Thursday, 15 August 2013

Things to do on Results Day

Hello.  It's that time of year again - the fortnight of horrible Thursdays.  Results day scares me a great deal.  It is partly the importance of the grades on the students: have they achieved what they have to achieve in order to progress through life happily and fulfilled? This weighs heavy on any teacher's mind this next two weeks, and yet is probably outstripped by the more selfish, yet arguably more important (to the teacher themselves) question of 'how do these results reflect my ability?'  Like it or not, the grades awarded to students after one or two years of teaching from you do reflect your teaching ability.  Yes yes, I understand the old adage about horses and drinking but still - ignoring your input on their grades is foolish and would lead to a logical conclusion of removing teachers altogether if gone the full distance.  We can bleat as much as we like about the little terrors ignoring us or not revising, but ultimately, your ability to teach and aid them learn has a huge, huge effect on their results.

So this is quite a lot of pressure.

I am terrified of letting the students down, you see.  It keeps me awake at night, sometimes - the very idea that I could have explained something more clearly, or used a more effective activity to practice a skill.  This is the torture of any professional left to their own devices - I'm sure doctors and lawyers recognise the feeling.  It's an integral part of reflective practice and is, therefore, ultimately a good thing.  However, it still remains a fact that the whole thing is horribly stressful.

So, here's my tips on what to do on results day 1 or 2 (you know what I mean):

1. Only go to one of them, unless you have responsibility in that area.  This is obvious - don't go through it twice if you don't need to.  I know this seems a little uncaring, or even unprofessional, but it isn't.  Your presence on results day is far from vital, especially if you only teach Year 12 - you'll see them in September.  Wait for the email and do your analysis in comfort at home, at your own pace.  This will give you the breathing space you need to work out how the students did and what comes next.

2. When you do go in, spend most of the time talking to the students.  This is the only worthwhile way to spend results day if you're in school.  Analysis and worrying can come later at home with a glass of wine.  If you trouble yourself to go into school, you're only really doing it to see the kids, so chat with them, advise them, console them if need be.  That's the way forward.

3. Be on holiday.  If you really can't cope with the stress in the midst of your mega-downtime, then wait until September before you engage with it at all.  Unless you're a HoD or higher, you can get away with this - do it if the alternative is losing your mind.  Being away (preferably abroad, away from the British media) is the perfect way of making it so you don't even know it's results day.  It's not cowardice - just self-preservation.

4. Do not read the papers on the day.  Don't even be tempted.  It'll only make you angry and belittle your years of hard work as they bleat about rising standards, as if they're a bad thing.  Honestly, it's as if all that money and expertise spent on improving education over the last 20 years was meant to yield no results at all, isn't it?  The logic of the papers (and the Daily Hate Mail in particular) is astonishing.

So there we are, four ways to help maintain your professional sanity today and next Thursday.  I do hope they help.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Reading Festival?

This started off as a pun on the name of a fairly damp and uninspiring town in the UK, known for its vast music festival every August.  Once I had noticed the potential hilarity behind this pun, nothing could stop me beavering away on this poster for a fairly embriotic Reading Festival in my school in the autumn term.

Now I have my title, and my poster, it's time to start thinking about what a reading festival would actually consist of.  A festival suggest chaotic life and many activities occurring simultaneously.  This can be hard to arrange in the strict environs of a secondary school.  However, I am now responsible for primary transition and recruitment in English, with close working links with several primaries, so I see potential there for something really quite large scale.

What would be the aim of a reading festival?  Well, primarily it has to be a celebration of books and the joys of reading and learning from fiction.  Every teacher knows the pitfalls here, and the sadness that encroaches on us when students fail to share our enthusiasm, so I must tread carefully.  Reading challenges and competitions are a staple of such affairs, and I will endeavour to include many of these crowd-pleasers.  Public readings are vital too - potentially from teachers in role, masquerading as Dickens, Shakespeare and Jane Austen.  This would lend a sense of Horrible-Histories excitement to proceedings.  Tutor time activities and lunchtime diversions are a must, for the whole week (or two days, depending on my energy levels), and some kind of grand finale is required.

I am going to sit and ponder ideas that will be added to this blogpost, but in the meantime, if you have a cool idea please let me know.  Similarly, if you've attempted anything similar and have stories to share, I'll be happy to add them to this blog!

Monday, 12 August 2013


I just bought a Lego set, the first one paid for by myself for many, many years (my parents, bless them, got me the VW Camper van a few Christmasses ago as a surprise).  It was the brand spanking new DeLorean-from-Back-to-the-Future set, and due to its pedigree, I simply couldn't resist it.
It not the finest representation of the vehicle in Lego form, I will admit that, but it is now mine, and an official Lego product.  And this is the thing: it was designed and submitted to Lego by a member of the public, not a Lego employee.

