Showing posts with label Financial Times. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Financial Times. Show all posts

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Middle-aged men in Lycra

At 9 every Saturday morning a posse of cyclists speed down the street, clad in sleek (and very chic) black and white biking gear.

They’re all part of the local cycling club, heading for the steepest hills in the district. When he’s home, my teenage son is out with the peloton like a shot – and now my husband’s caught the cycling bug and signed up too. He’s had his 20-year-old bike overhauled (“where on earth did this come from?” said the man at the bike shop, marvelling at its retro yellow and pink paintwork), bought a ton of Lycra and begun stockpiling energy bars and flapjacks.

The first weekend he returned four hours (and 80 kilometres) later, ashen-faced and stunned by how tough the ride had been. He hadn’t taken any food, got caught in a downpour with no wet weather gear and suffered a puncture. But his fellow cyclists were kindness personified. They shared their food, lent him a jacket and patiently waited for him to sort his tyre out.  

My husband’s clearly not the only one to have turned into a cycling fanatic. Fired up by Bradley Wiggins’s triumphs, middle-aged men all over the country seem to be getting on their bikes. In the FT’s Life & Arts section at the weekend, editor Lionel Barber wrote about his gruelling weekend bike trip across the Pyrenees – wittily titled “Blood, sweat and gears.” And thanks to his article, I have now discovered I’m married to a “MAMIL” – a “middle-aged man in Lycra.”

But friends down under have coined a different term for middle-aged cycling enthusiasts. My friend Virginia emailed from Brisbane to tell me: “We call them VOMITS - very old men in tights!”

Monday, 7 November 2011

What 21st century teaching is all about

“I wouldn’t last very long here,” admitted Sandy Nairne, director of London’s National Portrait Gallery after spending the morning at a primary school in Hackney, east London.

Nairne was visiting Jubilee Primary School as part of a “job swap” organised by the Cultural Learning Alliance, an initiative where senior staff working in education and the arts spend a day shadowing each other to see what different jobs entail and to discuss new ways of introducing children to culture.

The minute-by-minute demands of headteacher Jacqueline Bruton-Simmonds’ working day clearly made a huge impact on Nairne. As Lucy Kellaway wrote in her Financial Times piece about the swap (above), the head’s day began with an 8am staff meeting, then continued through a whirlwind of teaching, observing classes, discussing everything from teacher training to school heating and talking to parents. “Headteachers have two jobs,” she explained. “We are managers and we teach children. We have to squeeze it (all) in.”

I’ve long thought that if politicians, business leaders and celebrities tried their hand at teaching they’d soon discover that it’s an awful lot harder than it looks. I’ve taught in schools and colleges in the past and it’s the trickiest thing I’ve ever done. For a start, today’s children, the internet generation, are very demanding pupils. As a teacher, you can’t simply stand at the front and deliver a “chalk and talk” lesson – or you’ll bore your class to tears and they’ll switch off. You have to devise interesting lessons, keep the students’ attention and ensure they actually learn something along the way.

When I interviewed teacher Oenone Crossley-Holland about her book on the stresses and strains of working at an inner-city school, she told me: “When you’re working in a school in a challenging area there are no quick fix solutions. You have to have a whole toolbox of different methods you use every single day, every single lesson and every single minute.”

And as the brilliant Channel 4 series Educating Essex showed, teachers juggle so many different roles. As well as helping teenagers to achieve at least five A*-C GCSEs, teachers like the wonderful Mr Drew, deputy head at Passmores School in Harlow, Essex, also have to support them through problems like bullying, family breakdown, friendship issues, teenage pregnancy and many more.

Headteacher Vic Goddard stressed that his teachers refuse to give up on their pupils. “If we just permanently exclude students when the going gets tough, who is going to redirect these young people to avoid them becoming the underbelly of our society in the future?” he said. “Being a headteacher is about moral purpose and ensuring I can look myself in the eye in the morning when I do up my tie, knowing that we have done all we can to ensure that every student has a future that can contribute to society positively.”

It's an approach that clearly works.
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