Sunday, 20 December 2009

Headline news

Well Christmas is finally here. I made it. A very festive end to the term too with snow and ice and mince pies at every turn.

There were also flurries of amusing moments to cap off the year which was much appreciated.

I made up a couple of quizzes for the last lessons with certain classes. One on food that I did with year sevens and eights and one general knowledge that I did with year nine and ten. Like most of the anecdotes in this blog their answers are half funny half terrifying.

"Who was the second man to set foot on the moon?"

"Steve Martin" was one guess.

I also overheard another boy in year ten say...."Oh I know this one. It's that Muslim guy. The terrorist......Osama Bin ladin!"

I suppose it would have been a reasonable hiding place for him.

The marathon has also apparently been re calibrated and is now set at a challenging 2400miles. Phew. Best get in training now.

Frankly their general knowledge was appalling all round. One boy said "why on earth would I know the capital city of Australia or Argentina or wherever. That's a stupid question. I would just have to remember them all!"

The google generation have no use for memory it seems.


More food lesson mirth this week. Students need to bring in some ingredients from home to cook with when we do practical lessons. We were making french bread pizzas and I had the ingredients on the board for them to write in their homework diaries and then bring in:

"Half a baguette
A small block of cheddar cheese
Tomato puree
2 extra ingredients eg. sweetcorn, mushrooms
I container to take the food home in"

The class were all filing out after having written in their diaries but one boy remained and was still writing in his diary.

"Sir?" he said.

"Yes Ahmed?"

"Do I need to bring in an egg?"

"It's not a normal thing to have on a pizza but you can have it on Pizzas. I don't think it would work in this circumstance though."

"Oh. It's just that it says it on the board"

I looked again at the board confused. "No it doesn't"

"It does. Look" He pointed at the board.



We have lots of teaching assistants (TA's) in our school and they do an amazing job for bugger all money. We have one in particular who helps in the technology department more than anywhere else. He is great with the really needy troublesome kids and knows our subject very well.

The nature of his job means that he is much more in amongst the kids and gets to be much closer to them every day, often following one student round all week. He has some brilliant stories about what the kids are really like and one that he told me last week cracked me up.

There is a boy in school (who I will call Jurgen) who has a great deal of special needs. He is almost completely mute in most of his classes and only nods or shakes his head or points at things. He is very creative in technology and is good at making things. However in private with our TA he doesn't stop talking. The problem being that it's an endless stream of lies that leave his mouth. Stories of blowing up car tyres with cd lasers and other tall tales.

In one of his citizenship lessons the task was to create a story that could have been frontpage news, write the article and draw some pictures to go with it. Out TA had to spend ages coaxing something out of Jurgen.

"Come on. What could be a big story that would get onto the front of the paper?"

Jurgen picked up his pen and wrote...


"Erm...I'm not sure that would have made the front page of a national newspaper Jurgen. Try something a bit more serious.

The pen came out again.


"Ok that's a bit better but we still need more of an attention grabbing headline."

The pen.


Thinking he better quit while ahead the TA went with that headline and Jurgen wrote the article. It told a tragic tale of a hairy boy. A boy so hairy that when he spent an afternoon licking his own arms he eventually choked to death on a hairball.

I really wish I could have seen the picture that went with the story.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Cover this

Our school has an online tracking system for behaviour issues and rewards for good students. It's meant to make our life easier but it becomes a tool to check up on what teachers are doing and generally adds about three hours of work a week onto your schedule. That's another story though.

Pupils have their own "rap sheet" which shows up all teachers comments and any sanctions that they have been given during the year. Rap sheets can be extremely long for some kids and it is often very useful to see that the student you are having trouble with is basically causing hell throughout the whole school. Some amusing entries can be found there and let's face it that's what this blog is all about so here's a note from a cover teacher having trouble:

"I was covering Product design in xx, Steven was silly by making fun of me i wasn't actually sure what he was saying but he did apologise and said he was joking i ignored it then he called me Tomato head in front of the class and everyone else was laughing and he was too, he didn't show regret and didn't apologise for his actions."

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Hot air

Teaching product design to my GCSE groups has been hard graft. It's a tough thing to get across. Lots of different skills and attributes that need to be tapped into at the right time to create new things. The students find it remarkably difficult to retain lessons on certain topics if they have to use those skills out of context. It's perhaps the hardest challenge. Equipping them with a toolkit of skills that they can use when required.

The subject exam is a six hour designing and making challenge with breaks for reflection and evaluation. As a department we need to provide inspirational products for the students to examine and handle. We also provide objects relating to the specific theme of the exam. The students are guided through the process with timed teacher comments. As six hour exams go its a lot of fun.

