Monday, 8 August 2016

"Two legs good - Trump bad"

The flood of prejudiced bile* triggered by Donald Trump' and some of his supporters, plus some in the UK referendum debate and ISIS's media statements all test my belief in humanity's inherent goodness.  It will lead to despair unless.... all, who want better than this, speak up and act..

What I believe

Most of us, when young, naive and protected, are naturally wary, even afraid, of the different, the unknown and strange. So, how our family, friends and communities allow us to learn about difference defines us as individuals, groups and nations.
If we are taught to open our hearts and eyes and engage with strangers we will rarely, if ever, be disappointed, wherever we travel. We will come to know the huge majority of all people are decent, caring and, on balance, good. 

As we mature we begin to recognise a small minority who raise fears, well in excess of their numbers. These are the terrorists, bigots, racists, murderers, abusers and oppressors who transfix our media by creating hurt, and carnage. My experience, and belief, is that this minority is found across all races and creeds.
But there are also malicious leaders who deliberately incite fears about this minority. Their trick is to claim a lie as truth. They repeat that the dangerous minority is, in fact, a threatening and increasing majority. They go on to confuse descriptors, so: foreigners, immigrants, asylum seekers, economic migrants, terrorists and whole races appear as synonyms. They inflate real fear by imagined association.  I fear the dangerous minority but despair of those leaders who inflate my fear for their political gain.
If you share my belief in the common good of humanity it is useless unless we are prepared to do something about it. All with good hearts must rise up and say enough... remaining silent and cowed is not an option. We must react when we hear of simplistic arguments about "types of people - all being the same" by creating a more thoughtful debate by arguing discussion is richer when based on more evidence and less opinion. We must challenge and question anti-social acts carried out by a subset of an identifiable group. But we must never believe, for one sad second, that all evil has its origin in a particular race, colour, creed or type because that signals regression into the childish fear of the different.
Let's judge individuals, their actions and their arguments without prejudice and search for truth and fairness wherever it appears. Maybe we have to accept there will always be huge events of horror and carnage, plus individual acts of bullying, oppression and abuse caused by that minority.  Certainly, we must challenge and vote out weak leaders who label a race, creed or type because, "one who who seemed to be of their kind" committed an evil act. Only then, will we reduce the backlash of their ignorant followers who respond, mob-like, by injuring the innocent. 
How we fair in this regard will determine the future of humanity..
* If you doubt what I am saying about "bile spewing out" spend a few minutes reading the contributions of those who use UK social media to state, triumphantly that #Brexit will stop problems, "Caused by immigration" and allow us to "take back control". Or, listen to Trump and his supporters who believe that building a wall on the Mexican border and stopping Muslims coming to the USA will "Make America Great Again". The claims by ISIS that, "Our god is great - those who disagree are infidels" is just another example. 
I wrote the first draft of this BLOG in a Spanish bar where I did not speak the language, nor they mine. I was made welcome and sensed a genuine camaraderie. I was thinking then as I had done in many places before, this how it should be in our world. Of course I was thinking of Orlando, The EU debate, Jo Cox's assassination in July and, in this redraft: Nice, Baghdad, Rouen and especially perhaps Trump's rise in the US. ..

Oh, Scotland!

Oh, Scotland!    -   After the Referendum 1

Oh, to be in Scotland now that ‪#‎Brexit‬'s here
To drink a dram o'whisky and leave my warming beer.
Oh, to walk the wild hills with freedom in my mind.
To be tolerant and proud and leave prejudice behind.
Oh, to feel the clean air and yes, the gentle rain
Living in a country that wanted to #Remain.
Remain in touch with others
Who stand in line and fear
With the sisters and mothers
With the fathers and brothers
Clutching children near.
Oh, I'll douse my tears in waterfalls
To hide my deepest shame
That Britain is now shrinking small
And will not be Great again.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Students' History of our World...

I was going to write a serious BLOG today - Then lost the will to be sensible....

An important point before giggles.  This morning I received an email from Lisa, a good friend in the US, containing some familiar exam howlers.  Prompted, I looked up a compilation of these I put together a few years ago.  The first of these appeared in the Daily Mail in 1917 as examples  of, "How the young generation are illiterate and much needing of a good education".... Hmm... 

And, lest, we educated adults, forget, we all experience mis-learning.  Come on be honest! Just one example of a personal howler... It is 1970, I am an NQT, an English specialist, in the staffroom.  We are discussing "Lord of the Rings" I reduced the room to hilarity when I said, "Well, some of the credit must go to Tolkein's translator....".  

What personal howler makes you blush?

Students' History of the World
Compiled from examination and essay howlers I found plus a few I met as teacher...

The inhabitants of Egypt were called mummies and they wrote in hydraulics. They lived in the Sarah Dessert and travelled by Camelot. The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere, so certain areas of the dessert are cultivated by irritation. The Egyptians built the Pyramids in the shape of a huge triangular cube. The Pyramids are a range of mountains between France and Spain

The Bible is full of interesting caricatures. In the first book of the Bible, is called Guinness, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. One of their children, Cain, asked "Am I my brother's son?" God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Montezuma. Jacob, son of Isaac, stole his brother's birthmark.  Jacob was a patriarch who brought up his twelve sons to be patriarchs, but they did not take to it. One of Jacob's sons, Joseph, gave refuse to the Israelites.The natives of Macedonia did not believe in Paul, so he got stoned.

Pharaoh forced the Hebrew slaves to make unleavened bread, which is bread without any ingredients. Afterwards, Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandos. David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. He fought with the Philatelists, a race of people who lived in Biblical times. Solomon, one of David's sons, had 500 wives and 500 porcupines.

The Greeks were a highly sculptured people, and without them we wouldn't have history. They invented three kinds of columns - Corinthian, Doric and Ironic. They also had myths. A myth is a female moth. An example of Greek myth is Jason And The Golden Fleas.  Another myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intolerable.  Achilles appears in "The Illiad", by Homer.  Homer also wrote the "Oddity", in which Penelope was the last hardship that Ulysses endured on his journey. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of the same name. Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him.  They did this by forcing him to have an overdose of wedlock.  After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline. In the Olympic Games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the discourtoous , and threw the java. The reward to the victor was a coral wreath. The government of Athens was democratic because the people took the law into their own hands. When they fought the Parisians, the Greeks were outnumbered because the Parisians had more men.

Eventually, the Ramones conquered the Geeks. History call people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long. At Roman banquets, the guests wore garlic in their hair. On one occasion it was terrible when Pompey was destroyed by an overflow of saliva from the Vatican. Julius Caesar extinguished himself on battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March killed him because they thought he was going to be made king. Dying, he gasped out: "Tee hee, Brutus".  Nero was a cruel tyranny who would torture his poor subjects by fiddling with them.

Then came the Middle Ages. King Alfred conquered the Dames, King Arthur lived in the Age of Shivery.  King Herod mustarded his troops before the Battle of Hastings,  Joan of Arc was burnt to a steak and was cannonized by George Bernard Shaw, and the victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks. Finally, the Magna Carta provided that no free man should be hanged twice for the same offence.

In mid-evil times most of the people were alliterate because the had the same names as their jobs. The greatest writer of the time was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and verse and also wrote literature. Another tale tells of William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son's head. In the Middle Ages people lived in mud huts and had rough mating on the floor.

The Renaissance was an age in which more individuals felt the value of their human being. It was an age of great invertion and discovery. Martin Luther nailed faeces to the church door at Wittenberg for selling papal indulgences. He died a horrible death being excommunicated by a bull.  It was the painter Donatello's interest in the female nude that made him the father of the Renaissance. It was an age of great inventions and discovery. Gutenberg invented removable type and the Bible. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes and started smoking.  He was well known for playing with his bowels when the Spanish Armadillo came.  Another important invention was the circulation of blood - it goes down one leg and up another moving through veins and arteries and eventually ends up in little caterpillars at the ends of your fingers.

