Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Driving ambition


Developing good teachers can be a little like making mass-produced modern cars but there are still a few distinctive models to be found in staff rooms, insists Mike Hodgkiss.

Cars used to have individual style and flair with an emphasis on high performance. Now they are all much the same and have to conform to reams of regulations to meet environmental concerns and health and safety standards.

We are told that we want cars that are comfortable and quiet, which brings to mind the Highly-Strung Teacher, who also needs peace and quiet. They will seek out the secluded corner of the staffroom, never shout up at meetings and avoid having to speak to parents... but they will shout "Quiet!" a million times a day. Weird.

Then there is the Funny Teacher. Some teachers like telling jokes - unfunny, pathetic jokes. My best advice to students in these classes has always been to laugh, for two reasons. Firstly, if a student goes "Hee, hee!" when all the others say "Err, what?" they will soon become the favourite, with all that entails.

Secondly, by not appreciating the jokes the student will simply encourage the funny teacher to either repeat the joke or, even worse, tell more in an effort to make the class laugh. Of course, the alternative strategy is to encourage the teacher to tell more jokes because more laughs mean less lesson.

Then, of course, there is The Ranter. In my experience these are often found in maths departments. Everything can (must) be viewed numerically and, for them, it is all so easy. The feeble attempts of students to cope with algebra and quadratic equations are enough to send them ranting and raving.

They will always have a supply of pens, pencils, pairs of compasses and protractors in their jacket pockets or handbags and are prone to throwing pupils' exercise books in the waste-paper bin (recycling box now) when they get a question wrong. They can be moody, which is understandable because maths can give you a headache.

Maths teachers ought to be logical but in my experience they say the daftest things like, "Every time I open my mouth, some idiot starts talking," or "Is that the sum total of your homework?"

Then there are the teachers who can only be described as Dictators. They are bossy, tyrannical and despotic. They want their own way all the time. The danger signs are bulging eyes, red cheeks, dribbling lips and quivering jowls. They speak very slowly and deliberately in CAPITAL LETTERS.

Who are Flitters? They are the very agile and nimble teachers, moving around the classroom like a bird trying to catch a worm. They love to experiment and are very practical with their hands. They love nature and all living creatures, especially the small furry things. Unfortunately, because they flit so much, they tend to forget that they have already said the same thing - over and over again.

Questions that Flitters live in fear of hearing include, "What's this switch do, miss?", "Was that meant to happen, sir?" and "Can I lick the spatula?"

Games Teachers, on the other hand, don't have a nickname as this would trivialise what they do and who they are; their job is serious. They rarely take off their tracksuits and trainers except for parents' evenings when nobody recognises them so they can go home early.

For these teachers, the big concern is what they do when the tennis elbow or the dodgy knee or bad back (or more likely all three) catches up with them. Years ago, there were special posts created for them, such as master in charge of furniture, teacher with responsibility for stock, or examinations officer. With the advent of workforce reform, these positions are harder to come by. Perhaps they could go and work for the Department for Carpets and Soft Furnishings.

Mike Hodgkiss is a deputy head in Essex.

Want to have the last word?

The Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you'd like to share your humorous observations of school life, please email Sara Gadzik at leader@ascl.org.uk ASCL offers a modest honorarium.

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