Headmaster's Blog

Knowing Stuff

September 17, 2020

I am sure teachers up and down the land would have been cheered (and perhaps a touch envious) by the success this week of Don Fear, a History teacher from Telford, who became only the seventh person ever to win the jackpot on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’. Dubbed ‘the internet in a pink shirt’ by host Jeremy Clarkson, Fear rattled through the questions, avoiding the usual rambling monologue about which answer to choose, instead calmly plumping for his chosen option with an assured affirmation of ‘Final Answer’. Clarkson, having to host the show without a studio audience, was clearly flustered about what his role should be, given that the contestant appeared in no mood to play along with the usual shenanigans of self-doubt and second-guessing. Fear also rejected the use of three of his four lifelines, as he was so confident in his answers, which frustrated the hapless host even more. Incredulous, Clarkson asked Fear what his secret was, to which he replied that he simply knew the answers to the questions: ‘I’m a History teacher,’ he said, ‘it’s my job to know stuff.’ This affirmation of knowledge for its own sake I found heartening. When I was…

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The Value of Teams

September 10, 2020

No matter how long you’ve been teaching, you never forget your first year. Mine was at a large independent boys school in South London. You can tell how long ago it was because, in those days, there was no NQT year, no professional induction: you were handed a timetable and effectively told to get on with it. This was no easy task, as I was expected to teach from Years 6 to 13 in no fewer than 18 separate classrooms. Armed with a plastic bag filled with various coloured chalks and a board rubber (I said it was a long time ago), I had to charge around the school, rushing from Ancient Egyptians with 10 year-olds one minute to the minutiae of the Maastricht Treaty with 18 year-olds the next. Of course, there were difficulties along the way – there always are in one’s first year in any job. But, in those less enlightened times, there was no talk of training or mentoring: it was ‘sink or swim’ and, if you weren’t up to it, basically there was no one to blame but yourself. I was in a particularly macho department. To give you a flavour, no-one opted out of…

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