A twiddler, A dreamer, A silly-heart, A jabber-box – all round bad egg?

Making sense of Little minds


People like to start with a quote – mine’s a biggie:

Buck Russell sits down and sees that Anita Hoargarth the Assistant Principal has a mole and begins to make a fool of himself before she interrupts him…

AH: I’m assistant principal here…as you’ve probably noticed from the indications on the door.
BR: This door?
AH: The outer door!
BR: The outer door.’Cause there’s nothing on this one.

AH: That’s about enough of that. I’ve been an educator for 31 point 3 years…
and in that time, I’ve seen a lot of bad eggs. I say “eggs” because at the elementary level we are not dealing with fully-developed individuals.
I see a bad egg when I look at your niece.
She is a twiddler, a dreamer, a silly heart and she is a jabberbox.
And, frankly I don’t think she takes a thing in her life or her career as a student seriously.

Anita Hoargarth drops her pencil in a dramatic and “I’m finished” kind of…

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I’ve got to go home…

(Written as part of the #29daysofwriting on staffrm.)

“I’ve got to go home… I’m not feeling too well.”

These were the words that began an embarrassing incident. 

It was a warm, June day and I had PPA in the afternoon. School at the time had organised for a PE specialist to come to school and take classes to release teachers for their PPA. They were teaching kids athletics and covering the basics in running, jumping and throwing. That day was supposed to be looking at different ways of jumping with some skipping included. The PE specialist left me her plans and explained everything comprehensively and everything looked straight forward so I sent her home. 

I would miss my PPA, but I knew I would be able to catch it up somewhere else along the line. The only minor problem was that I wasn’t in my PE kit. I was in a shirt, tie and suit trousers, but it was only a bit of running, jumping and throwing so I thought I would just take off my tie and it would be OK.  

How wrong I was…  

The activities were on the field and were all set out as our Year 6 sports leaders had been helping. 

“What a doddle!” I thought while the sun warmed my back and I led the class down to the field.  

We were all ready and I started to demonstrate each station. Throwing the foam javelin; bean bags in a bucket; relay races. All pretty straight forward.

Until it came to the standing long jump.  

I started to demonstrate how to do it.  

Knees bent.

Arms swinging. 

Body swinging.

Build momentum. 



I lifted off and flew through the air. Michael Jordan had nothing on me!

Then I landed show how to land with bended knee and on both feet.  

As my knees bent, I heard and almighty RRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!

My eyes almost popped out of my head. I looked down. My suit trousers had split open from just beneath the zipper almost all the way round.  

The kids exploded with laughter.

And that was the day I learnt that wearing a PE kit is essential for PE. 


(I did say to another TA in school “I’ve got to go home!” and managed to dash home, find a pair of tracksuit bottoms and get back to school quite quickly as I only live 5 minutes away!)

The F Word

September 2001:

“Sir… Sir… Dean’s just called me the F word”


Dean and Oliver (names have been changed) were in Year 2 and this kind of language was very rarely heard in our school.  I went from normal teacher to verging on the edge of incandescence in 0.37 seconds.

“Dean. Here. Now!”

Dean looked sheepish.  With a hangdog expression, he made his way towards the front of the class, each footstep heavier than the last until eventually reaching the spot in front of me.

“Well?” I demanded.  “What have you got to say for yourself?  What on earth happened to make you say ‘that’?”

Dean’s head sunk even lower as he mumbled an explanation.

“Dean,” I said. “look at my eyes when you speak so I can hear what you are saying.”

Dean lifted his head. He could see the fury in my eyes and that I was ready to explode.

“Oliver called me an idiot, Sir.”

“That is no excuse to use the kind of language you used,” I replied.  “Do you know how rude that word is?  You won’t hear me or any other members of staff using ‘that’ word.  I think your parents would be very upset when they find out you have used ‘that’ word.”

Dean’s head almost touched his toes at this point.  I glanced over at Oliver.  His face was a mixed of shock and confusion. It was as if he knew that the word was wrong, but he was shocked at the level of reprimand I was laying on Dean.

And then a light switch illuminated in a small, dark corner of my brain…

“Dean,” I said with the dawn of realisation rising in my early teaching mind. “Please can you quietly spell out the word you used?”

Dean raised his head.  He looked into my eyes. I nodded, the shock and anger draining quickly from my face.

“F – A – T”

And that was the day I realised that when I am dealing with ANYTHING a 6 year old said, I have to make sure they actually saw/heard it and also to find out exactly what was said and why before I show any emotion.

How to be a dudette or a dude.

Part of the #29daysof writing on staffrm

Seeing as though it is the 8th (and taking a leaf out of @mrheadcomputing ‘s book) here are 8 ways to be a dude/dudette:

1. Disagree with people politely. Both in real life and online.

2. Live life 90/10. Life is about 10% what happens TO you and 90% about how you react to it. We can argue about the percentages but I feel the general rule holds true.

3. Share. Other people appreciate what you do.

4. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Life is too special and wonderful and short to be serious all the time.

5. Blow your own trumpet… no one else will!  The likelihood is that you have something worthwhile to say. Some people fill twitter and their blogs with so much stuff that it is hard to sort the wheat from the chaff.  Others, and I include myself in this bracket, find it hard to put their thoughts down onto paper (or screen!).  Just because you are not a prolific blogger doesn’t mean your ideas are not as valid as the edu-superstars.

6. Look after your TAs. Buy a bag of giant buttons and put them in a secret place only you and your TA know so that they can be your little secret. They only cost a pound but they are a great way of showing your appreciate them.

7. Follow my classroom rules – be good, try your hardest and listen to others.   They are good rules for my kids and not a bad maxim for being a dude.

8. Don’t believe everything you read in blogs.  Just because someone has typed their ideas down doesn’t mean it is true.  Decide for yourself.

