Thursday, June 29, 2006


Frank McCourt
ISBN 0684865742

Every teacher has a book inside them. In some cases it is as well if it just stays there. In Frank McCourt’s case I can only say I am glad it came out into the open.

In prose a bit like a stream of consciousness, he writes about his life in Limerick and the problems of moving back to New York and trying to make headway against poverty and prejudice. So far so depressing but he manages to make it come alive and make it highly readable.

And then in the second half of the book is his life as a teacher. His description of his first lesson with a sassy New York class is a delightful and frightening evocation of the problems everyone encounters as an NQT. I can recommend it to anyone who has ever come into a classroom and found the pupils know how to handle the situation much better than they do!

He is very open about his feelings even when these are discreditable, especially when these are discreditable. He does not give himself the benefit of the doubt or cloud his emotions. When he wants to be extremely rude to his mother or father he gives his exact feelings but concedes that he didn’t actually say any of these hurtful things.

He compares being Irish and being expected to be interested in “irishness” with being black and expected to be interested in specifically “black issues.” He adds that at least he could (if he wanted) have changed his accent but not the colour of his skin.

(Grammatical note – my use of the word “they”is wrong as any English teacher will readily assert. However the Oxford English Dictionary (no less) acknowledges, perhaps reluctantly, that “they” can be used as a substitute for “he or she” where the latter would be clumsy.)

Every teacher will find something to like in this book

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

New RIG Proposals

From August, automatic pay progression will be scrapped. You haven't been consulted about this, parliament hasn't voted for it, the NUT has not been invited to discuss it. This is another present from the people who brought us TLRs, abolished your recruitment and retention allowance and scrapped the top two points from the Upper Pay Scale.

Full documentation of proposals and deadlines are at:

Click on the link and tell them what you think!

Ealing NUT have sent out a suggested resolution which schools might wish to use:

Model motion for schools/union branch meetings

New RIG Proposals*

“This meeting rejects the latest proposals on Performance Management from the government via its Rewards and Incentive Group (RIG) of social partners. We particularly regret that leaders of TUC-affiliated teacher unions (NASUWT and ATL) have met with government to agree these proposals whilst knowingly excluding the biggest classroom and head teachers’ unions.

We particularly reject:

The new mandatory three hours per year of teacher observations, on top of OFSTED or Local Authority surveillance.
The new requirement for middle-managers to determine the pay level and incremental progression of their colleagues.
The DfES’ rushed deadline for consultation of 12 July

We call on the NUT to:

a. immediately conduct a full-membership action ballot to implement NUT policy on performance management

b. seek support from the headteachers’ union, the NAHT, to implement such action if these changes are introduced in a revised School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document by September.

c. To produce press and campaign materials highlighting the detrimental effect on workload and industrial relations these proposals will bring.”

Send To:

NUT General Secretary

Hamilton House

Mabledon Place


WciH 9BD


The problem of teaching

A poster on TES website asked for teachers who enjoyed teaching to post to a thread and got a variety of responses.

After 26 years of teaching I still don't think the kids are the problem. (And believe me I teach some *charmers*!) I still think it is the perceived failure of SMT/SLT to back you up which is the problem.

It is their *job* to support staff *contra mundum*. Remind them today. Make a note to remind them tomorrow.

And if the SMT are a problem the government and the journalists are worse because they don't appear in the staffroom periodically so I can't give them a piece of my mind :)

SMT= Senior Management Team
SLT = Senior Leadership Team

If they spent half the time doing their m**********g job as they do on dreaming up fancy names for themselves, things would be better :)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Safe in Cyberspace.

I can understand the lure of the internet as a means of making new friends. Teachers talk a lot about the dangers and they do exist. However pupils are attracted by the safety as much as the dangers. They see it as an opportunity to play with monsters at a safe distance.

You are much safer in cyberspace than RL.

IRL someone can stick a knife into you. Unless there is something seriously strange about your peripherals you don't face such dangers on your computer!

Personally I never meet anyone IRL I have met online. (I know one person who is smiling about this now - well there are exceptions to every rule A!)

Hiding behind an alias and keeping a safe distance from people they chat with; being aware that the 14 year old girl is probably a 40 year old FBI agent and realising that someone in Africa probably doesn't want to give you millions of dollars. These things are probably part of growing up and perhaps less harmful than other rites of passage like smoking behind the bike shed.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Three dead at Guantanamo. TES debate

A debate rages on this issue on the TES website. It is difficult to understand why apparently intelligent people can use the deaths in London as an excuse for torturing and abusing prisoners at Guantanamo. They certainly have an alibi and have been charged with no crime.

Omar Deghayes, for example, has had no evidence produced against him and he has been tortured by the brave American guards. There is not much excuse that they were "under battlefield conditions". They had helpless prisoners at their mercy in Guantanamo, which is not a battlefield, and they tortured them.

Only a raving lunatic would presume that any and every opponent of injustice in Guantanamo was automatically a supporter of sectarian violence in Iraq. I do know that occupying armies expect to make use of sectarian divisions in the subject population - the whole history of imperialism shows that.

