Tagged: lessons

I was thinking about how times have changed so looked back at this

Next goal wins laaaaaaads!

I started my professional career in teaching on 8th July 1991 at a West London comprehensive school and I was thinking….



When I started teaching:

  • Kids stood up in the Hall when the Head walked in to start an assembly.
  • The Headteacher in my first school always taught a GCSE class, turned up to department meetings, wrote reports etc. Just to keep his toe in the water.
  • Some staff would go down the pub at lunch every day, without fail. The Clay Pigeon used to take a copy of the TES on a Friday from the news agent as so many staff went there at lunchtime on that day
  • Every parents evening you were served a hot meal before the appointments started or alternatively you could claim travel expenses for a return journey to and from home.
  • Wine was always served at all INSET day lunches.
  • Reports were…

View original post 420 more words

Continue reading

Those were the days Part 28

clipboardThis tale concerns a girl I shall call Kelly. I first taught Kelly in 8BR – a form that was a truly homogeneous mix of abilities and needs. Full of characters (and Kelly was one of them) this class was a true product of comprehensive education. The form group went into ability groups for their GCSE courses, and due to the fact that I always had a couple of GCSE “foundation” classes every year it worked out that I still had the pleasure of Kelly’s company for the last two years of her science studies.

Now Kelly and I had a love hate relationship, which improved over the years. I was starting out in the profession and wanted to make my mark, she could not really cope with life I suppose. Looking back now I understand why she did what she did. Kelly’s home life was a car wreck and consequently she did not enjoy living within the rules of the school at times. This did not always sit well with her science teacher, who was trying to assert authority, and often failing in the attempt.

I think she was the first student to walk out of one of my lessons and we did have some ding dongs at times. This is way before the time when students were issued with “time out” cards as they had “issues”.  I like to think she learnt some science through the years and she did get a score of some merit in her GCSE. Whilst following the parallel path that our science careers took for a while, we both got to know the limits as to how far we could go in terms of pushing each other’s buttons. I would know when she had “a cob on”, so would ease off, but could chivy her along in most lessons when she was happier. As a result she made what I suppose is called “progression” these days.

Also it was encouraging to know that although she could be a real pain in the neck at times, Kelly had enough respect not to destroy my lessons. Kelly did however wreak havoc in other classes on a regular basis and she was often the topic of conversation in the staff room. She basically had no fear and a lot of anger inside her, so when in the mood for a bit of aggravation she would pick on any teacher and just cause carnage.

Now you need good personal skills in the teaching game and some people find it rather difficult to realise that if you fail to listen to your students and do not manage to get in tune with them, you often are making a rod for your own back. This rang true during one of Kelly’s science lessons that happened to be visited by a Borough Advisor. Advisors were the closest people then to the current day OFSTED inspectors

The advisor meant well, but lacked the finesse and awareness required to deal with the likes of Kelly. As the lesson progressed he wandered around the lab, armed with a clipboard, asking the students questions about their work. Now despite getting mainly monosyllabic answers to most of his questions, the advisor continued mingling and probing as the group plodded on with the practical I had set. Students always did try and give their best whenever there was an inspector/formal observer present in my lessons. I was lucky in the fact that they wanted to show what they could do, which was great for me – but being observed can still be a stressful process for both teacher and students being put under the spotlight.

You could sense that Kelly was having a bad day and suddenly after being asked another question about her work by the advisor, she put her pen on the desk, pushed her stool back, and got up and stepped past the man still clutching his clipboard, not giving him an answer. The tension in her face was clear to see.

People were still packing up the practical, so it did not look out of place to see Kelly walking in the classroom. Heck she did it when she was not even meant to in other lessons! It only took a moment for Kelly to come over to my desk and look me straight in the eye with a dead pan face and say, “Can you tell that bloke to stop bugging me, ‘cos if he asks me one more question I will f**king punch him, swear down….”

She was good like that sometimes.

Those were the days Part 20

Two fingers…..

I used to teach in a lab that was joined to another with a prep room in between, in a self contained detached block. The block was a bit like a pair of huts, but a bit more substantial. The whole block was brick built with a flat roof that leaked like a sieve. Both labs had a huge bank of windows that looked out over a grassed area called the Quiet Green.

Richard Michaels (aka RM) – the hard-nosed mentor of mine and T-club member taught next door. RM had a way of controlling kids that was second to none and was always willing to “give ‘em a good whelping” if they stepped out of line.

One day I was chalking and talking to a class that were clearly being distracted by something outside on the Quiet Green. So I turned around to see a lad sheepishly standing on a picnic table right in the middle of this open space. I went outside to investigate and the kids I left behind in my lab jumped up on the side benches to get a grandstand view, faces pressed up at the glass of the windows. They all stared at this lonely looking boy stood on the picnic table.

RM had the whole of his own class lined up outside his lab and was barking orders at this clearly bewildered student as the rest looked on.
“That’s it son, up you get!” bellows RM.
The boy stands on the picnic table, blinking and unsure.
“You have not been paying any attention to me back there in that room; it is as if you are sticking two fingers up to me for the whole lesson”

The kid shuffles a bit with his tail between his legs.
“So you can come out, do it properly and stand up there for the whole world to see!” comes the cry, which is so loud that kids in the English block are looking out too at the spectacle.
RM stands there, arms folded. He barks again at this lad, who looks like he needs the toilet,
“So let’s be having you! Stick your two fingers up to me!”

The kid is very unsure as to how best to proceed. Giving RM the old “V” sign is something he is not comfortable with, nevertheless he slowly raises his hand.
“That’s it! Stick your fingers up!”
Two girls in the line stood outside the lab muffle a titter, but RM still turns around to glare at them.
“That’s all that I am good for isn’t it son? Two fingers…..”
The lad still stands there giving the salute.

I shake my head in disbelief and get back to my class.

Those were the days Part 17

Teacher Vices

Staff smoked in the staff room when I first started. When the smoking legislation came in and things tightened up my erstwhile mentor (Richard Michaels) would have a snout in my lab under the fume cupboard hood, whilst sat on a student stool. This saved the hassle of trapsing off to the smoking room.

Staff went to the pub at lunch. Some went every day – no joke! It was the norm for these teachers to have a liquid lunch. Mind you, lunch was an hour long break then, not these modern 40 minute “lunch hours”. In fact the local boozer used to take the TES on a Friday along with the regular order of tabloids for customers to read, as so many of us went down there on that day.

There was also an elite drinking fraternity, which was an off-shoot of the tea-club (see previous posts). “The 335 club” was as the name suggested based on a time of day when members had to be in the Black Bull by. This was the only rule of the 335 club. The “Bull” suffered at least one suspicious fire and had its windows shot out by one disgruntled patron. It has now become run down, but is still being used as a film set!

Back to the booze……..We used to knock back a wine box at every Science Department meeting, regular. The booze and nibbles were supplied by our HOD, who would always bring a decent red and high end bar snacks. Wine was also served with a hot meal on all INSET days and some of the hard core drinkers would regard it as a personal challenge to make sure the wine was all consumed before going back to their work, even if it meant minesweeping the unfinished bottles from other tables.

Smoking Room

When I first started teaching the smoking regulations had yet to be introduced and staff were allowed to smoke in the staff room. Members of the tea-club would not think twice about smoking in the workshop where the club members met. When smoking in the workplace became more restricted a smoking room was set up. This room changed location over the years. It eventually ended up being put in the office space between two mobile class rooms. This mobile hut sat in one of the school carparks detached from the rest of the school. The smokers were a tight bunch who always made the room as homely as possible. It had a TV, fridge and microwave and some comfy chairs to sit in.

One day a Year 11 class was waiting for a cover teacher to turn up for their lesson in one of the classrooms next to the smoking room. The teacher had not arrived and the hut was empty so the class let themselves in. After 10 minutes or so an impromptu game of football broke out amongst some of the lads who were clearly getting bored. Things got more organised, chairs and desks were cleared and the boys started playing “headers and volleys” using the whiteboard as the goal. One stray shot got belted too hard and it burst a hole in the flimsy plywood wall between the smoking room and the classroom. A head got poked in by a student to investigate, the hole was made bigger and a lad shoved through to open up. By the time a teacher eventually got there the tea had been brewed, the fridge had been raided and the fags had been smoked!

