Welcome behind my classroom door! As you can see, it needs a lick of paint, but I love it. Like many teachers who teach in the same room for quite some time, I’ve become very attached to its unique ambiance: the different shades of light during the day; the sky scudding over the roof-tops at the windows; my wonderfully capacious cupboard and marvellous interactive whiteboard. You can also see the edges of my new super-duper display on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde — Stevenson’s classic horror story is one of the main texts I’m teaching for GCSE English Literature. Here’s the full glory of it:
Those two boys hiding behind the door on the header of my blog are always well-behaved, of course, and help me re-arrange the furniture on odd occasions.
As you may have guessed, I’m a teacher and I’m starting a blog for Mumsnet which offers a gently comic insight into the world of teaching. It’s not aiming to be very serious — but will touch upon some weighty themes, no doubt.
I’ve been a teacher for over twenty years now, having started teaching in the inner-city in my early twenties. I’ve taught in various comprehensives since then and held a number of different positions, including being Head of English for six years. I now teach and write on a part-time basis. Most importantly, I am at home by 3.30pm to be with my son, who goes to the local state school. I’ve found that being parent has changed my view of teaching and has made me much more curious about the children I teach.
“Sir, you’re really interested in teenagers’ lives, aren’t you?” one pupil said to me the other day. I guess I am. My questions are friendly but cautious. Teenagers need their privacy like everyone else. One thing that worries me a little is that the FaceBook generation find it difficult to know what should be kept private — and what shouldn’t.
In my twenties, I used to be a bit threatened by teenagers — and was quite a controlling teacher as a result, endlessly shushing and admonishing. Although I still have my rules, I’m a lot more relaxed now; I find that talking to my students about what’s happening in their lives can be a lot more beneficial than telling them off. Understanding and discipline go hand-in-hand. For me, teenagers need both nurture and structure, with nurture being more important, ultimately, than structure. They need to know that you’re listening, that you care, that you want the best for them. That’s the bedrock for all good teaching — and parenting.
I have written 5 books, including I’m A Teacher, Get Me Out Of Here, and write a “political” blog about education at the Local Schools Network. I am about to publish a novel, The Last Day Of Term, which is about a teacher whose whole life crumbles on the very last day of term.
All the action takes place on one day and charts the disintegration of Martin Hick’s career and marriage. It’s told by two narrators: Martin, and a former pupil of his, Béla, who is a sixteen-year-old who lives with his impoverished but aristocratic Hungarian family. Béla has been permanently excluded from school because Martin believes he threw a firework at a teacher — who then had a heart-attack and died. When Martin learns that he’s been suspended from work because of an anonymous allegation of child abuse, he naturally assumes that Béla is behind it all. In his attempt to clear his name, Martin and Béla re-connect — with surprising consequences…
Here’s a short film about it that I made: