Lesson 64. Goodbye to the Boys in the Band

Lesson 64 on Learning to be ashamed

The naming and shaming aspect of Ofsted prompted the teachers in Owen’s school to fret over different things.  With Mr TopJuniors it was his spelling.

Mr TopJuniors had been educated at a time when the systematic teaching of grammar and spelling had been deeply unfashionable. His talents and interests also didn’t lean towards these particular topics.  His great strengths were Maths, Science, Sport(in general) and Football(in particular). He was very much valued in school.  After all, just how often do good mathematicians opt for primary teaching?

When I was involved in teacher training, good maths and physics graduates were like hen’s teeth.  We did everything we could to lure them into the classroom.  We ignored government guidelines insisting graduates teach all three sciences and welcomed with open arms maverick physicists, who preferred to teach physics and maths. 

When this was finally outlawed, I would recollect the qualities of past students and regret the loss of the nonconformist. One of my favourites played in a band.  Everyone knows what this entails – staying up late on school nights and not doing your homework. Our experience, however, was that such individuals also tended to be interesting, creative people with a number of performance skills, useful in getting their subject across to reluctant teenagers.

My favourite was one of those.  At the end of his training year, he cheerfully phoned us from his interview at a prestigious independent school.

“Hi Anne, could you possibly spare a couple of minutes to speak to the headmaster? I can’t remember which part of the coursework I’ve got to resubmit, so can he have a word with you?”

What could I say? This young man is talented and confident. He loves his subject. He’s a team player, good in the classroom, but he doesn’t fit the government prototype of a model teacher? Of course the irony of the situation was that the independent sector didn’t have to care – they snapped him up!  It was only the poor old state system that lost out.

Mr TopJuniors fell into something of a similar category.  As a practitioner he was calm and constructive, taking difficult pupils and situations in his stride. His room was an orderly and cheerful place to be. His pupils made good progress. He just couldn’t spell. Everybody knew it.  Pupils and colleagues were happy to help.  He welcomed any corrections. It wasn’t a disgraceful secret.

But now he was worried sick about writing on the board during Ofsted week. 

He decided he would have to set about re-inventing himself.

Because, when he listened to the official naming and shaming rhetoric, Mr TopJuniors knew he came in the wrong packaging.

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