hated the insular, monotony and most of all he hated the complete acceptance of it all by everyone. The attitude that this was as good as it gets, be thankful for what you have; all that bullshit it wasn’t for him. But he loved the two people before him and this was going to be hard.

Sheila was angry, the last place she wanted to be was the boxing club with its dim lighting and stench of sweat and deep heat. But the one person she could really trust had told her he was about to leave, for good and so here she was.

‘I need to speak to Billy alone, please Stevie,’ she said.

Billy nodded towards the door and Stevie ambled out.

Sheila folded her arms. ‘So, love me forever huh? What exactly does that mean in Billy language? Hey, Billy what does that mean in your head? Love me for sixteen years and then leave forever?’ Is that it?’

Her voice was trembling and Billy thought that maybe she was going to cry. ‘I’ll always love you Shei, we were born on the…’

‘Same night,’ Sheila interrupted. ‘ In the same hospital, we were meant to be together for all time. You and me against the rest of the world. I know that speech off by heart Billy I don’t need to hear it again. When did you first tell me that Bill? I’ll tell you when. It was on my fifth birthday Billy and you’ve been telling me it ever since. You know what really hurts though? It’s the fact that you have never considered that I might come with you. Is that because you know I would? Is that why you kept this a secret until the last minute? Because I would you know, I would follow you anywhere Billy. So all I need to know is if you are leaving tonight; without me?’

‘Yes,’ he said knowing the consequences.

Sheila turned and ran and Billy didn’t run after her.

Stevie appeared at the door. ‘She seems upset, you really going?’

Billy looked up at his friend, ‘ Look after her as best you can, yeah?’

‘Don’t go Bill,’ Stevie was pleading now.

‘Go after her now Stevie, and look out for her. I’ll see you around.’

‘Yeah but this is stupid, where you going to go?

‘Go now! Stevie before she runs into a car or something!’

Stevie was gone, he knew from past experience when Billy shouted there was no point in arguing, that time had gone.




Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments