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Friday, 3 April 2015

Reasons why teachers get nervous about Ofsted inspections

I thought, for the Easter weekend, I'd give you an extract from 'Miss', the book I'm editing, ready to tout it round agents and publishers. In the book, 'Miss' is worried about an imminent Ofsted inspection, her husband is going to walk out on her, fed up with her workaholism, and she is about to find out that his old flame will be one of her Ofsted inspectors ....

I hope you enjoy the extract. I enjoyed writing it. Happy Easter holidays!




As 11F arrived, jostling at the door with the tardier members of my tutor group, I remembered that Max King, my teaching assistant for this class, had a meeting with his line manager. Also, I'd left my photocopied worksheets on a shelf in the Reprographics room downstairs.

‘Right, Year 11. Settle yourselves. Phones away. Ties on.’
I turned to a blonde girl in the front row. She was critiquing her flawless face in a mirror. 'Maisie, sorry to interrupt your beauty routine, but I need a favour.'   
She dropped the mirror into her blazer pocket.  'Can I have a merit?’
I sighed.  'You should help people in distress without needing reward.’
‘If it's that bad, then it's worth a merit.’
'I'll go, Miss,' said Caleb, next to Maisie, grinning. ‘You know I’m a champion athlete.’ He had moved from Ghana the previous year and now sprinted for Warwickshire.    
'It's only to Reprographics,' I said. 'Not Wales and back.'
'It's all right, Miss,' Maisie said. 'I'll do it.’
'Hang on, Maisie.’ The class wasn’t settling and it was my fault. I turned to the board. ‘Year 11, copy the date and this title. Quietly.'
I wrote, 'Friday 2 February. Making your reader tense'. 
 Ofsted wouldn’t approve of such a bumbling start. Neither would they sympathise with my insomnia or domestic problems.    
Hang on. Weren’t they responsible for some of my domestic problems?

Pupil 1: What is the date?
Pupil 2: It's on the board. Use your eyes.
Pupil 3: It says the second of February.
Pupil 1: Write it down then.
Pupil 3: But it's the first. I know it is. It's my dog's birthday.
Everyone: Oh, Miss! You got the date wrong.
Me: Sorry. Sorry.
I rubbed out the 2 with the heel of my hand and replaced it with a 1.
Pupil 3: Now it says it’s the fernd of February.
Me: ‘Fussy!’  

‘Right, Maisie. At last.’ I told her where the photocopying was and she left. Too late, I noticed she hadn't even opened her book. She liked discussion and debate, but was much less keen on writing. 
Caleb had noticed too. 'What do we do when we've done that?' he asked, glancing at Maisie’s untouched book, as sly as old age. 

11F were resitting Creative Writing coursework they'd flunked in Year 10. They weren’t easy to manage. Too many had particular needs and some were notorious for behaviour problems. It only took a break time argument, a row with Dad the night before, or a bad Maths test result for someone to kick off and others to follow, like sheep. Carefully-crafted lessons could hit the dust.
No, don’t observe me with Year 11, Ofsted. Come and watch me stuff a sack with squirrels.   

Marissa tossed back her hair. A young Kate Bush doppelganger with untamed black tresses tumbling down her back like a free spirit, she wanted to know if tense as in tension was the same as tense as in past and present tense. I was umming and erring, therefore grateful when Maisie returned with my photocopying. A Twix wrapper lay on top of the papers. She presented the pile to me as though it were a purple cushion with a crown on it.
'Thanks, Maisie,’ I said, taking the papers but giving her the wrapper. ‘Put your rubbish in the bin. Why were you eating in the corridors?'
'It's not mine.’
'Whose is it?'
'I don't know, Miss,' she said. 'But it was right next to your photocopying.’
The class began to laugh. 
'Why would I have asked you to collect a Twix wrapper?’ I said.
'I don't know,' she huffed. ‘Only trying to be helpful.' She dropped it into the bin then sat down, flipping open her exercise book.
Caleb pointed to the whiteboard. 'You have to write the date and title.'
'Obviously,' she said.
It's a good thing he's an athlete, I thought, because the diplomatic service isn’t going to take him.