And certainly don’t let a blog post tell you 8 ways to be a dude or dudette when you already know how to do that already!


Everywhere you go…

… you always take the weather with you.

And that includes your classroom.  After spending some time in other schools and visiting other classrooms, I have been amazed at how different classrooms can have a different feel in the same school.  In my own school, I think I know what I am going to experience when I walk into a classroom and having been in my school for a number of years, I think part of that is due to the observer effect.

But visiting other schools has just confirmed how important teachers are in setting the climate of their classroom.  I read something today for my NPQH where a head teacher said that the children in their school probably would have learnt what they have learnt no matter who was in the classroom, but I disagree.  You can have a classroom where the children believe they are geniuses and they will reach the high expectations you set because you give them the wings to fly. Or you can have a classroom where the children are disheartened because the focus is always on the negative.

I have recently found the same as a leader in school.  We, and I include everyone in this, set the climate for our school.  Although we will all have our challenges, what happens in your school that makes you happy?  Focus on this.  Find the things that make you smile and try to do these even more!

I was told by a head teacher that she has a smile line where she always puts a smile on her face when she crosses the line that marks the entrance to her school as she needs to promote a positive, happy atmosphere.  I quite like this idea.  Where is your smile line?   What will the weather be like in your classroom today?


OFSTED… the pinnacle of teaching?

I have been studying the NPQH and have done a lot of work on a unit regarding teaching and learning this week.  What comes through is the use of OFSTED criteria by SLT to judge lessons and more broadly teaching.  I do agree that it is extremely useful to know how you will be judged when OFSTED come in and watch and I do agree that what they write about what is expected in ‘outstanding‘ lessons is good, but if OFSTED did not give schools one of the almighty four grades, would these still be seen as the best way to judge teaching and learning?  Is there anything missing from these criteria?

Outstanding (from the OFSTED School Inspection Handbook)


  • Teachers demonstrate deep knowledge and understanding of the subjects they teach. They use questioning highly effectively and demonstrate understanding of the ways pupils think about subject content. They identify pupils’ common misconceptions and act to ensure they are corrected.
  • Teachers plan lessons very effectively, making maximum use of lesson time and coordinating lesson resources well. They manage pupils’ behaviour highly effectively with clear rules that are consistently enforced.
  • Teachers provide adequate time for practice to embed the pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills securely. They introduce subject content progressively and constantly demand more of pupils. Teachers identify and support any pupil who is falling behind, and enable almost all to catch up.
  • Teachers check pupils’ understanding systematically and effectively in lessons, offering clearly directed and timely support.
  • Teachers provide pupils with incisive feedback, in line with the school’s assessment policy, about what pupils can do to improve their knowledge, understanding and skills. The pupils use this feedback effectively.
  • Teachers set challenging homework, in line with the school’s policy and as appropriate for the age and stage of pupils, that consolidates learning, deepens understanding and prepares pupils very well for work to come.
  • Teachers embed reading, writing and communication and, where appropriate, mathematics exceptionally well across the curriculum, equipping all pupils with the necessary skills to make progress. For younger children in particular, phonics teaching is highly effective in enabling them to tackle unfamiliar words.
  • Teachers are determined that pupils achieve well. They encourage pupils to try hard, recognise their efforts and ensure that pupils take pride in all aspects of their work. Teachers have consistently high expectations of all pupils’ attitudes to learning.
  • Pupils love the challenge of learning and are resilient to failure. They are curious, interested learners who seek out and use new information to develop, consolidate and deepen their knowledge, understanding and skills. They thrive in lessons and also regularly take up opportunities to learn through extra-curricular activities.
  • Pupils are eager to know how to improve their learning. They capitalise on opportunities to use feedback, written or oral, to improve.
  • Parents are provided with clear and timely information on how well their child is progressing and how well their child is doing in relation to the standards expected. Parents are given guidance about how to support their child to improve.
  • Teachers are quick to challenge stereotypes and the use of derogatory language in lessons and around the school. Resources and teaching strategies reflect and value the diversity of pupils’ experiences and provide pupils with a comprehensive understanding of people and communities beyond their immediate experience.

So what would you add to this list that makes freaking amazing teaching and learning?


Look after your colleagues and they will look after you

My school has been dealing with some tough circumstances in which I have found myself the leader of our school.  Headship is always something I have said I am not ready for yet, if ever, but this half-term has seen me leading my school and the excellent team of staff.

My mum always said. “You get more with honey than you do with vinegar” and this saying is bearing true in my current situation.  Just in everyday life in school, I try to go out of my way to be positive and be upbeat and lively.  I have always tried to support colleagues and lend an ear when they have needed it.  I try to make sure that I am available to talk to and, even though I may feign mock annoyance, try to help with technical gliches as quickly as possible.  I try to make my TAs feel loved and special because I know that they are vital.

In a wider sense, I see my role as assistant headteacher as one of a middle man, relaying issues to the SLT and being a voice for staff when changes are being made.  This role has always been tricky as I have a foot in both camps.

I never knew how much an effect my little acts of leadership have had until this half-term.

I know that this isn’t the right time of year for this reference but I feel like George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life.

The support my team have shown over the past half-term has been staggering.  They have taken up any slack that has arisen. They have worked their socks off and they have made me feel honoured to work with them.  All of the enormous things they have done which I know will have had an impact of their lives, like staying for extra-curricular clubs or working extra hours, even down to the smallest of acts, like making me a brew, have all made me feel like I am lucky to work in our school.

I’d like to think that these acts of support are down to all of the little acts of support I have shown over the last 12 years at my school.  Just like George Bailey, this half-term has made me realise how lucky I am.

So, what how do you look after your colleagues in school?  I want to pinch your ideas!