Friday, 28 July 2017

Perspective.

Yesterday was another really enjoyable day. I welcomed a lovely man who came to survey my flat for a valuation (I'm buying a bigger share, not moving!). This was followed by a pleasant lunchtime swim at my local 15m pool, just 5 minutes walk away - such a blessing to have it nearby. After this, I relived my childhood by getting out my SNES (still the best console ever), and in the evening I went to Nando's with friends from church. We won the quiz a few weeks back and so had £100 to burn, which we did between 6 of us!

It is funny how God can speak to you at the most unexpected time. Yesterday it was lying flat on my back in the water doing armless backstroke to strengthen my legs. The pool was restored two or three years ago after storm damage and they have a glass ceiling. As I focused intently above me, making sure I didn't stray into the path of an adjacent swimmer, I noticed what a beautiful day it was becoming (after an indifferent start). I noticed the blue skies and wispy white clouds floating along. Then I noticed that of the windows in the roof needed a clean, and also there were several 'ornithological indiscretions' (as my Dad would say, most people say 'bird poo'). What a shame I thought, and immediately my focus was on those, not the blue sky. Well at least my focus was on how they had ruined the blue sky view I had previously enjoyed.

God spoke in that moment, (despite my ears being submerged in the water). He said 'Be wary of focusing always on the negative and forgetting the beauty that you see as well.' We live in such an entitled and unappreciative age. I see it more and more, and it is infecting our children too. The more we have, the less we appreciate it, and as soon as something is slightly faulty or not right, we can too often complain, blind to the blessings that sit alongside it.

My train is late,for example. But instead I should be thankful there is more than one train a day, (as is the case in some countries). My favourite program isn't on because of major sport event coverage. I could go on...

If we focus on the positive and being appreciative, it will make us more happy and joyful too. And that leads to strength, for 'The joy of the Lord is my strength'. (Nehemiah 8 v 10). I am sure this will be tested in the days ahead, but I am going into such tests more armed than I was.

Swimming doesn't just have physical benefits.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Day One

Today has been a testament to the power of collaboration. Somehow, with two people, a job gets done so much more quickly than with one. I mean that it seems to take less than half the time it would have done alone. Maybe working together adds motivation. Anyway, Dad came round and helped me clean my flat. My back is still quite painful, and end of term tiredness has flared it up, so he did all the hoovering (I mean properly hoovering) and a little floor washing. I cleaned the kitchen thoroughly and tidied up.

We walked into town and as a partial thank you, I bought him lunch in Pret; always a joy. As well as productive, it was great chatting to Dad, making jokes, having a laugh and putting the world to rights. We used to do this often on Saturday mornings after the church prayer meeting, but since that moved to Sunday and I moved sites, we haven't so often. In town I bought a phone case, two books and a kettle. I have taken almost 9,000 steps so should be on course for my 13th consecutive day of 10,000+ steps.

Joshua chapter 1: Be strong and courageous. I love how God makes promises to 'be with you wherever you go' and to 'give you the land I promised.'

A lot of faith, trust and sticking to God's commandments are required, but he speaks the promises beforehand to assure Joshua. He has the promise spoken, but he still needs to step out and make it happen himself. I want to pray for many breakthroughs this holiday. Things God has promised to me, and I want to step into them now. I am ready. Exciting times ahead!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

School's out for summer.

This morning, a colleague and I both blared music out of our classrooms at 7.30am, because we can and it is the last day of school! 'One Day More' from Les Mis and the afformentioned Alice Cooper hit featured heavily.

So here I am. The day I have longed to arrive for weeks finally does arrive and then the inevitable 'oh' moment and you feel a little lost. I have felt that a little tonight.

It won't last long. My flat is a pit and a nice man is coming to value it on Thursday lunchtime, so tomorrow is clean, hoover, scrub, tidy and shove stuff under the bed time!

I want to use these holidays productively. I want to write more. This blog is filled with promises to write more often, and this time I will.