The government of England was a limited mockery. Henry VIII found walking difficult because he had an abbess on his knee.  Queen Elizabeth was a virgin but as a queen she was a success. When Elizabeth exposed herself before her troops, they all shouted, "Hurrah". The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. Shakespeare never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He lived in Windsor with his merry wives, writing tragedies, comedies and errors, all in Islamic pentameter.  In one of Shakespeare's famous plays, Hamlet rations out his situation by relieving himself in the middle of the stage, it is called a long soliloquy. In another paly, Lady Macbeth tries to convince Macbeth to kill the King by attacking his manhood. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet.  Romeo's last wish was to be laid by Juliet.

Writing at the same time as Shakespeare was Miguel Cervantes. He wrote "Donkey Hote". The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote "Paradise Lost." Then his wife died and he wrote "Paradise Regained." During the Renaissance America began. Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic. His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe. In the middle of the 18th-century, all the morons in America moved to Utah.

Meanwhile in Europe, the enlightenment was a reasonable time. Voltare invented electricity and also wrote a book called "Candy". Gravity was invented by Isaac Walton.  It is chiefly noticeable in the Autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.  Bach was the most famous composer in the world, and so was Handel.  Handel was half German, half Italian and half English. He was very large. Johann Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large number of children.  In between he practised on an old spinster which he kept up in his attic.  Bach died from 1750 to the present.  Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf.  He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him.  Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.

France was in a very serious state. The French Revolution was accomplished before it happened. The Marseillaise was the theme song of the French Revolution, and it catapulted into Napoleon. During the Napoleonic Wars, the crowned heads of Europe were trembling in their shoes. Then the Spanish gorillas came down from the hills and nipped at Napoleon's flanks. Napoleon became ill with bladder problems and was very tense and unrestrained. He wanted an heir to inherit his power, but since Josephine was a baroness, she couldn't bear him any children. Madame Pompadour gained in power while being placed under the king.  The Mona Lisa was the most beautiful woman ever to be laid on canvas.  At this time Merchants appeared and roamed from town to town exposing themselves and having big erections in the countryside called Country Fairs

The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West.  Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years. She was a moral woman who practised virtue. Her reclining years and finally the end of her life were exemplary of a great personality. Her death was the final event which ended her reign.

The nineteenth century was a time of many great inventions and thoughts. People stopped reproducing by hand and started reproducing by machine. Samuel Morse invented a code for telepathy. Louis Pastuer discovered a cure for rabbits.  Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the "Organ of the Species".  Madman Curie discovered radiators. Eddy Stone invented electricity by rubbing cats backwards and forwards on plastic.  Yogi Bear invented the television and Karl Marx became one of the Marx Brothers.  The First World War, was caused by the assignation of the Arch-Duck by a surf.  This ushered in a new error in the anus of human history.

And now we have the present today but it will soon be history.  But in this age of equality where so many women are fermenting it should be called herstory because, you must remember it is not all about men.


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Happy New Year - The Resolution Matrix

The Resolution Matrix

How to make great New Year Resolutions.

Millions of us around the world, will be partying and thinking about the year ahead as midnight approaches.   New Year is an opportunity to rethink as well as celebrate and no doubt we’ll be translating dreams into a few resolutions.

Image result for new year party

Every year I ask: will I keep them? Do I really want things to get better?  

This year I want to boldly go where I have failed before, by making resolutions that lead to a better life.  I've been saddened about what happens in our world (see my last post)   So, I’ve been thinking hard about what the best, most useful, resolutions for 2016 might look like.   I have, today, designed my Resolution Matrix and I’m sharing it (drum roll) Might it work for you too?