Those were the days Part 14

Now as promised I am going to list a few things that Bernie used to do on a regular basis that made him the stand out character that he was as and ever will be. But before I start I do not want it to look like character assassination. We all love BC and he is a Legend in my book – hence the poll I have set up above. These anecdotes may make him out to be a bit of a “special” guy, yet BC is a top bloke and he never fails to touch those that he meets in some way.

Onwards and upwards then.

The interests that Bernie had were nearly all sports related, and before I go any further it was thanks to Bernie that my club cricket career took the path that it did. He was the man that introduced me to the two clubs (Guinness and Harlington) that I spent very happy times with. He even got me a game down at Northwood Football Club’s veterans side – but my career there did not last that long after my team mates worked out that I was no good. I mean to say that my first touch was so bad; my next one was a tackle!

So Bernie’s foibles?

Ablutions – his morning started with a gym exercise routine in the boys changing room. He often used a few free weights. The thing that I remember about this daily event was it finished with him having a wash of his face, a brush of his teeth and a good old spit in the tiny Belfast sink set at floor level that was there for cleaning boots!

In the same shower room was a huge plunge bath big enough for a whole team to fit in. We are talking swimming pool here. Bern had a small adjustable spanner in his office that he used to get out before our regular Friday night staff soccer fixtures. The spanner was used to set the bath tap running very slowly as we were getting changed. He used to leave the tap running as we trotted out for the fixture and on our return after the match there was BC’s bath waiting for him!

Practice makes perfect – Bernie loved to practise his sport. On cold and often wet winter evenings after work BC and I used to stand about 20 yards either side of a football goal that had no net in it. We used to strike a football and aim to hit the cross bar and if it did not then the ball would glide over the goal to the person opposite in a nice long pass. This was well before Sky did the “cross bar challenge” and it was amazing how many times we hit the bar flush. This routine certainly improved my game and I lost count of the number of corners I struck in matches to where BC pointed, as he jostled for a chance to run onto the ball in the penalty box and burst the net with a bullet header. I knocked over a few crosses in my time and can still hear him scream “BC’s!!!!” as he launched himself at another goal attempt. Bernie could head the ball all right.

Pock marked gym wall – Bernie used to love his cricket. His batting was like my bowling, erratic. Equally I could bat a bit and he was a really decent seam bowler. So we were pretty well matched as practice partners for the “net sessions” we used to have after school during summer terms. Bernie was a very much a rhythm bowler, he was metronomic at times which had its plus points and draw backs too. When he had conditions in his favour he could replicate unplayable deliveries and get a bunch of wickets in one spell. On the other hand his regularity would also be his down fall as once a batter got after him, Bernie would get an awful mauling.

During our practice sessions I could almost anticipate his next delivery at times and if I had my eye in I would walk down the indoor cricket net and drive the ball straight back over his head. Often I would catch the ball he had bowled “on the up” so it meant that my shot would go straight on up and onwards until it crashed against the metal cladding on the back wall of the gym about 10 metres up. This would make BC a bit peeved so he would jog back to fetch the ball and then tear in from the back of the gym on a long run up. He was often a full throttle, nostrils flared and knees pumping when he came in to bowl at me again. The trouble was he would bowl faster but at the same spot so often the ball would ping off my bat and go even faster past his head to make another dent in the cladding behind him. It used to really piss him off and was one of the rare times that he was actually quiet playing sport.

Gum shield; Times when I wish Bernie would be quiet were when I batted with him on Saturday league fixtures down at Guinness CC. Bernie and I used to open the batting for two reasons. Firstly Bernie was madder than a box of frogs and sending him in first used to pay off – he scored fairly freely and could stay in long enough to knock the shine off the new ball. This meant that the better batters that followed got a slight advantage. The other reason that I went in with him was because nobody else wanted to as it was psychologically damaging!