One thing I want to do is read more, and that includes getting stuck into my Bible. I have decided to go through the book of Joshua as well as trying to learn a few passages elsewhere too.

I may post my thoughts on what I find, and also general amusing things that happen in my holiday too.

Must go to bed now and play some Catan on my iPad, because.... I have no alarm to wake me up tomorrow!!!!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

...slogan ad nauseam...

 Sneering at the arts is only the start.
"Taking back control" by shouting, but not listening.
 Railways private, thieving and incompetent,
"Ordinary working people" with "Zero" job security.
 Nuclear revolution that betrays our planet's future
 Going deeper into rocks to frack us to oblivion.

 Austerity has ballooned the national debt. An
 NHS on its knees, soon we will all pay the price.
 Doubled homelessness and food banks used like never before.

 Slowly police and firefighters disappear.  Ministers
 Treating human beings as problems, not people.
 A "Hard Brexit" not even the 52% voted for.
"Bring back fox hunting!" (because that's humane!)
 Lies, broken promises and unrealistic targets.
 Education cuts - bring your own pencils on Monday, kids!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

An ode to the end of term... (with apologies to Tim Minchin)

When I break up
I will have time enough to read all of the
books I want and watch the DVDs you get to
watch when you're broken up.

And when I break up
I will be strong enough to carry all
the piles of books you need to check
and mark with care while you're broken up.

And when I break up
I can eat junk every day
watching football games and I
can go to bed late every night!

And I will wake up
when the sun comes up and I
will
go for walks until my legs are dead
And I won't care 'cause I'll be broken up!

When I break up!
When I break up, when I break up
(When I break up)
I will be back at school to organise
the classroom and put up displays for next term’s learning journey of fun.    
And when I break up, when I break up
(When I break up)
I will be able now to see the friends that
always get forsaken during term
time when I’m not broken up!

And when I break up
(When I break up)
I will think hard every day.
And I'll play around with seating plans
that friends don't think are fun.

And I will go out
and silently I’ll fume
at all the wrong grammar I see in shops
but won’t complain 'cause I'll be broken up!
When I break up!


When I break up I will be free enough
to visit the pub and not have to look at
my watch worrying about when I’ll get up.
(When I break up)

Monday, 4 July 2016

Striking out

I love where I work. It is a simply incredible school with brilliant children, amazing colleagues and a wonderfully supportive management. In under three weeks time, I am moving to pastures new, which is very exciting but, after seven and a half happy years, will be tinged with sadness. I am keen to make the most of my time left, and the days that remain will soon be in single figures.

Despite this, I am not going in to school tomorrow. I am going to stand with my colleagues and stand up against what I believe is a deeply flawed way of governing education in this country.

The headlines say “Pay and Conditions”. We aren’t allowed to strike on any other terms.

For me, it has very little to do with pay. It has a lot to do with conditions.

The condition of some teachers, left at their wits end by a baffling series of over-complicated hoops to jump through, needless work to complete, that takes them away from their class for long periods, robbing their class of a qualified, enthusiastic and passionate practitioner.

The condition of our curriculum, stuffed full of antiquated, 1950s grammar school objectives, full of ‘knowledge’ and ‘facts’, but limited in skills and free thinking. An over-crammed Maths and English syllabus leaving less room for Art, Music and Drama. A pub quiz history curriculum full of dates, but lacking in evaluative critique of sources and deep discussion of reasons.

The condition of the English language, where grammar has to have ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers, when in fact there are several ways to express things. It is a beautiful and diverse language, full of creativity. It can’t be summarised by a tick or a cross. Where ‘good reading’ is how fast you read, not how much you understand or infer from a text. Where ‘good writing’ need not be imaginative, interesting or thought-provoking, so long as it is punctuated correctly, spelt perfectly and every letter is joined to the next one in the ‘right’ way.

The condition of schools who may be struggling for all kinds of reasons, forced into privatisation, where men in suits dictate their every move, with very little evidence this improves things. Where qualified teacher status is a preference, not a requirement and pay is no longer secure.