My hypotheses behind the Resolution Matrix are:  The least good and a deluge of harm will follow from those who only make resolutions for self-fulfilment, personal benefit.  Localised good may well be realised by those who only go for the best for their chosen few (family, friends, community, race, religion or nation etc).  Some good will be gained by those who seek to improve the lot of mankind in general.  But a better world will only ever be achieved if enough of us resolve to make a positive difference to the earth, our planet.  

I have a chant that simplifies this four level progression from pure selfishness through altruism and wisdom, 

“For me – for us - for everyone – for everything!” 
(for the origin of this see "The Tower")

Of course we all need to look after ourselves but if we stop at egotism it can render us selfish and blind us to the needs of others.  So too can a resolute focus on our chosen few – family, nation, religion and belief set.  We all want the best for our own and yet this too will become self-defeating if unknown or unfamiliar others lose out or are harmed.  If enough resolve to better the lot of mankind in general, there is some hope.  But unless a critical mass made up of you/me/humanity, take meaningful actions to protect, improve and sustain the planet there will be nothing for mankind, our chosen few, or each of us as individuals. It really is that simple. Isn’t it?

Using the Matrix.

You can either use the matrix to plot your resolutions using the boxes, or make your resolutions and check them out against the matrix.


If your resolutions only fit the red and amber boxes they will, by definition, only benefit yourself, or your chosen few.  Whilst there are times when all of us have little choice but to look after ourselves and those we feel closest to, two things follow.  First, it is easier if others help us when we are vulnerable, suffering, or ill, and second, we should resolve to help other when we are in a position to do so.  But communities, nations and humanity are heading for trouble if those who can help others do nothing.  Bluntly, if the majority of resolutions at New Year are in the lower boxes there will be more selfish and ethnocentric acts in the year ahead.  

If, however, a majority of our resolutions match the green and greener boxes, i.e. they include not only hopes, aspirations but actions and plans for everyone and everything, there is a real chance that humanity at large will act in sustainable ways, not just for ourselves and our own, but also for everyone else and everything.

Of course we must survive and thrive as independent individuals and communities but the higher order resolutions have to be about caring for others, the flora, fauna, environment and infrastructure of our planet. It's about recognising our interdependence – I like to think of this as wisdom – acting for the common good.

So there you are: a simple hypothesis a Resolution Matrix and, most importantly, a hope that more of us are able to lift our eyes beyond ourselves and our own.

A Happy New Year and all together now,

“For me, for us, for everyone and yes, for everything!”

I'm still collecting those sayings, principles and "common goods" I asked for in my last post... best sent to 

Sunday, 27 December 2015

A Christmas and New Year request...

Stick with it, there's a question for you - I need your help...

I've become increasingly wearied and saddened at the news media. Especially hearing about more zealots, both religious and non-religious, who claim to "have the only answer" and who go on to patronise, assail, criticise, attack and even try to kill those with different beliefs.... To combat my sense of hopelessness about all this first I'm saying Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone with a good, open (non bigoted) heart.

Secondly, I'm making a resolution earlier than usual and wondering if anyone will help me fulfil it?

I'll tell you my personal belief at the end of this post but it's actually unimportant because I don't believe, for one minute, that any one religion, or no religious belief, or political movement captures the whole truth. I'm beginning to realise that it's the proselytising of any one code, belief, religion or political doctrine as "the only way" that is one of the greatest global problems...
I have a deep sense that when we clutch our one truth closest we are blinding ourselves to greater truths...

So what?

So, I'll be thinking over Christmas of all the men and women, of religion, and of no religion, who gave and give their lives to making a positive difference.  More importantly, I'll be wondering about all the good folk, who don't celebrate Christmas. I'll ask myself who they remember as role models, idols and people to look up to and how and when they do it?  I'll be wondering my what their ethics and moral purposes are.

This leads to my resolution.

In 2016 I'll be looking at the SHAP calendar to remind myself and find out about the great principles and beliefs that unify all human belief systems, religions and and political movements.
I know that's a huge task. To make it simpler I want to discover what unifies us (not what makes us different). What do most thinking people believe is, "good" and "makes the world a better place"? In other words I want to discover our "common goods".

My question for you...

I'm starting my quest by asking you, "What would your top belief, principle or ethic be? What quotation, mantra or maxim sums up your meaning of life?" I'll be making a list and see where that leads...

Finally, what I believe. 

Well, I've been Christian, atheist, agnostic, flirted with Hunduism and Buddhism and other religions and am back to calling myself Christian again. We went to Church this Christmas, it was wonderful, but I won't ever claim that mine is the only worthwhile belief and that, somehow, others have got it wrong.

I just have a faith, that there is a wealth of great goodness out there and I'm resolving to find and celebrate the best of it. I'm just asking - What do most good folks agree?  What are our common goods?


I really ought to wish everyone well, not just good, open hearted (non bigoted) people. That's tough but here goes,

 "Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year!"

The SHAP Calendar

The Shap e-Calendar of Religious Festivals is an invaluable resource for the teaching profession, students, businesses, chaplaincies, those in health care and public services, to name but a few. It is recognised as the most accurate and…

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Emma’s question

Emma Kell

Emma Krell describes being faced with an arresting question during a particularly demanding and frustrating period in her new educational role hereNudged by our mutual friend, Bill Lord, Emma asked me the same question "Can you see it getting better?”   My first thoughts were, “Who asked that and why?” and “How to respond?”  It struck at my heart and leads to a warning before my Director’s Cut of a reply..


Before you risk reading this you must consider my circumstance.  It will affect your response.  Check this: I am not a classroom teacher anymore.  I'm long gone as head, adviser and senior inspector. I'm freelance. For some, there is another reason for rendering me irrelevant, like the woman who on entering the room before a course I was running looked at me and grimaced, “Oh, you’re old”.  So, you may be thinking that he can’t possibly understand Emma’s, or my, situation and, anyway, denuded of all status and power to bestow furtherance, he’s not a “more powerful other” for me.  My only challenge, to those who think this way (come on we've all met them eager, swivel-eyed at conferences and events) is, “OK I'm an old man, 45 years after qualifying and a long way down my road less travelled.  I may have lost some of my muscled purpose but I'm still kicking against the pricks and consider this. When you’re my age, you’ll still be trudging towards retirement”.  If that doesn't make you ponder Emma’s question little will.  If not, click off and find something quick, simple and smooth-skinned to take your mind off thinking too deeply.  For the rest, maybe my fulfilling and arduous journey through our profession and my still enthusiastic striving, will create hope and value in what follows.  Final warning - it contains some of that outmoded stuff that Emma values – advice.

Can you see it getting better?
Emma’s question captures a search for meaning in troubled times.  It’s been in my head all my working life.  I've written poems about it. My BLOGS and articles echo with it here and here  Almost all my school improvement work, CPD and training have its music behind the words.  It’s been a nightmare when I was forced to answer, “No”.  It’s been a huge challenge when working with those beginning to form a, “No”in their heads.  The least I could do was answer it properly for Emma and Bill and myself.

First, let’s dismiss the version uttered, soft voiced, by a smug coach-type cajoling Emma to finger nail herself out of, what they would claim is, her self-inflicted, “demanding and frustrating experience”.  There’s a precise place for coaching but not when a colleague wants and needs an answer.  Advice and a firm handhold are often the best way forward.  Offering what we National College Facilitators call, “non possessive warmth”[1] is sometimes Ofsted inadequate.

Can you see it getting better? Assumes the worst of times and is best imagined as a plea by the questioner for some kind of hope from their local optimist.  It may even be a tentative, “Are you (too) finding what we are currently experiencing unbearable?”  It might be a gentler way of asking, “Can it get any worse?”  Whichever, it’s a brave ask for someone struggling who recognises a momentary lapse of reason. They want help, to share an inspiration, to think more positive and feel hopeful.

