(At least) three things that are wrong on so many levels

1) Theft in multi-storey car parks ((c) Tim Vine)

2) The leaning tower of Pisa (*) (@facesake)

3) Farting in lifts.

Also, getting caught telling filthy dyslexia jokes in the staffroom by the headteacher as he washes out his mug.

For the record, a student colleague kicked us off with the notion that DNA stands for National Dyslexic Association. And so I chipped in with my series of similar spelling jokes recorded over the years. The are as follows:

Dyslexic pimp – bought a warehouse
Dyslexic devil worshipper – sold his soul to Santa
Dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac – stayed up all night wondering if there was a dog (Jasper Carrott)

(Which also leads to the necrophiliac sadistic guy into bestiality who wondered if he was flogging a dead horse)

I also forgot the fabled slogan of the DNA – Dyslexics of the world – untie! – but I did get in the joke stolen from @Pundamentalism just this morning – his filthy reimagining of the old standard cheesy chatup line “If I could rearrange the alphabet I’d put DNA inside U.”

Fourteen years ago, I caused a bit of offence on Usenet with a series of schizophrenic jokes not hugely dissimilar from the ones above. Worryingly, the text of what I wrote on the Archers newsgroup fourteen years ago is still easily findable and I have just been rereading the subsequent exchange. In a way, I don’t know what’s more disturbing – that I can recall the exchange fourteen years later, or that it’s so easy to find throwaway conversations after such a long time. I rest assured that anyone going for dirt on me would have an awful lot to dig through.

And the substantive point, made by Simon Townley so well, still remains: outsider jokes like the schizophrenic and dyslexic ones are funny, but also have masses of capacity to offend those directly affected. They are almost always completely inaccurate in their characterization of the nature of the other. And so my conclusion: I will probably carry on telling these jokes, but they are almost certainly better placed in the pub than the staffroom. I have no idea what sort of sense of humour my present headteacher has.

(*) I have been consulting style guides to work out capitalization, but Guardian and Wikipedia silent thereon.


Three horror stories about teaching interviews

Stories I have heard about how mean school HR staff and headteachers go about recruiting. I have no way of knowing whether or not they are true.


The school had a preferred style for referring to its charges. They were students, not pupils or children. They were referred to consistently on the school’s website as students. Applicants who used the wrong word in their application letter were summarily rejected, regardless of their other suitability.


The school preferred neat, organised candidates. Whilst the applicants were busy with interview day procedures, the school sent someone out to look at their cars in the car park. If they were untidy or messy or showed other signs of a less than organised personality, including not being regularly washed, then it was a black mark for that candidate.


Horror of horrors – the school made all sorts of IT available to the candidates for their interview lesson… but planned to hit the trip switch half way through the lesson. How well could the candidate continue teaching when they didn’t have their planned electronic resources available to them?

(This last one happened, not during an interview, but during an Ofsted observed lesson, to a colleague at school. The homework sheet became the rest of the lesson.)

I don’t think most schools would do anything like the three above horrors, and I have not been subject to anything like it on interview myself. Most of my interview days have actually been quite nice affairs, with headteachers keen to show their schools in the best possible light and all the candidates being super collegiate in the inevitable long pauses as we wait for the next activity.

May posts over the years

A whole bunch of blogs I read have been trawling their archives for the last few weeks, and since substantive posts here are few and far between, I though I’d join in the archive unearthing.

Come September, I will have been blogging eight years, and there is an awful lot of writing hidden away in these pages. Some days I think I should pull the plug given my career change. But I am generally too proud of what I have written over the years.

It’s coming harder and harder to give a rationale for this blog. No one person would want to follow the mish mash of politics, cooking, cats and lately education. But I still like having a place I can write things.

Looking back to May 17ths past…

In 2011, I was improvising cherry cheesecakes out of store cupboard ingredients, and making good use out of a bag of frozen cherries. I’d lost my seat a few days before, and wrote some helpful tips for successors after that.

In 2010, I live tweeted from the Lib Dem Special Conference that discussed the coalition agreement.

2009 saw me giggling at swearwords on Countdown. I also brought you this photoessay from a recent walk I had undertaken around Nottingham’s Guildhall.

In 2008, I was enjoying my work.

Similarly in 2007, I had just had the fascinating opportunity to tour a power plant in Lincolnshire.

We got our cats in 2006 and it pleases me no end to see the comment from Rob there when in the last few days I’ve been able to reciprocate on his post about getting a puppy.

I rewarded myself in 2005, after a gruelling election campaign, with a six week holiday under canvas in France, and one of the first posts from the multi-thousand-mile road trip can be found that month.

So, there you have it. Travel, animals, francophonie, politics. A reasonably typical mix of posts from Niles’s blog.

Tomorrow is the last Tuesday of teaching practice

For the last 14 weeks of term time I have hated Tuesdays because it is my “busy” day – I have been teaching four lessons out of the six slots on the timetable. It has caused me a lot of anxiety most weeks preparing for it. Two of the classes I only see once a week, and I share with another teacher, which is difficult because it is harder to build relationships, work out what they are capable of, and build up a head of steam. The other two are the only classes I see more than once, but have been difficult in their own special, other ways. All four groups, for different reasons, make me doubt any nascent ability as a teacher I might have. Consequently weekends and Mondays over the last few weeks have been getting harder and harder.

Knowing that tomorrow is my last ever one of these is a bit of a relief. But then again… in my mind is the ever present knowledge that next year, starting September, if I get a job that is, a four-lesson day will be at least the norm, if not one of an NQT’s lighter days. If I’ve struggled this much now how will I cope next year? There’s a variety of opinion about whether the NQT year is easier than the PGCE one, but the main conclusion I seem to be drawing is just that it is differently hard. Out go the essays and assignments, the bittiness and the gaps caused by sudden recall for university days; but in come the hard graft of maintaining class control by yourself, the longer term work with groups, the responsibility for young people’s futures and new and scary ways of being accountable to colleagues, headteachers and parents.

There is no question this has been a challenging year in which I have been questioning my sanity, my plans for the future and my sense of self. There are many aspects of working in schools and teaching which I am really enjoying. The classes that let you “feel like a teacher” where you can sense the progress and see your students engaging with the curriculum. The first time the “difficult Y11s” seem to like you enough to acknowledge your presence in a corridor rather than sullenly averting their eyes. Staffroom banter is awesome and working with other teachers is great. After many years away from languages, working in a community of linguists – at school, at university and online – is really inspiring.

But is it enough to counter the aspects of teaching that are causing the sleepless nights, the loss of appetite and the early morning up-chucking? No job yet for next year (although 3 interviews in schools have been productive and give me hope). I’m not yet very good at class control, behaviour management and even name-learning, from which any sort of maintenance of discipline and good teaching hangs, is a constant struggle.

I dunno.

Ask me next year.

Librivox release recording of the Pirates of Penzance

A recording over five years in the making, it’s worth leaning on what a technical accomplishment this is.

Dispersed volunteers around the world, most of whom have not met each other, have spent five years making a recording which has recently been released. This includes a number of people who have sung chorus parts whose individual recordings in various parts of the world have been skilfully merged into one MP3.

You can download the recording for free.

I’m credited as being in the chorus, although I don’t actually remember making any recordings of this!