‘I didn’t get where I am today by telling the truth.’

Have you ever noticed a person disappear while they are talking to you? You enter the school office in the morning; your child has a massive splinter. Ask the ladies behind the desk for tweezers. You expect them to try to get the splinter out before the register; give the lamb some sympathy. But you haven’t read the risk assessment for splinters. The lady behind … Continue reading ‘I didn’t get where I am today by telling the truth.’

‘Only machines make no mistakes’

‘The dead-alive also write, walk, speak, act. But they make no mistakes; only machines make no mistakes, and they produce only dead things. The alive-alive are constantly in error, in search, in questions, in torment.’ Yevgeny Zamyatin Part of the reason I finally decided to abandon teaching was the awfulness of A-level preparation. The same moment that stacks of great books were at long last … Continue reading ‘Only machines make no mistakes’

‘Long-famous glories, immemorial shames’

‘Mama, what colour paper should I use to draw The World War?’ ‘Green?’ ‘I’m going to use purple because of the darkness and the gas.’ And I’m thinking, ‘who told her about the gas? She might have a nightmare.’ Tiny bits of information leave powerful and lasting impressions in children’s minds: the few facts they learn at school might become all they know about a … Continue reading ‘Long-famous glories, immemorial shames’

‘I’ve got thoughts and secrets and bloody life inside me that he doesn’t know is there’

It’s hard to wake up after half term. My daughter is tired; she gurns, claims to ‘hate school’, ‘hate porridge’ and ‘hate babies’ (a dig at her brother). I lose my temper before we leave the house. Alas we don’t live in a utopia where all adults are kind and reasonable, all children go to bed early and school is fascinating. Any parent knows that … Continue reading ‘I’ve got thoughts and secrets and bloody life inside me that he doesn’t know is there’

‘At best, he learns how to avoid punishment.’

While reading about Octopus behaviour, I was reminded of my daughter. Peter Godfrey-Smith relates ‘famous octopus anecdotes…of escape and thievery’ (Other Minds, 2016, p. 55). For instance, a certain octopus, when fed with thawed-out squid (‘second-rate food’), waited for the scientist who had fed it to walk back past the tank: “It had not eaten it’s squid, but instead was holding it conspicuously…the octopus made … Continue reading ‘At best, he learns how to avoid punishment.’

‘I am dealing with people and not with things.’

My daughter’s teacher had a quiet word after school about how she gets upset and declares, ‘I can’t do’ Maths. As we walked away, my daughter covered her ears, shut her eyes and half shouted, ‘I know what you were talking about!’ Her teacher only wants to help. It is especially important just now as they head for the SATS at the end of Year … Continue reading ‘I am dealing with people and not with things.’

‘moanday, tearsday…’

Knowing my daughter’s education was beyond my control felt odd when she first started in reception. After two years I’m used to that – most of the time. Apart from when she has to read an eye-wateringly dull book; or when I ask ‘what did you do at school today?’ – ‘I can’t remember. Nothing can I have a snack?’ Who is in control? It’s complicated. First Blair’s … Continue reading ‘moanday, tearsday…’