And most importantly, the condition of our children. Those amazingly creative, imaginative and hard-working young lives that we have the privilege of working with every day. Children as young as seven (7!) having sleepless nights about how many ‘fronted adverbials’ they used the previous day. As they grow older, the stakes increase, as does the stress and worry for them and all who care for them. Children being labelled as ‘failing’ all to make a political point.



A ‘minister’ is meant to serve. To listen carefully to those who they lead or are above. I see very little evidence of that. No doubt tomorrow will be arrogantly shrugged off as ‘whinging’ or worse criticised for ‘damaging children’s education’. They consistently refuse to listen to reason. Not standing up now is the same as saying ‘I am happy with how things are.’

For me, it isn’t really about pay. I am paid well, although I worry what the future holds in that regard. But yes, it is definitely all about conditions.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Time to learn to stop and look.



This week we took my class and the year below to see Matilda in London. They loved it, obviously. It is a show of exceptional quality in every detail. I was fascinated to find out what they particularly enjoyed. So this morning, I asked them to write a ‘review’, giving prompts such as acting, singing, dancing, script, props and set design and how it made them feel. What I got back was interesting as well as slightly disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, they laughed at the funny bits were moved by the sad bits and excited by the surprising bits. But just look at this stage.


Incredible. What it doesn’t show is the desks that come out of the floor, gates and swings that appear, libraries and classrooms that materialise seamlessly. I loved the small details. The ‘shhh’ written in the bookcases of the library and ‘soot’ in the fireplace. Hidden words everywhere, references, jokes and hand-crafted detail.

Did any child comment on these things? Not one. They just didn’t seem to notice, well at least not enough to write about it with great enthusiasm.

I fear a wider problem. Children are not allowed time to stop. Stop and look at the view. Really look. Properly. An over-crammed curriculum, (both during and after school), combined with iPad-length attention span make it increasingly difficult for them to appreciate incredible art, architecture, music and design. They need to be free, to have time to explore, ask questions and discuss these things at length.

There are many teachers who would love to teach like this (myself included), but we can’t. A philosophy of ‘secondary-ready children’ where each must be ‘equipped’ with the same standard set of ‘knowledge’. Let’s ignore that children are all different, equipped with different strengths, weaknesses, interests and experiences. One single child will not become Bill Gates, Jane Austen, David Beckham, Richard Rogers, Beethoven and Archimedes. But one child might be a Bill Gates, another David Beckham, another could be a Beethoven… you get the idea.

I’m not advocating an abandonment of the basic arithmetic and literacy skills. By no means. I am a self-confessed, fully paid up member of the grammar police. (Please do not judge this rambled venting!) I hate that my local Supermarket has ’10 items or less’, and I fight the urge to write ‘fewer’ over the top of it in big red pen along with ‘see me’. However, we need to balance correctness and creativity.

Partly, parents need to facilitate some of this ‘looking’ more deeply. Many do, and I applaud and respect them. Many others have my sympathy, with a culture of ‘working all the hours God sends’.
Technology is great, it can be creative and exciting. But children need to be excited by a box of Meccano, K’nex or Lego. What can I make? How can I use my hands to build? Not just virtually, but in the real world. They must learn to love the smell of a book, not just an e-book. They must learn to evaluate what others create and welcome discussion of their own work.

 ‘Fewer things in greater depth’ we were promised. More things in greater depth is the reality. The greater the number of things, the less time we have to look in depth. Returning to Matilda, the draconian Trunchbull dictatorship acts as a coincidental metaphor for the public school agenda being forced on our children. Not anywhere near as cruel, obviously, but rigid, inflexible, and at times extremely unimaginative.


 Am I expecting too much of a 7-10 year old? I don’t think so. I hasten to add I am not attempting to force my own specific agenda, but simply the idea that we allow room for children to explore, question and think more deeply than our technology-dominated, high-speed curriculum allows. Let’s really get off that ladder, look at the detail, ask questions and let all of our imaginations run riot.