Anyway the evaluations the students make about their work generally cause me most concern when I'm marking them. The students answers are one part arrogant swagger and two parts clueless buffoon.

"My design is absolutely unique" is the most common perception.

Get you.

Another notable inclusion from the last round of exams was:

"There's no doubt my product will stand out. In the 1930's everything was dull, not much colour. Most things were black and white i.e tv's. The 'white skull' will sort that out."

I'm not sure what colour the "white skull" was going to be but I'm sure it would have blasted those crappy 1930's colours out of the water. Oh and be unique.

Some shocking things come up from time to time. I recently set a past exam paper question as homework. The question tested students knowledge of features of products by comparing an old hairdryer and a modern one. The first part of the question asked students to identify four features of the modern product that were different from its 1930's counterpart.

The second part of the question went as follows:

Explain why two of the features you have identified have made the modern hairdryer more successful compared to the old hairdryer.

A girl in my class answered:

Point 1- "when you need to go out and you wont your hair dry"
Explanation- "If you actually need to get somewhere a hot air balloon is a fairly impractical vehicle and it will only be as fast as the wind blows"

I'm not making this shit up.


This term has seen a change. An ill wind has blown in from the sea and brought with it an abundance of food lessons to my timetable. Each lesson is small military operation. Get the kids in. Register them. Get their coats and bags off and out the way. Get them to wash their hands. Get their ingredients out. Get the equipment out. Make the food. Cook it. Clean up. Tell them again to clean up. Stop them eating the food. Get them to clean up properly. Clean up some more. Get them out on the hour then welcome the next class in...

I'm knackered just typing it.

It's tough going. I do really enjoy it though. The worst kids who are normally a nightmare seem to behave like angels (mostly) in the food room. They respond well to me when they realise that I can cook. It's a nice feeling.

Some year nines on Friday were impressed by my fairy cake making. Cracking and whisking eggs, creaming, folding all that jazz.

"Sir are you a professional chef?"

"Erm...well I have worked in a restaurant kitchen"

"Like materchef?"

"Sort of yes."

Hehe. God love them.

The format of the lessons is one hour cooking next lesson evaluate and plan, then cook again fade to pass out on the worktop. The students evaluations are an essential part of the learning process but its a bit laboured at times and they don't really enjoy it for the most part. Some of their answers are quite amusing though. I have to stress to them that they need to use sentences and adjectives and try to use creative language to describe their cooking and tasting experiences. Not easy i can tell you.

In the "My (insert food item) tasted blah blah blah" section of their evaluation one boy had written when describing his fairy cakes:

"My fairy cakes tasted disgraceful."

I love it.


A year eight boy, who I get on well with and see as quite a mature and old head on young shoulders type, had a big bandage on his wrist in class. During the class I went up to him and asked what had happened. He said that his brother had fractured it.

I was a bit concerned about this and asked him how old his brother was.

Nine years old was the response. Now this lad was 12/13 and so it's a bit of a strange scenario. It turns out his brother ran up behind him and surprised him by pulling his hand back and snapped his wrist. Nasty and unfortunate incident. However he was chuckling about it as he told me so I wasn't so worried anymore. I pictured myself back as that age and what it would be like with a brother.

For some reason unknown to me I asked him "So have you managed to get your own back yet?"

He laughed and said "yeh. I made him a cup of tea and cracked an egg into it so when he got to the bottom he got to drink this slightly cooked runny egg."


Sunday, 8 November 2009

Honesty and history

Couple of quick additions:

I asked one of my year 10 students why he wasn't doing his work at the start of the lesson and he said "because I'm hungover". It was a Tuesday morning. I admired his honesty.

Last week a student asked me "Sir, in the olden times were T Mobile called Mercury?"

Now if that doesn't make you feel old then I don't know what will.

Friday, 11 September 2009

B and H

So a new school year has started. I've been back for just under two weeks now but it feels like a month.

It's been incredibly intense. I was promoted at the tail end of last year so I have extra duties and other teachers to look after and I am no longer cushioned as an NQT so my week is rammed full of lessons with not many breaks. My evenings are consequently rammed full of admin and planning. Late to bed early to rise and that includes this morning... which is a Saturday.

I'm not up early today to work but I simply couldn't sleep any later than 6am. Really annoying.

I'm pretty pleased with my classroom performance so far though I have to admit. I feel very confident standing up there now and apart from one year nine class who are clearly trying to break some sort of world record for annoyance (paging Norris Mcwhirter), my classes are well behaved and doing what I want them to.

I've got over my initial lack of confidence with discipline. Last year I struggled to set a firm baseline of what was allowed in my classroom. Mostly because I didn't really give a toss if students were eating gum in my lesson or other low level stuff. However you eventually realise that these things all add up in the students mind to a situation where they just take the piss. Give an inch and so on.

This year I have found that with a fresh start, new classrooms, new students or at least combinations of students, I don't let them away with much. I have finally felt in control of my space and what happens in it. Innit.

I'm going to need to come up with some tactics for that year nine class though. Yesterday I allowed the kids I felt had behaved ok in the class to leave at the end and kept the rest of those ruler tapping, pencil snapping, gesture making, gum chewing, juice swigging, noise making little bastards there for a pep talk.

I had fifteen left.

You simply can't teach in a classroom where more than half of the students are hell bent on making noise. The problem is where do you send them? How do you move people around if the place they are going to sit is potentially even worse!?!

The new term has brought with it great amusement for me which had all but dried up by the end of last year. My food class are a lovely bunch. Some genuinely smart, interesting, funny and polite young people. You know the type you read about in the papers all the time.

My opening task for them to do was to name 40 pieces of kitchen equipment. I thought they might struggle but they breezed it. Some getting 60 or 70.

However reading through the answers some had gone slightly astray. One lad had written "pestling water" on his list beside the usual knife and fork and lemon squeezer.

"Whats this one James?" I asked him.

"Oh sir, it's that fingy that you use to like... grind herbs and stuff"

"A Pestle and Mortar?"

"Oh! Yeh! yeh that's it!"


His friend had also written down "Distractor fan" which I took great pleasure in extracting the mick about.

Here is an extract (ahem) from one of the girls lists. She is a salt of the earth, east London through and through type.

Rolling pin
pack of fags
draining spoon
baking tray
wooden spoon"

When challenged about the necessity for the pack of fags she was absolutely adamant that they were essential to the running of a successful kitchen. I'm not so sure how good they would be at stirring a pot of soup or dicing some veg mind...

Friday, 13 March 2009


Started teaching a new six week unit on structures today.

I had a few pics of famous structures from around the world for the class to try and name and give their geographical location.

I had a lot of pretty easy ones which they got: The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, Stonehenge etc.

Then I threw in the Bilbao Guggenheim. I knew they wouldn't get it but that building is so cool I had to let them see it.

Anyway first of all I asked them if they liked it and some said: "No! It's too curvy!", "It's too arty", "It's too shiny." etc.

Great. Thanks for coming.

I was pleased though that at least some of them said they thought it was really cool and loved it.

Then I asked..."So what is this building?"

First answer out of the hat was all I needed.

"Is it George Michael's house?"

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Flat earth

Well it's been a while since I have shared anything about how the teaching is going. Well pretty shite really is probably the truth of the matter.

The temporary workshop (the solitary one between the whole department), the lack of permanent staff, the leaking roof, useless computer system and general disorganised nature of the proceedings has really started to get me down. Particularly as I got hit with a week of being ill with a particularly foul cold.

The plus points are that its started to get light when I leave in the morning and my cycle is much more pleasant for it. Spring feels like its here or at least just around the corner. That however means that its no time at all till loads of important stuff needs to be handed in by the GCSE and Btec students which means added pressure on me. I'm only just becoming fully aware of this fact now. There is a quite a lot of expectation on my shoulders and sometimes I feel like saying "come on guys I'm still learning this shit". I'm glad that they have thrust responsibility onto me at such an early stage in my career but sometimes I feel that I may be skipping a natural settling in period.

Anyway enough navel gazing.

Just before half term we had a special year eight day of PHSE (personal health and social education). It was called Guidance when I was at school. Anyway it was basically sex and drugs and rock and roll. Or sex and drugs and knife crime in our case.

We had outside companies come in to do some interactive plays: one about sex education (teenage pregnancy) and a talk on sexual health (condom on a dildo), I gave a talk on alcohol abuse (whilst downing sambucas) and the most interesting of all was an ex armed robber called Bill who gave a chat about carrying knives.

Bill was a heftily proportioned armed robber (who was apparently put away for 4 years for being part of the Heathrow Bullion robbery a few years ago) gave a brilliant talk to my form about why they shouldn't carry knives. Troy in my form did amazingly well to give the wrong answer to every question he asked and so play perfectly into his hands.

"Does anyone think carrying a knife is a good thing?"

Up goes Troy's hand.

"Who here has carried or carries a knife?"

Up goes Troy's hand.

"What would you do if I came at you with this knife?"

"Kick you in the balls"

...and so it went on.

It was perfect for the Bill. Shooting fish in the barrel but very worthwhile for my year eights. It did occur to me that for some of them it was very shocking and graphic (pictures of a girl stabbed in the top of her head) and before they were ready for it. They are just kids after all. However for Troy and some others it couldn't have been at a better time. They are right at the age where they have the chance of losing their life if they carry a knife. Indeed the brother of a boy at this school was murdered very recently.