So, here I am your local optimist free forever from your:  bell ends of unfinished, oft disappointing lessons; trials of marking; bored over-preparation;  sleep chasing, sexless nights;  beamish leadership and sodding administration! [2]   I've taken time to offer Emma and Bill, and anyone else still reading some sort of answer.  It’s simple and complicated like all things – if you think long enough about them.

My simple answer is, “Yes, I can see it getting better, if you look at what you do with a view to doing it better.”  Is that simple enough?  Johnny Wilkinson, commenting in a Rugby World Cup studio, observed that Team Talks are usually full of simple one liners, “Be positive – stay calm – keep focussed” but these maxims only mean something when we are told what to do to achieve them.  In other words, we have to know the complicated before we can make it simple. So, let’s get complicated!

But before I do I want to recognise those hopeless circumstances where the only answer to Emma’s question is a realistic, “No, it’s not going to get better!”  Emma’s is almost certainly the last question pilots, and their passengers, climbers and their companions think before calling out, “Shit!” and hitting something solid.  I read somewhere that’s the most common last word - gruesome.  So we must think of accidents, natural disasters and terminal illness as circumstances when things do get worse and we are confronting suffering and probably death.  Along our way we will all be frightened in similar ways but I have come to believe, after surviving a few of my own, that even with a few seconds to think, we can still find a better way to face the ultimate horror.

That paragraph should push any over-dramatised view of personal circumstance into its wider context.  This is not to deny that we teachers[3] have witnessed slow professional deaths and real illness in long suffering colleagues and badly managed schools.  We have all seen, in recent years, the zest for our work dulled by a deep learned helplessness.  Countless surveys of teacher well-being, mental health, unhappiness and increasing suicide are indicators of the deleterious effect of a discourse of derision from, not just, right wing politicians and their tame press.  Only the fools amongst us have avoided countless, sleepless, seemingly pointless nights moaning, “Can it get better?” I have tested out my view that it’s never been this bad and no one has seriously disagreed.  I’ll return to the endgame later.  In the meantime how I come to answer a positive “Yes” is even more important.

Image result for teachers failing headline

First, I assume that we teachers, when we started, wanted to make the world a better place. I've checked this with hundreds over the last few years and almost all agreed.  Some had forgotten that spur and drifted off course but most accepted their vocation remains the firmest foundation to an inspirational, “Yes” in response to Emma’s question.  I often say that teaching is the best job in the world if you really want to do it and the worst if you don’t.
Thinking more deeply about my own resounding, “Yes,”   I realised it is a blend of of five, interdependent, sub questions.  Because I can answer “Yes x 5” my overall answer is a  “Yes”.  So what are your Big5 answers?  I’ll offer a few qualifying phrases to help....

Can I see it getting better:

  Globally?  Yes, I feel, on balance, hopeful about the future of our world.
  Professionally?  Yes, I can see a way forward for myself and others in our profession.
  Locally?  Yes, I'm positive about potential success in our team, school and community.
  Personally?  Yes, my own and my family’s health and well-being is as good as it can be.

Obviously, each of us has a different world view, professional circumstance and local situation.  These all change, none more quickly than our personal factors perhaps.  So, we must answer our own Big5, honestly, alone, albeit with help... 

It becomes obvious that, when helping colleagues by listening first, those who say, “No” to one, or more, will have a hard time getting to an overall, “Yes”.   The more “Nos” the more unbearable their teaching life - their whole life perhaps.  Each of our own realities mean that we cannot, even after hours of listening, really comprehend the other’s circumstance and offer anything much more than, “Oh dear,” “there there’s” an actual, or metaphorical, or a banal, “Hang on in there”.   We have to walk away at some point and think hard how best to really help them - if indeed we can.