Bernie was a terrible runner between the wickets and was always looking for the “quick single”. He had the potential to drop his bat down on the ball and dab it gently in front of him. Whilst doing so he would bellow “YESSSSSSSSSSSS!” and start to run. I would back up his call and come scurrying down his end only to find he had changed his mind! He would start shouting “Noooooooooo!” or “Waaaaaaaaiit!” At this stage I was in no man’s land, half way down the batting track, slamming on the brakes. Meanwhile a fielder would be swooping in to gather the ball ready to fire a throw at the wicket down at my end. I had to turn tail and run back to the bowler’s end and dive back into the bowling crease before the throw hit the stumps. With me dashing back, Bernie yelling and the fielding team smelling blood and shouting too it was complete chaos. All it needed was to have Clive Dunn run past in a Homeguard uniform shouting “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!” and the scene would have been perfectly set.

The ball would fizz past me on its way from the fielder to miss the stumps as I dived back to safety. Having got up and dusted myself off, I would march down the wicket to have a word with my batting partner.

“What the  f*ck do you think you are doing Bern?” I would enquire in an agitated state.

“Mwaah Fyysuayy sstumoppsut” came the reply.

You see Bernie was a tight so and so. He was paranoid about damaging some expensive bridge work in the front of his mouth, so not only would he bat with a helmet with a full face visor, but he also had a gum shield in as added protection! So it was near impossible to understand a word he said.

Those were the days Part 11a

Laaaaaads! – a stock phrase of Bernie’s, so much so that it was mimicked by a lot of the boys he taught. Could be compared with the Estuary English vernacular phrase of “innit!” and used in a similar way particularly at the end of a sentence.

Have a good ‘un! – Bernie says this in a lot of ways, just in terms of its altering its length and intonation Bernie can imply a different meaning.  He can say it glibly, in a very curt manor as a response to something that he agrees with or a piece of news that comes as no surprise – a sort of “told you so”. Conversely a long drawn out and slow exclamation can be translated as “Oh, my, God….” in certain situations

All staff that he played football with were called by their surnames with an “o” at the end of it eg Paul Simpson was Simpo, I was Morgo, the head of Music Judith Bridges was Bridgo. The only exception to this golden rule was the Head of Sixth Form, Brian Roberts was not Robbo, but Shergar based on his first appearance for the staff football team!

Luv – most women in authority were treated with this term of address which poor old Bernie thought was his way of being respectful. I remember an INSET day session where we instructed by a power dressed expert on assessment or some such for about half an hour. When the Q&A session started good old Bernie put his hand up and said “Right then Luv, I have a question about ….” You could see her bristle at the way she was addressed but good old Bernie did not see the signals. He used this term of familiarity a few more times and each time it made everyone in the room wince.

Listen!……….. This was often a long drawn out exclamation as he used to get pissed off that you were not paying him much attention. Bernie spouts so much garbage though that nobody listens to him!

The following trio were used a lot during PE lessons when he used to join kids 5 a-side games, to which he used to provide a running commentary

Don’t Move! – This was shouted out to a kid on the other side of the pitch who he tried to spray a pass to.  Something like David Beckham would do. He had about a 50% success rate at completing the pass!

Done him! – a shout of glee as he would gallop past a kid with the ball at his feet.  Not quite Brian Glover, but you get the drift!

Next Goal wins! – always a kids favourite this one, especially when his team was 7-3 down at the time!


Those were the days Part 9


Fred was the science department mascot, he was a full-size skeleton that we used to dress up often a lab coat, always with flat cap & safety goggles. We bound some tape around one of the hinges of the arm of the specs, so they looked like the ones that Jack Duckworth used to wear when he read the racing form in the paper when he sat in the Rovers Return.

At Christmas time Fred got decorated like a tree with tinsel and the odd bauble. He would always be put in one of the labs in a rough rota so that he toured the school over the year. Each lab looked after him, but his home was always down where I taught.

When we did lessons on smoking in Science and PSE,  Fred would get a fag and two of his fingers stuck in his spring loaded jaw, so it looked like he was puffing away on a tab.

During the World Cup in 98 Fred wore an England shirt and got propped up in front of the TV on a chair in his own when kids came in at lunchtime to watch the afternoon games.