The hour talk and q & a wasn't as oppressive as it may sound. There was some good humour and one particularly brilliant moment for me was a question of geography.

Troy had stated that it was good to carry a knife because if you go to another part of London there are people out to get you. The so called postcode war.

Bill said ok then "I'm from London so where do you think I am from in London".

"Who thinks I'm from east London?"

Most hands went up.

"What about South London?"

A large proportion of the rest put their hands up.

"North London?"

A couple put their hands up.

"Ok then what about West London?"

At this question a girl at the back called out in amazement..."Oh my god I didn't know there was a west London!"

Amazing. I'm not sure what she thought happened. Maybe when you got to Shepherds Bush everything just vanished and dropped away. Sort of like flat earth theory for the modern day.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

work e-mail

This popped into my inbox a few weeks ago. Thought I would share its simple poetic joy with you.

"There have been serious allegations made about a number of boys who are suspected to come to xxxxxxxxx school – all we know at the moment is that they are around 15 years old, white and are known by the following names:

Sonic, Knuckles, Shadow and Ben

Any information or ideas please email to me."

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

One of those days

Sometimes a lesson can crush the spirit of even the most hardened of teachers. An hour where logic does not exist. Where previously angelic young students act as if they have been smoking crack and hungrily pouring over the worn brown pages of "How to mentally destroy your teacher vol 10" in the bogs at break.

The classroom becomes tiny. The troublemakers even though you move them away from their neighbours seem to be able to span the gaps with ever growing ease. Your hard earned behaviour management tactics and tricks all prove fruitless.

You are f*cked.

I had one of these last period today. Year eight monsters. It left me feeling like I was right back at the start of my training again. Like the past year had been a dream and I was starting all over. I felt totally depressed afterwards and once again questioned why I chose to do this for a job. It gives you a real crisis of confidence.

Still I came home and a black man was elected as the President of the United States of America and that cheered me up a bit.

Then I had some of my wife's homemade soup. Things were looking up for sure.

I sit here now some five hours after the event and can turn to the reason why I started this blog. These days happen. These lessons happen but some things that the kids do make things better.

I remembered a year seven class I had last week. On that day they were tiny little bundles of joy and hilarity.

They were doing some sketching in their workbooks and as I walked round the room I saw one of the boys ask to look at his neighbours book. He then jumped off his seat and loudly exclaimed "oh man that is sick bruv. That is well gangster!"

Intrigued, I approached to examine further the source of his rousing approval.

I'm not sure gangster would have exactly been the first adjective to cross my lips.

I guess that's the funny thing about these kids. When I am off school for half term or summer holidays in my mind the troublesome ones begin to seem massive. Towering hulks.

Then you come back and they are so small.

Things come out of their mouths and they sound like adults but they are still just little kids. Tough kids but kids nonetheless.

So just like Obama said tonight I'll pick myself up, dust myself off and head back in tomorrow to start over again.

Posting the poo

The weight of public demand has been pressing down on my slim shoulders for weeks now and I have finally had to give in to the torrent of comments from two people and post that poo.

So here it is. The flexible party poo in all its glory. Enjoy...

Saturday, 17 January 2009

F*ck off.

I had a chance to look through some year 10 GCSE Food Technology coursework the other day. As part of their folder work they need to come up with a new and supposedly exciting meal, research it, make it refine it and evaluate it etc.

As part of their research some of the pupils in this class had decided to write letters to celebrity chefs to get their advice. I say decided but it was clear from the standard of these that it was an idea thrust upon them and not one made of their own free will.

One pupil was creating a Pizza suitable for teenagers. Now I am not sure what's wrong with normal pizzas and actually come to think of it what would a "Teenager Pizza" have on it. Euuurgh. I'd rather not think any further on that subject.

Anyway the student had written a letter to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and the opening gambit was as follows:

"Dear Gordon Ramsay,

Can you please advise me on how I can obtain a high grade for my GCSE food technology project."

They continued with some other waffle but basically not so much a question about food but about the intricacies of the AQA marking scheme.

The title of my e-mail is my prediction of his response should he be able to tear himself away from being on the telly and chefing in about 8 restaurants.

Jamie Oliver it appears is also in line for some interesting mail in the future.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Long live the Queen.

A teaching assistant in a few of my lessons overheard a conversation in one of my year nine classes this week.

It seems the lads were having some form of political discussion...

"Who's the Prime Minister then?"

"erm....George best?"

"George Best!!!
It's Gordon Brown you donut!
Who's the mayor of London then Freddie bleedin' Mercury!?"