So, those 5 sub questions (are there more?) make any individual’s response unique and therefore any generalised answer to Emma’s question useless.  This points up the futility and frustration, of a type of BLOG, article, paper or talk about, “The State of Education” or “My take on your work”.  For someone with one or more “Nos” these are a blathering and infuriating accompaniment to reality.  It’s when these well meaning, fit and unpressurised “5Yes” colleagues presume to speak at, for and on behalf of others.  The worst talk fluent superman or superwoman and inhabit an imagined world of total well-being.  These are the tossers in suits, male and female, who bounce into reception trailing bandwagons and briefcases full of “answers”.  I got fed up of this sort spouting crap at conferences years ago.  But, as I wrote in the preface to a poem at the time, “Superhead” there’s a bit of all of us in there somewhere.  I still belly laugh at their inevitable comeuppance (read the poem below) I will perhaps learn to do it more quietly one day.

I see that the latest bunch of tossers in suits are selling “Teacher Well-being” in Booklets and  “Happy Teacher Bags”. The latter contain Smiley Face Badges and Chocolate Hobnobs amongst other crap - Urgh!.  Do they really believe sugar and false smiles ward off depression, cancer and bereavement?  Imagine how it feels, if you are being bullied, feel a failure, haven’t slept, or taught the wrong syllabus, to “wear a happy face” or, “have a night off from marking on Thursday”.  

The next is an additional paragraph (added 5.11.15) following some tweets which appear to suggest I don't care and am misunderstanding "well-being" #teacher5aday etc They go on to champion those bags and badges....

For those colleagues who have recently been part of giving out badges and bags I must be clear I do care about well-being. I am arguing for proper, integrated, focussed well-being, as a part of good leadership.  I'm warning against tokenism, tactical, simplistic, one-off quick fixes.  These are to my certain knowledge carried out on "Well-Being INSET days" run by individuals (what I deliberately call tossers in suits) who turn up do their bit and go. I'm also wary of a school just producing bags and badges as a panacea. 

These alone will change and help nothing and can actually do harm by alienating hurt staff. I have many examples of the latter and several replies to this BLOG from teachers who feel this way.  I am arguing, as I have since the 1980s, what I précis below as PSHE for staff.  This is about a strategic view of well-being and may include such tactics (if you really must) as part of an overall approach which has to be about far more (care about workload, behaviour support, counselling, proper professional development etc) I'm happy to share materials on this because it is about a differentiated approach to CPD not a one size fits all. (Please see materials on my website here  It's a full session on setting up a "Teacher Well-Being Group")

back to the original text  

We really must get serious and recognise the hopeless circumstances that all of us experience at some time and find ways to help suffering colleagues.  This requires good leadership not bloody wellness kits.  It may mean time off, a modified workload, looking for a new post, a new job... it will certainly mean more than hectoring, harassing and hoping all will get better.  If we want well-being we need well-meaning, well-wishing and well – good leadership. This includes pastoral care and PSHE for teachers too and it must be in place before we can even consider moving on.

So, those of us who dare to teach teachers must offer more than simple one liners and generalities.  We must describe what can be done to achieve our simple truths.  We must offer process, more than content.  It’s what I've been trying to do for decades  (sense the frustration there do you?) based on a firm belief, rooted in research, that the best and only way forward, for our profession, is to seek answers together and not to have them tossed on us from on high and afar.  We all risk being just another tosser dancing on a bandwagon selling snake oil.  That fear should slow us down but never stop us.... So, here is  my specification for to finding positive answers to your BIG5 and a confident overall, “Yes!

Can we see it getting better:

 Globally -  Yes, if we can teach our students ways to be hopeful for the future of our world. This will require excellent Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Education (SMSC) based on a careful description of global, “Common Goods”. These are the beliefs and principles all the great religions, philosophies and reasonable people agree upon.  They are stored and described most succinctly in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (and Rights of the Child)  here  Most colleges are surprised to find these are a legal requirement for all schools in signatory countries.  By the way, the articles blow out of the water any thought of unique “British Values”.  What a stupid and unnecessary debate that was and is.

