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 ;-)

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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.




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Has Teaching Changed?

No, goodbye. OK I can expand. When I was a kid at school there were good teachers who were intent on expanding my mind, challenging me and generally making my educational experience a great one. Well to be honest there was two; Jenny Dewhurst, English teacher. She had a passion for literature and a talent for infecting you (sorry Miss Dewhurst not a great verb) Mr Little, Music teacher. He introduced me to classical music and the guitar (still playing the guitar Mr Little but not really your taste ;-) Again that man was passionate about the subject.
The rest of them went through the
motions good old talk and chalk. I need to make two points here. 1. I think people forget that teachers are human. Some are passionate about their job and some just do it. Some are lazy and some are hard working and some are just ordinary people trying to make a living the best way that they can. 2. Mr Gove wants ordinary schools to aspire to Public schools. That’s great, but first of all Mr Gove give us £6000 plus, per student per term and a society where a mother doesn’t have to get up at 5am to go and work in Asda (other brands are available) for minimum wage because she is the only parent. The father isn’t an alcoholic, in prison, dead or just plain absent, because there is a restraining order on him. Give us an education system that doesn’t change every time we get a new government and we’ll see what we can do.


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The Stray Black Dog


I can’t class myself as a great poetry aficionado but I think this really hits the spot.

Originally posted on Pandora and the Phoenix:

It’s been seven years.
Seven years but the pain is still as fresh and raw as if it happened yesterday.
A black dog walks in my shadow.
I like dogs but I can not care for them.
I pat them and instantly want to wash my hands.
This one will not go away no matter what I do.
I throw it a stick. “Go fetch dog!”
But he always comes back.
“Fuck off. Leave me alone. Go home!”
But he barks and smiles with a twinkle in his eyes that says, “I am home”.
He licks at my wounds but they do not heal.
He lays at my feet and I realise he is never going to leave.

View original

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There’s Tracking and There’s Tracking


I know I’ve been away for a while (they used to say that when you had been in the nick) In truth I have been studying for my DTTLS and learning the craft of a College Lecturer.
‘Ah,’ I hear you all say. ‘The finer points of teaching carpentry?’
Alas not my dear friends, tracking. I have learned how to track students in so many different ways.

‘Oh my! Do they keep escaping?’

Once again, no. Although getting them to turn up is a task all of it’s own. I track everything they do and then I track the tracking, I sometimes even track the things they don’t do. When I’m not tracking students I track me, or at least my progress and I’m sure my head of department tracks me also. In fact tracking (if you haven’t guessed already) is very important in FE. It’s important because it proves you know what stage your students are at. It’s so important that we have software called E-tracker.

So I track my students progress on paper. I also have the same tracking on Excel, twice, the official one and my own copy. On top of this I complete E-tracker which is not like Excel and it’s not Excel. Its a great way of tracking students and everyone says they know how to use it; but don’t. It’s so great we are dumping it, so rumour has it. The strange thing is, all the trackers contain the same information. I can understand the theory of tracking but I can’t understand the duplication. Everyone I ask tells me to just do it and don’t ask, because that’s FE and if I keep questioning  it, I will go insane. Mr Chips never had these problems. ;-)

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The Ofsted Visit

20130506-201400.jpg So we have had a week of Ofsted. If you live in a foreign land you may have no idea what Ofsted is, so here we go. They are a group of people who visit schools, colleges and places of training. They are government sponsored and award marks as follows 1 Outstanding, 2 Good, 3 Satisfactory and 4 Failed. The education establishment in the UK fear them.
They go into a classroom and observe for around fifty minutes in those fifty minutes they decide on the quality of the teaching. Needless to say my college received a grade 2. So we are a good college. We are the same college we were before they arrived and we remain the same college now they have gone.
To be quite honest it isn’t rocket science, they have certain criteria that has to be met. So we meet it.                             Rocket Science                                                                                                             They want to see a lot of effort in numeracy and literacy so we do lots of it? Now, why do they want to see that?
Well my friends, the UK is now fourteenth in the world on the numeracy and literacy league.

Why is that? Because successive governments over the last 30 years have played with education to such an extent that it is now; not fit for purpose.
So now they pressurize us to turn it around. In reality they are asking us to achieve in thirty-six weeks what teachers could not achieve in eleven years because the government prevented them with their ‘blue sky’ thinking and wonderous ideas. Lincoln, Gandhi, Gladstone, Brunel, etc all started with a blackboard, easel and a thick ear when they misbehaved. Now they have computers, innovative little games and isolation as a punishment. Not one of my 14 – 18 year olds know their times table and they have the attention span of a gnat. It really is time to go back to basics.

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Boadicea; my arse.


I haven’t posted for a while, new job and a family development that has kept me quite busy. It was a lovely comment from http://pandoraandthephoenix.wordpress.com/ that woke the sleeping giant munchkin.

I’m not a journalist, as you can all tell, so maybe I don’t have the right to comment, but really; some of the rubbish that has been written about Thatcher is unbelievable. Number 1 in the Hit Parade has to be “Tories come to praise their Boadicea in Pearls.” This, courtesy of the right wing Telegraph.


Boadicea was a Queen who led a revolt against an invading superpower that had raised crippling taxes, stole land and property and raped the Queen and her daughters.

Thatcher was a politician who raised taxes and gave financiers the freedom to rape a country and bring it to its knees 30 years later. Her fans say she changed Britain this is true, we don’t have a decent apprenticeship scheme, decent council housing, or community spirit anymore.  Far from resisting a superpower she actually jumped into bed with one. Not physically of course, could you imagine the spawn of Thatcher and Reagan? Surely even Ridley Scott would be tempted back for an ‘Alien’ remake of that species.


I’m not celebrating her death, and I’m not getting embroiled in the same arguments all over again, after all the good people of Britain gave her a mandate, did they not. As I warned at the last election, ‘Careful what you wish/vote for’. I just felt that the comparison was wrong. Although, I guess you could call Boadicea the first female euro sceptic which is something they did have in common. As for the true Thatcher spawn; Mark Thatcher is famous for getting lost on a rally, pleading guilty to organising a coup in a foreign country and accused of operating a loan shark company. Still he’s managed to amass a fortune and become a knight of the realm. Apples don’t fall far from the tree ;-)

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