They used the photocopied worksheets to match tension-building devices to their definitions, then I asked, ‘Before we start writing, who can tell me the worst way to end a story? I mentioned this last week.’
There was a pause. Last week? We’re not elephants.
Maisie had an epiphany. 'But it was all a dream!' she said, throwing up her hand.
‘Well done!’
Her grin was wide. 'Can I have that merit now?'  
I started a merit list on the board, writing her name. 'I give in,’ I said. ‘Despite the fact that you thought I would litter Reprographics with a Twix wrapper.’
I turned back to the class. 'I want you to write the beginning of a story,' I said, ‘using at least four of the devices on your worksheet. And, Karl, to do that, you’ll need to put the phone you’ve got on your lap away or I’ll confiscate it.’
‘You couldn’t see it,’ he scowled. ‘You were facing the board.’
‘Call it intuition,’ I said. ‘Put it away.’
‘What’s intuition?’
‘Here’s a dictionary,’ I said. ‘Keep that on your lap instead.’

Ten minutes before the bell, I asked for volunteers to read. Most had embraced the task; a minority had needed more persuasion. We’d had a Tippex-for-nefarious-uses confiscation, an argument about a boy kicking someone’s chair, and a girl who’d cast a Geography teacher as a psychotic serial killer and needed help with alternative ideas. 
Oliver, usually quiet, with glasses and floppy light brown hair, said, 'I’ll read mine, if you like.’
‘Great, Ollie. Can I play Instant Critic?'
He nodded, cleared his throat, cleared it again, and began. 'It’s called ‘Christmas’.’
‘Okay.’
‘I always thought my mum and dad would be together for ever,' he read, 'like in fairy tales.'
The class went quiet. I drew a giant tick on the board and underneath, 'narrative hook' and 'simile'. 
'But that goes to show,' he continued, 'how wrong you can be. At Christmas, we did have some presents, but we never got to open them. They stayed under the tree, as though they'd been abandoned.'
I wrote, 'emotive' on the list. Girls said ‘Aaah’ and ‘That’s so sweet.’
'This is good, Ollie,’ I said.
'I don't know what the argument was about,' he read, 'and I don't suppose I ever will.  Now.'
I wrote, 'increasing tension'.
'By the end of the day, Dad's brown suitcase was in the hall.’
He stopped.
I wrote, 'visual image'.
'My mum kept saying, "But it's Christmas.”’
I wrote 'direct speech', feeling crass and wishing I'd never started this.  Oliver's story was like a sharp stick, poking at my own hurts.
I turned. 'Carry on.'
'That's as far as I got, Miss,' he said, and closed his book with a slap. 
Caleb said, 'That was bare sad.’
I wrote, 'bare sad'. Caleb had spoken for us all. Why be fastidious? I gave Oliver a merit.
After Oliver’s, we heard another boy’s story, featuring a zombie attack on the school dining room. His reading was interrupted by the bell as a mutant was gnawing at the leg of a dinner lady. 
Oliver stayed behind as the class surged out. 'Did you like my story, Miss?'
'It was moving,' I said. 'It must have been hard to read, so soon after the event.'
'Oh, that was two years ago,’ he said. ‘It’s all fine now. Mum’s just had another baby.’

He skipped off. 

Miss couldn't wait for the holidays. Something had to be done about the Hair.

16 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. This is why I feel like such a great teacher on Inset days when I don't have to teach anyone.

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  2. Just one word, 'brilliant'.

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    1. You are very kind. I'm glad you liked it.

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  3. Took me right back to the classroom...and, no, I don't miss it! I love learning new English words. I'll have to work "reprographics" into a conversation.

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    1. Not easy to say after three gins, that's for sure.

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  4. Well, that was jolly good. Funny and yet touching. You sound as if you've invented lots of plot too, which I think is the hardest bit.

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    1. Funny and yet touching is what I want to hear! Thanks so much.

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  5. I'd rather be a lion tamer .

    ( I love 'bare sad' . It's sort of crept under my skin though ... )

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  6. Brilliant Fran. Loved it. Can't wait to read the rest of the book. Happy Easter! xx

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    1. Let's hope it won't be TOO long before it gets published, Mandy. Don't hold your breath, though .... Glad you liked it.

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  7. Replies
    1. I couldn't have you say a nicer thing.

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  8. Wonderful. And don't say, "You would say that, wouldn't you?" I'm saying it cos it is...funny, sad, tender, moving, hits-you-in -the-guttish. In short, I liked it :)

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    1. Thank you! Am spending my Easter holiday in Wales editing the rest of it. Snip. Snip. Snip. Fortunately, am here with my daughters, so that I can read them bits and they can say, 'But is that really relevant to the story?' Snip. Snip. Snip snip snip.

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