     Professionally?  Yes, if we work interdependently supporting and challenging each other to succeed and present a powerful, professional front to any doubters out there.  There are giants in our communal literature who have paved the way for this.  Amongst the hundreds of these are my heroes: Kurt Lewin, Peter Senge, Michael Fullen, Alma Harris and John Hattie.  There are so many more and the best all have process solutions in their models and systems. They all value sharing, collaboration and a sense of common purpose. Whilst I love my twitter I fear for an unqualified cohort of colleagues junk-reading scraps and tittle tattle.

Locally?  Yes, if we understand what success in our team, school and community really looks like. This means mining our community’s wants and needs and blending them in with those standards and benchmarks of a national system.  We must cherish the local, “Plus what?”  and be prepared to describe, in detail: Ofsted+, Estyn+, Dubai Schools+  etc+.  It is not either-or any more than it was ever Pastoral or Academic, Arts or Sciences, Traditional or Progressive.

Personally?  Yes, if we prioritise our own and our family’s health and well-being by first understanding we are role models and will be copied.  We must practice what we teach and we can only do this if we speak, drive, eat and think more carefully.  If we take more time to write shorter letters. We can’t précis a PhD into a tweet so we must be ready to get our minds fit for longer, considered pieces.  We must get fit and stay fit. Show me an unfit teacher and I’ll show you an unfit teacher. Every a photocopier requires switching off, its parts checking and a rub down with an oily rag. When were you last rubbed with an oily rag?

Readers who know me will see something emerging here.  Each of my Big5 have a set of specifications attached. Call them what you like: success criteria; descriptors; desired states; visions; targets; goals or outcomes.  These too are meaningless unless they become a blueprint for action.  So, the really, really, really hard work is about the rigour of self-evaluation, analysis and planning to achieve each measure, one by one, in priority order.  These are the tough days and nights behind my simple, “looking at what we do with a view to doing it better next time”.  No one ever said it was easy to succeed and sustain success. So Emma, your, our, final hurdle is sticking with it until it’s done.

The really, really,really hard work

Rigorous self-evaluation leading to action planning requires an attention to detail that, only the most successful are prepared to apply.  It requires a devastating personal honesty, an attention to minute detail and banishing self-delusion.  It is about knowing what has to be done and having the will to see it through until it is done.  The driver of success is your will.  Reading about climbing a high mountain and failure to do so in, “Summit Fever” recently I caught something I immediately knew was true. 

“Enthusiasm may get you started, bodily strength may keep you going for a long time, but only the will makes you persist when those have faded.  The will is the secret motor that keeps driving when the heart and mind have had enough." Andrew Greig “Summit Fever 
It was a revelation. Like a more powerful other who gave far too little feedback once said, “I'm glad you said that John, I was just about to think it”.  It was his best complement.  So, here’s mine in advance Emma and Bill,

“Deep in their hearts, they knew what success meant and had the will to achieve it”.

John is creator of The iAbacus the on-line self-evaluation and planning tool that incorporates the rigorous process he describes here.  It is preloaded with a range of national and specific success criteria

[1] This really was (is) a criteria for NCSL facilitators described as a warmth towards the person coupled with a studious refusal to possess their issue by making judgements or giving advice. I wrote a piece about what I guessed was the opposite of this  "Chilled Possession" the preserve of Ofsted Inspectors. What a daft profession we are at these times.

[2] Before you dismiss this list they are recent set of grumbles from a clutch of colleagues.

[3] Of course I’m still a bloody teacher. If you care about the kind of world you live in, the kind of society you inhabit and the sort of family you have created you can’t just pack away the mental tools you honed in the classroom and lie down on a beach, or sofa and forget about it.