Showing posts with label teachers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teachers. Show all posts

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Download School Ties for free today

Will Hughes slammed his pen down in frustration. It was ten fifteen on a rainy September night and he’d been marking Hamlet essays for more than an hour. And what a bloody shambles they were too. Admittedly he was teaching the bottom set, but he was stunned by the quality of the teenagers’ work. Some could barely string a sentence together, let alone use an apostrophe properly. Only one had produced work that showed any understanding of Shakespeare’s most famous play. 

Trying hard to stay awake, he took a gulp of cold instant coffee. He was less than halfway through the pile of scripts and at this rate he’d be hard-pressed to finish them by midnight. Worse still, he’d promised to take the first fifteen rugby squad on a training run at dawn.

For the umpteenth time, Will wondered why he had returned to teaching. He’d left his last school a year ago to join an up-and-coming Shoreditch advertising agency. Yet now he’d had another change of heart and given up his skinny lattes and generous expense account to return to the chalkface.

Not that Downthorpe Hall was a tough place to work. It wasn’t. Compared to the early years of Will’s career, when he’d been a young English teacher at a tough inner-city comprehensive, Downthorpe was the cushiest number imaginable. A private school dating back two hundred years, it was housed in an elegant Cotswold mansion, complete with castellated turrets, a winding two-mile drive and acres of playing fields. It had once been an all-boys school, but had gone co-ed twenty years ago. The decision was deplored by the old guard but had succeeded in giving the school’s academic results a much-needed shot in the arm.

Will stretched his arms out wide to keep himself awake, then stopped. He could have sworn he heard a loud whirring noise outside the window. It sounded like a helicopter. But that was impossible. Not at this time of night. And not so close to the school.

These are the opening paragraphs of my latest ebook, School Ties. If you’d like to read more, you can download the novella for free on Amazon today. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

School Ties - a new novella set in a school

Downthorpe Hall is a posh boarding school in the wilds of the Oxfordshire countryside.

Fresh from working in an inner-city comprehensive, Will Hughes has just been appointed as the new head. He knows there will be a host of challenges ahead. Tricky parents, rebellious teenagers and teachers who will fight his attempts to reform the school.

He doesn't expect a battle for his heart.

But when he meets two women - the fiercely ambitious deputy head and a brilliantly smart science teacher - Will realises that the ties at Downthorpe are not just the kind you wear around your neck.

What follows is a tangle of competing ambitions and desires that leave Will bemused - and could force him to choose between the job he has always wanted and the woman of his dreams.

That’s the blurb for my new novella School Ties, a romantic e-book set in a school.

From Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers to Jilly Cooper’s Wicked!, I’ve always thought boarding schools provide brilliant settings for novels. So when Endeavour Press asked me to write one, I jumped at the chance. It’s out this month and I’d love to know what you think…

School Ties by Emma Lee-Potter (Endeavour Press, £1.99)

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Just William - and how to succeed

School heads are a redoubtable breed. I’ve met loads in my time and most of them have bowled me over with their enthusiasm, clear-sighted focus and commitment to education.

On one occasion I interviewed the super-inspiring head of a girls’ school. She wore leopard-print stilettos, knew every girl in the school by name and when she spotted a pupil using her mobile phone during school hours (strictly forbidden) showed her supreme displeasure by raising an eyebrow just ever so slightly. She was one of the most impressive people I’d met in a long time.

But quite apart from the shoes and the raised eyebrows, the thing that’s stuck in my mind ever since is the advice she gave to her pupils.

“If you want to do something then set your mind to it and make it happen,” she told them. “Think ‘I can and I will succeed.’”

The idea sounded like Just William’s arch enemy Violet Elizabeth Bott (“I’ll thcream and thcream ‘till I’m thick”) stamping her foot to get her own way but I reckon there’s something in it. So here are  my aims and objectives for the day. I’m going to write two articles, finish my new e-book, research a press release and book my car in for a service.

Will the plan work? Hmmm, I’m not so sure…

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The trials and tribulations of paperwork

When I went slightly mad a few years ago and decided to try my hand at teaching (I was useless), the main thing that made me throw in the towel was the endless paperwork.

For every lesson I taught at my local FE college, I had to fill in reams and reams of forms. There were the schemes of work to plan out lessons for the whole of the academic year, the lesson plans covering every single second of every single lesson and something called “reflective practice,” where I had to analyse everything from what teaching principles my lessons demonstrated to whether the class seating plan was up to scratch.

Admittedly, I was a trainee teacher so seasoned pros probably don’t have to bother with the reflective stuff, but even so, I was delighted to read in the Huffington Post this week that teachers’ paperwork is being cut right back.