In recent years Lego have managed to stall a rapid downturn in their affairs and have managed to turn their company around in a startlingly efficient fashion.  They have diversified their model range into movie franchises, the most popular and lucrative being Star Wars and Harry Potter, both of which display great ingenuity and quality (the Star Wars range in particular becoming a huge success with adult fans).  They have backed up their traditional stock with fantastic electronic media, including the insanely addictive platform games, at least one for each major franchise (Lego Star Wars is a true classic, worthy to join the pantheon of finest video games ever).  They have also gone for the obsessive's jugular with the mini-figure range, now up to series 11, based on the basic newsagent-collectible business model (unknown contents of silver bag, whole range to complete, see Panini stickers in 1990s...)  But I believe their finest move was to realise that adults still like Lego.

I think, as a toy, Lego is second to none.  My happiest moments as a child involved Lego in some way or another (often in fairly imaginative and sometimes unpleasant ways), and this memory sticks around.  I still get a jolt of wonder whenever I see the newly released products and, given my druthers, I'd buy them all (especially the Haunted House model from 2012 - a model I crave).  Lego seemed to realise this in around 2003 with the Lego Creator range and more so in 2007 with the advent of the Lego Modular Houses range.  These wonderful models were a response to feedback from the well established Adult Fans of Lego (AFOL - any organisation that ends up with an acronym must have clout) and have been developed ever since.  This has been supplemented by other incredible models, such as the green biplane, the carousel, the TGV locomotive and more, all found here, under 'Expert':  These intricate models are expensive, yes, but beautiful.

Then came the Lego architecture range, bringing Lego into the realm of legitimate ornaments for homes.  This range represents famous landmarks built on a micro-scale, but keeping the requisite level of detail.  I have no idea who they have working on this range, but their eye for detail and sheer design ability is eye-watering.

But their finest move yet, in my opinion, was the Cuusoo website, which enables Lego fans to design and promote their own ranges of models.  This is precisely where the DeLorean had its birth - the model was uploaded to the site, and gained 10,000 votes of support, meaning that Lego had to consider making it a purchasable product.  Currently doing very well is the Ghostbusters range, designed by some genius of the highest order (go here to vote for it!!).  With this level of creativity, I can see Lego enjoying  their renaissance for many more years, meaning that if I ever get round to having kids, the company and their products will still be around - a prospect that was by no means certain at the turn of the century.

Friday, 2 August 2013


I seem to get headaches a lot.  I get them so often, that I'm starting to view them dispassionately, trying to figure out what caused them, where the sensation actually is, what positions/movements affect them and why/how they eventually go off.  As such, I feel I can now publish my Headache Spotter's Guide and help out all fellow sufferers of the malady.

Headache #1

The Eye One

Centered around one of the eye sockets, epicentre usually seemingly in the very bone of the skull, in mockery of your vain attempts to massage the pain away.  A constant, dull soreness, no throbbing with occasional flurries of excruciating pain when looking at bright light or laughing.  Affected by light, thinking hard about difficult matters, blocked nose, poor eyesight.  Cure: glasses, closing eyes, time.

Headache #2

The Neck One

Centered at the base of the skull and top of the neck, epicentre is apparently your very spinal column: the very think that makes you a vertebrate fighting back.  Pain also spread around muscles in that area. Muscle pain, mostly, but with an insistence that is frankly rude, and prevents you from doing anything useful.  Affected by sleeping position, weight of head, amount of nodding, dancing wildly to anything pre-1984.  Cure: Neck brace, sleeping with only one pillow, neck massage, decapitation.

Headache #3

The Brain One

Floating freely around your cranium, epicentre is everywhere at once and makes you sad.  The entire dome of your head becomes an upturned basket of pain, spilling agony out into the rest of your head and often, if you're lucky, your teeth too.  Pain comes in many forms, but usually throbbing and inconsistent pain that will continually kid you into thinking its gone, before striking you down with a bolt of fire when you try getting out of your seat.  Affected by everything, but especially aggravated by thirst, lack of sleep, lust and needing the loo.  Cure: painkillers, silence and sleep.

Headache #4


Different for everyone, and probably less common than you'd think.  People who've had one are obvious - you can sense it in the clear fear they show when discussing the subject, and their avoidance of anything that could possibly lead to another episode.  Pain is intense and debilitating, making you disinclined to socialising, reading or being alive a second longer.  Can be accompanied, or preceded by aura, which is an impossible term to define but basically consists of the brain going haywire and fooling the key senses into thinking nonsense, such as talking bees spreading from growing cracks in your vision, to the all-pervading smell of garlic invading your entire head.  Or just blurriness and discolouration in what you look at.  Affected by continuing to exist and all its trappings.  Cure: unknown.