Recent Classroom Conversations


Year 9. Discussing sentence structure (I think), so not quite sure how this began.

Girl: How do we know what happened back then?

Me: Erm, records.

Girl: But writing didn’t exist before Jesus.

Me: [Pause] What?

Girl: Someone told me, there was no writing before Jesus.

Me: Erm, what?

Girl: Someone told me, I think it was an RE teacher.

Me: Your RE teacher told you that writing didn’t exist before Jesus?

Girl: Yeah.


Girl: Back with the dinosaurs.

Me: Erm.

Girl: And how did they find the dinosaurs?

Me: Pardon?

Girl: How did they know where to look?

Boy: They used a metal detector, moron.



Year 12 class.

Girl: Sir, I never know how to talk to you.

Me: Really?

Girl: Yes.

Me: Erm. Ok. Why’s that?

Girl: It’s not that you’re difficult to talk to, just that you’re weird to talk to.

Me: [Grabbing my post-its] Do you mind if I take notes on this?

Girl: See what I mean?

Me: Erm.

Girl: And you always answer with a question.

Me: Do I?

Girl: Sometimes, I ask a serious question and you just look at me for a bit, then walk away. Or sometimes, I ask a simple question and you answer with an essay.

Me: [Blinking] Would you write me a reference?



janus_small Well, it’s not quite midnight yet so officially I’m typing this right at the end of 2014. I didn’t do an equivalent post last year, so I don’t have any kind of targets to look back on. Which is just as well because targets and I don’t always make the best buddies. I’m a bit sceptical about targets in general. They don’t really work in Education and I don’t think they really work in life either. But I guess that’s not the point of #Nurture1415. I think it’s to encourage a Janusesque reflection of the year that’s gone and constructive hopes for the future. The latter might be better described as “ambitions” rather than “targets”. The T word seems to imply a sense of mandatory mustness. Or, slightly less forceful but just as coercive, shouldness.

“Ambition” on the other hand seems to speak of things I’d like to do, but it doesn’t really matter if I don’t do them. The problem with “ambition”, of course, is that it’s become synonymous with “drive”, which is a terrible word for a terrible concept. Perhaps “aspiration” might be a better fit.

In any case, my hopes for 2015 are not going to be targets. We have enough of that sort of nonsense in performance management – an appalling reflection of the kind of nonsense that infests our daily work lives; a sort of managerial mumbo jumbo that makes everyone feel nauseous. And we have enough of targets in our daily practice as teachers. One way to ensure that we kill effective or interesting learning is to targetise it. But at least we can evidence it :-/



It’s been a funny sort of year. At the very beginning of it in January I remember saying to my wife – and it’s the first time I’ve ever done this – “This is going to be a good year, I can just feel it”. A month later I dropped dead whilst on interview. Not the most effective technique for securing a new position, unless the position one is after is slumped in a chair. Luckily, I was given swift CPR and attended to quickly by paramedics who zapped me back. The next few days are blurry and I don’t recognise them anymore.

It’s been a strange walk from there: several months of feeling like a character in that smashing French TV show The Returned – a zombie Lazarus out of place in the world. I covered some of this here, so I want retread it. Needless to say,  it’s all pretty much OK now, but my short term memory is unreliable, and my personality has shifted to being rather more short tempered and crabby. I’m guessing this is all a result of that brief lack of oxygen before the CPR began. In any case, this regeneration has been somewhat baffling and I think I’m more Peter Capaldi than Patrick Troughton.

Another side effect is that I’m slightly less inhibited. I think this is generally a good thing, as I’m a bit more likely to stick up for myself. But I also feel a little liberated. I’ve spent much of my life procrastinating – at least would have done if I’d gotten around to it. I think I’ve waited for things to happen rather than allowing myself to make them happen. Now i think I’m more inclined to actually do the stuff I’ve always wanted to. One example of this is that I successfully wrote an article for publication at The Conversation, which seemed quite well received. I know it’s small fries compared to what other teacher-bloggers have done, but it’s a beginning.

2014 also saw my first teachmeet – #TMBrum5. This was great. These things are great. Teachers organising events for teachers to discuss teaching, for free. Attending this one was particularly interesting because the keynote speaker was Mike Cladingbowl (@mcladingbowl) – a very important Ofsted chap. He had some very interesting things to say with messages that really need to be heard at every SLT meeting across the country. I won’t list them here for fear of misquoting him, but his use of the phrase “unintended consequences” was particularly telling, as was his dismissal of “triple marking”.

So, to summarise 2014:

  • Survived cardiac arrest
  • Got an article published
  • Went to a teachmeet

Perhaps not as impressive as some people’s accomplishments, but they’re mine and I’m happy with them.

Ambitions / Aspirations for 2015

This is simple. And vague. I’m not going to pin anything down to specifics, because then they will look like targets and targets are the whores of hell.

1) Be positive.

This is incredibly vague. But I just want to be a bit more smiley. I want to find the funny side of things a bit more. I want to enjoy what I’m doing. Teaching really is a great job, but it’s very easy to forget this when we are surrounded by so much nonsense and bobbins. I want to focus on the fun stuff and the funny stuff. This is true in a personal sense too, of course. My children make me laugh every day, and this is something to cherish.

2) Live in the Tao.

Yeah, yeah, I know. But there it is. And one of the things I want to remember is, “He who speaks does not know; he who knows does not speak” (probably a misquote from the Tao te Ching). In fact, there’s some very challenging ideas about knowing stuff in the Tao the Ching. So, I’m going to try to stop acting like a know-it-all. Because I really don’t know it all. This is actually really important for my doctoral research studies, and I think also for being a teacher. What I know about stuff is minuscule compared to the amount of stuff that can be known. We can only be the finger pointing at the moon. This humbling realisation is still working it’s way through my head. I also want to submit to Wu Wei, but this isn’t the time to go into that.

3) Write more.

This one is pretty straight forward. I want to write more. Try and get more stuff published, and write more blogs. The latter might mean actually using this blog as, y’know, a blog. Getting more ideas up on here might also help me with number 4.

4) Write my thesis.

I’d like to try and complete this in 2015, so I’d better get on with it.

5) There is a 5, and probably a 6, 7 and 8. But I’ll keep those to myself. I’ll let you know if I do any of them.

This is all terribly self-indulgent, isn’t it.