Those were the days Part 7

Why we have a block on picture searches

We used to be able to search for images with laptops. You get blocked from doing so by the County server these days. If you read on you will see one reason why.

I was teaching a year seven class about food chains using a food web that had a field of corn as the habitat for insects, field mice, various birds….. You catch the drift. One the girls in the class genuinely did not know what a swallow was. I told her it was a bird that ate insects. She still had no idea. So in order to provide a remedy for her blank stare, I did a quick picture search on Google and beckoned her over to my desk. As she approached the first hit came for an image from howtomakeyourwifeswallow.com which was hastily minimised with a Homer Simpsonesque yelp! It was a close call and luckily I was not hooked up to the projector at the time!

When I started teaching 30 years ago……..

I started my professional career in teaching on 8th July 1991 at a West London comprehensive school and I was thinking….



When I started teaching:

  • Kids stood up in the Hall when the Head walked in to start an assembly.
  • The Headteacher in my first school always taught a GCSE class, turned up to department meetings, wrote reports etc. Just to keep his toe in the water.
  • Some staff would go down the pub at lunch every day, without fail. The Clay Pigeon used to take a copy of the TES on a Friday from the news agent as so many staff went there at lunchtime on that day
  • Every parents evening you were served a hot meal before the appointments started or alternatively you could claim travel expenses for a return journey to and from home.
  • Wine was always served at all INSET day lunches.
  • Reports were written by hand once a year on A5 carbon paper for each student.
  • The form tutor report also had space for a comment from Head of Year and the Head Teacher too. The Head wrote a comment about every kid in the school every year.
  • UCAS was done by hand. If you wanted to write a reference (by hand) on a student you went to the school file, which if you were lucky had a few clumps of year reports in it on hard to read carbon paper to use for background info.
  • WORD had only one font option.
  • Computers were not networked, they were pushed around class rooms on trolleys
  • Chalk was king
  • You could smoke in the staff room
  • Registers were filled in by hand simply with a ‘/’ or ‘O’ with red and black ink
  • You could tell off an unruly student and they would stand there and take a good verbal whelping. You could have it out with them without having a ‘time out’ card waved in your face, or the kid simply walking off away from you because they ‘had issues’.
  • You differentiated by getting brighter kids to copy out more than their less able peers.
  • It hardly ever snowed. One change for the better.
  • The Borough minibus test consisted of backing out the minibus onto the school car park from its garage, driving to Sainsburys across the road, turning round and coming back the long way round the block. Providing you did not curb the bus turning left on the way back you passed. It did not involve waiting till you were 26 and having to pay £2k for the training course and test.
  • Mini buses had no power steering and PE teachers had arms like Popeye.
  • The staff football team had a better kit than the students.
  • A three part lesson Period 5 most days was as follows: shout at the kids, copy out, and put the stools up at the end.
  • Students used my digital scales to check the mass of their lucky pennies, as drug dealers had not yet done the analogue to digital switch. The pennies were used to measure out the set weight of puff on pan scales
  • INSET days were called “Baker” days after the Government minister who took a week off our holidays and made us come into work instead.
  • I regularly played football with a year 11  group if their PE lesson coincided with one of my free periods.
  • Free Periods were free, not “Non-contact time”

Those were the days Part 6

Maths Vocabulary

I am grateful for the cover supervisors who do a thankless task in covering classes these days. I have said this before, but man alive, have I done some maths covers in my time, particularly at planet QM. It got so bad that I was asked for an appointment for parents evening by one kid as I had covered his class so much.

It is hard to teach maths – it is great that once they master something. Kids love to do the same process or calculation time and time again. They find it comforting – a sort of algebraic ‘copying out’.

What is hard is introducing a new term or equation to students, especially when you only know your way of doing the new calculation yourself.

I have learned over the years that the following verbs are essential when teaching maths:

Addzez                      (+)                   eg. “3 addz 4 is 7”

Takesawayz             (-)                    eg. “13 takesawayz 2 is 11”

Timezez                     (x)                   eg. “ 2 timezez 2 is 4”

Guzinterz                  (÷)                   eg. “6 guzinterz 24 4times”