While Sunni and Shia muslims are fighting each other they are not ridding their country of the occupying force and they provide an excuse for the imperial power to stay. "We had to invade them because they are killing each other...of course they weren't before we came but what they hell!"

Three dead at Guantanamo. Suicide?

"Two men from Saudi Arabia and one from Yemen were found ``unresponsive and not breathing in their cells'' early Saturday, according to a statement from the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, which has jurisdiction over the prison. Attempts were made to revive the prisoners, but failed."

They have been charged with no crime.
They have never been tried.
They have been ill treated and in some cases tortured.
Now three Guantanamo prisoners are dead.
The authorities - the same authorities who told us about those weapons of mass destruction - say that this was suicide and all possible measures were taken to revive the prisoners.

If someone has been imprisoned without charge or trial and without any hope of release. If they have been subjected to ill treatment and torture and the threat of a lifetime of more of the same, how can you call it suicide?

In any case the lychin' mentality of the guards has to be taken into account as well. Faking a "suicide" would not be all that hard would it?

ITN managed to devote a good twenty seconds to these deaths after about ten minutes of World Cup trivia including extensive coverage of a family watching the world cup on the TV....this was more important news as far as ITN were concerned.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

About Linux and Windows XP

As a sort of public service, here is a piece of information which I picked up about Windows XP.

If you bought Windows XP and installed it on your computer, the odds are an irritating message saying "You might be a victim of software counterfeiting" will come up again and again, issuing dire threats and suggesting the solution to your problem - to all your problems - is to give lots of money to Bill Gates because the poor chap is hard up.

The solution obviously is to upgrade to Linux which is free. However if, like me, you might need XP once in a while for work, here is a work-around I came across. It is written by someone only identified as "Piece Meal":

1. Locate wgatray.exe and wgaLogon.dll on your PC. It is defaulted at c:\windows\system32
2. Boot your PC in Safe Mode and with DOS Prompt. Press F8 during boot will get you there.

3. At DOS prompt, change directory to the location of the files. (e.g. cd c:\windows\system32\ )

4. Delete the two files wgatray.exe and wgatray.dll. (rename is fine, but why keep it around?)

5. Reboot your PC and voila. Remember to turn off Automatic Updates feature, and tell it not to remind you of it any more.

Life is supposed to be normal and good.
Piece Meal on May 31, 2006 10:04 AM

Incidentally turning off automatic updates is done by going to Control Panel and selecting Performance and Maintenance, then "See Basic Information about your computer" and click on Automatic Updates.

And of course Linux is free to install, free to upgrade and does not give you nagging messages or enrich people like Bill Gates.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mcdonalds cashes in on World Cup

A lot of my pupils (and indeed two of my sons) like watching and playing football. I think it keeps them healthier than they would otherwise be, although they seem to get a lot of injuries.

However I notice Sainsbury's are making a pretty penny selling memorabilia of "heroes of football". A hero is someone who risks his own life rescuing a child from a burning building. It is not someone who is paid an obscene amount of money to play what is after all a game?

And McDonalds are celebrating the world cup by introducing a new big mac which is 40% bigger than its biggest current burger. They will pack a belt-busting 669 calories. That is a happy meal which will make not my pupils much healthier.

A diet high in fat, salt and sugar will kill you. How many youngsters have McDonalds bumped off?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

WSGFL and the Crawley course

West Sussex Grid for Learning has been very helpful. I have emailed members in Crawley and so far have 10 responses to the proposed ICT course. There are only a few places left but by emailing me you can be added to the database so that the NUT is more likely to organise courses.

This includes any people who want basic ICT training as well as the advanced course.

Oh and apologies for the Yahoo advertising which gets appended to my emails. I have put a signature which suggests people ignore it but it is the price of "free" email I'm afraid.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

X Men 3

The film was likable and undemanding with some good special effects. I think some of them were a bit old. Dr. Jean Grey/Phoenix transformation was remarkably like Willow in Buffy TVS except that she kept her red hair on. I was disappointed when she pulled the Matrix trick of making the bullets stop in mid air. That was so clever when they did it *for the first time* in The Matrix but it is so old hat now.

The film had a semi-serious message about prejudice and exclusionism. The idea that you can "cure" differences between people which are not illnesses is a bit of a sideswipe at Bush and his religious cohorts who claim they can cure homosexuality. And of course there are people who accept the cure because they can't take the persecution any more.

However nothing is allowed to get in the way of the spectacle. Ian McKellen is magnificent in the role of Magneto, showing you what Gandalf would have been like if he had turned to the dark side perhaps. His clothes sense alas has not improved. Nobody could get away with *that* helmet.

Vinnie Jones is a thick thug. (no further comment seems necessary!)

Rebecca Romijn is brilliant as Mystique but we don't get to see nearly enough of her. This is not a reference to the "artistically necessary" nudity. Her character has a lot of scope for trickery and cunning plots but she loses her powers early on.

It was a bold decision to kill off Patrick Stewart's Xavier and deprive Magneto of his powers. It means any sequel will be the poorer. Possibly this was intended as a way to signal this time there really won't be a sequel? If so look out for the prequel!

IMDB refers to a mistake in the film - Wolverine's wounds disappearing. Anyone who looked during this scene would have seen them healing. Special powers. Ever heard of them?