According to the HuffPo report, the government has scrapped hundreds of pages of guidance issued to teachers. Schools minister Nick Gibb said in the House of Commons on Monday: “I am aware that many teachers are doing enormous amounts of overtime and that is a tribute to the professionalism of teachers in our schools today. What is important is that overtime is not spent filling in voluminous forms or reading huge arch lever files of guidance.”

Quite. For every second I spent agonising over my forms I reckon I could have taught my A level English sets the entire works of Tolstoy. Twice over.

PS. When we lived in France, my son loved Golden Grahams (above)But when we came back to the UK I couldn't find them anywhere. But now they've miraculously appeared on supermarket shelves again. Result? One very happy teenager...

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

My short-lived teaching career and Kelvin MacKenzie's explosive speech

My teenage son’s trying to decide which universities to apply to. The only trouble is that after poring over countless websites, they’re all starting to blur into one. Neither of us can remember which university boasts 22 Nobel Prize winners or which has a library with four million books.

But one thing I know for sure is that my university ambitions are over. I learned my lesson the hard way a few years back when I was mad enough to sign up for a teaching course. I can’t for the life of me think why, but on the spur of the moment I foolishly decided to ditch the day job and retrain as a college lecturer.

Within days of registering it was obvious I’d made a terrible mistake. After years of working as a solitary freelance I loved being with other students all day but I couldn’t stand the endless paperwork. We all had to practise teaching our fellow students, which seemed perfectly reasonable. But then we had to fill in reams and reams of forms – everything from what teaching principles our lessons demonstrated (I mostly didn’t have a clue) to whether the class seating plan was up to scratch.

Because we were teaching over 16s, we had to explain what we’d do if students texted, swigged alcohol, spat, swore, took drugs or even pulled a knife in our lessons. Eeek! They wouldn’t do anything like that, would they?

I lasted precisely six months before I threw in the towel. And no, I’m glad to say I never taught anyone who carried a weapon or a flask of whisky in their back pocket. But the experience wasn’t entirely wasted. I don’t get fazed at speaking in public any more, I can do a PowerPoint presentation and my admiration for teachers knows no bounds. Trust me, it's an awful lot harder than it looks.

PS: Newspapers are in the news again after an explosive speech from Kelvin MacKenzie this afternoon. The ex-editor of The Sun never minces his words (that’s putting it mildly) and sure enough, during his appearance at the Leveson inquiry he turned on everyone from David Cameron to former News International boss Rebekah Brooks. Years ago I was on the receiving end of Kelvin’s straight-talking style after I was offered a job at The Sun. I’d just joined a Sunday paper and when I pitched up at Wapping to meet Kelvin (no one ever calls him Mr MacKenzie) his first words were “you haven’t had much in the paper yet, have you?” I couldn’t argue. He was dead right.

PPS: I'm not usually a fan of herbal teas but I’ve just discovered Summerdown’s delicious peppermint tea (above). I'm so hooked that I'm on my third cup of the day.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Twenty tricky teenagers

My must-see TV of the week is Channel 4’s Jamie’s Dream School – the series where Jamie Oliver gets a host of celebrities to teach 20 tricky teenagers who’ve left school with barely any qualifications.

The science teacher is fertility expert Lord Winston (who’s already hit the headlines for getting the boys in the class to study their own sperm). History is taught by Dr David Starkey, politics by spin doctor Alastair Campbell, drama by Simon Callow, music by Jazzie B (the best teacher by a mile, I reckon), art by Rolf Harris and maths by economist Alvin Hall. Other experts helping out include barrister Cherie Booth, sailor Ellen MacArthur, rapper Tinchy Stryder and former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion.

Over two months the teachers have attempted to inspire the 16 to 18 year olds and (hopefully) persuade them to return to education. On the whole, the celebs have been utterly useless, especially the ones who blithely assumed they could stand at the front, talk about themselves and instantly command the students’ attention. They couldn’t of course. Most lessons have seen pupils walking out, yelling at the teacher, even picking fights.

The truth is, as the celebs have discovered to their cost, that teaching is an awful lot harder than it looks. I’m speaking from experience on this one. I tried my hand at teaching the same age group a few years ago and it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

Looking back, I’m not sure I taught my lot very much at all. One girl fell asleep every lesson, a boy whizzed his skateboard along the classroom floor, others chatted and texted pals when I wasn’t looking and as for handing their work on time – sorry, it rarely happened.

Now Jamie has experienced what life in the 21st century classroom is really like he’s been quick to praise the teachers who do it day in day out. “I have to say that I’ve never admired teachers more than I do now,” he said. “Until you’ve tried it, you can’t possibly know what it’s like standing in front of a group of young people who aren’t interested in what you’re saying.”

If only a few of our politicians would give it a go too.
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