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‘Sir’ is a state school English teacher in a big city in the UK. Prior to this he worked with children with a variety of Special Educational Needs, particularly those with behavioural and social problems. His teaching has been rated as ´Outstanding´ by Ofsted which means he once did a great job for 50 minutes. Save for a light dusting of fiction in order to protect the innocent (and indeed the guilty) anything recounted here is absolutely true. Otherwise, there will be some exciting political debate where everything Sir thinks is also absolutely true. Twitter: @seekingsir

17 June 2010


The pupils in my training school all have school diaries. Aside from the expected weekly-planners and so on, they also have assorted inspirational slogans and educational witticisms printed all over them in a kid-friendly graffiti font. One of them reads: ‘You can’t plan to succeed unless you succeed to plan’. I could not agree more. Indeed, I have just planned a rather superb opening lesson for my ‘Introduction to Shakespeare’ scheme of work for Year 10 Set 3. It has everything: group work, fancy worksheets, exciting and engaging facts (did you know, for instance, that the Globe theatre was commonly used as a brothel?); it even has an interactive quiz as a plenary.

But here is the real stroke of genius.

I had passed a craft shop in town the week before and seen some of those stick-on ‘googly-eyes’ and the idea had hit me like a lightning bolt from the Lord of Pedagogy. Admittedly, I had just stepped out of the pub but I was convinced that I was going to single-handedly create something that would revolutionise education in a way not seen since someone managed to make chalk into little writing sticks.

I took an empty can of Boddington’s bitter and painstakingly attached pipe-cleaner arms and felt hands (yes, you can actually buy felt hands), being careful not to let the Sellotape show. I drew and cut out a small cardboard mouth with a toothy grin and Pritt-sticked it to the front of the can. Best of all, I meticulously crafted a mini mediaeval-style beard and moustache from a specially purchased sheet of black card.

Come Sunday evening, I carefully pack my ingenious invention into my back-pack along with the usual contents of marked books and board pens. I take the time to wrap it carefully in two Tesco bags for cushioned protection – it’s the very least it deserves.

Ten minutes into period 3 and the moment to unveil my creation to my unsuspecting pupils is upon me. Yet, oddly, what seemed such a luminary idea last Saturday afternoon does not seem so ingenious now. Quite a long way shy of that in fact.

It quickly dawns on me that I am standing in front of a class of 30 fourteen-year-olds, at least 10 of whom are actively hostile, holding an empty can of Boddington’s bitter which is inexplicably sporting a pair of googly eyes. What’s more, some prat appears to have painstakingly attached pipe-cleaner arms to it. The fool has even given it tiny felt hands! It has a small grin Pritt-sticked on its front and, worst of all, it has a tiny mediaeval beard and moustache which have clearly taken far too much effort to make. Nevertheless, it is too late. There is no backing out now…

The class goes quiet for a brief second before Jarred vents his bafflement: ‘Sir, what the hell is that? ‘

I wiggled my creation from side-to-side. It’s ‘Shakes-beer’ I say.

For the first time since I have been working with this class there is absolute, pin-drop silence. Jarred is looking at me with a strange wince. I think I can see pity in his eyes. ‘Sir’, he says, ‘that is ‘sooooooooooooooooooooooooo bad.’ A group of boys at the back make the sound of wind and motion a ball of tumbleweed bobbling across the room.

I had succeeded to plan; I had planned to succeed. Regrettably, however, I had planned something quite unfathomably stupid. I begin to question my mental health.


  1. A genius is never appreciated in his own time. It's not your fault the English language has yet to bless the world with a literary colossus called Stabby McASBO or Ringtonio Switchblade.

  2. Wow, I've never really been into blogs or twitter but I love your posts and honesty. "Empathy, Behaviour Excuses" warmed my heart and gave me goosebumps. But you reminded me that you (we) are teachers because we can make a difference and have empathy/love as you call it.
    I might even open a twitter account so I can follow you. I teach in France in an extremely easy school.

    1. Thank you. I'm afraid I'm a bit useless at regular posts or tweets (or indeed noticing blog comments that were left 6 months ago…!) but your feedback is much appreciated. If you do open/have opened that Twitter account prepare to be seriously underwhelmed… :)