Friday, 28 June 2013


Last weekend I went out for a birthday with lots of twenty-somethings.

I felt SO. OLD.

Some of them weren’t even that much younger than me.  Only a couple of years, but they seemed so much younger. We went to a bit of an impromptu house party for a friends birthday; just a little bunch of gays, none of whom I really knew.

But it was really fun.

But they just don’t get tired. And they can drink so much. They made questionable home-made horrorshow cocktails comprising whatever random nastiness they could find. Wine and beer and sambuca and vodka and whatever else they could lay their hands on.

I even drank it.

But they just appear to feel no effects at all. They just carried on. I was already hungover before I went to bed. It was awful.

But then I started thinking... ‘Hang on. I remember this.’ And I recalled when I first started working in schools and I socialised with the little school crowd and really started drinking properly, that’s what we did.  

We drank anything. Everything.

Even really horrible things we didn’t even want or like.

I’d forgotten. Or repressed it, maybe. But maybe it’s not that different.

Either way, they are hardcore. Or I’ve become really, really softcore.

Don’t get me wrong. We had a lovely time. An amazing time... I’ve never met such a warm, welcoming group of people in my life. They were great.

But so young.

And they party too hard.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Dissertation Complaints Service

I handed my MA dissertation in a month ago. A month before the deadline, I hasten to add. It has since been forgotten and life is good, calm and relaxing again. 

The Guilt is gone.

But now they write to me asking for my feedback on the dissertation supervision process. 

And what a can of worms they have opened.  This isn't, I should add, what I sent them.  This is what I wrote whilst writing my dissertation, every time I received any feedback for a chapter I'd just submitted to my supervisor. This is what I wrote in preparation for the day I would be asked to comment on the process. My actual response is a lot kinder...

10 problems with the dissertation supervision process.

1) Your sentences are too long:
You insist that 'mixed SEN classes' has to be changed to ‘classes of pupils with many different special needs diagnoses’. ASC pupils has to be changed to ‘pupils with a diagnosis of autism spectrum condition’.
If you make me write long sentences then ALL MY SENTENCES WILL BE LONG!

2) Canvas vs. Canvass. 
I want to canvass staff opinion.  Canvas is old sacking.  Please stop telling me to write about old sacking.

3) Avoid grouping pupils by SEN. Consider them as individuals.
THIS IS WHAT MY DISSERTATION IS ABOUT. In my teaching, of COURSE I consider pupils as individuals.  It’s not about diagnoses. But this dissertation is about a stereotype in labeling and in grouping of students. I am trying to explode a myth about pupils with autism and with EBSD.  It is VERY hard to do that if you aren’t allowed to a) USE THESE TERMS, and B) Consider the pupils as groups.

4) Your dissertation needs to be about that.
No. YOUR dissertation might be about that.  Mine is about this. Please stop trying to change what I’m actually investigating long after the research has taken place.  You agreed to the research at the very start.  You said it was interesting. You said it was brave. You said it was new. Now I’ve actually done it and I’m writing about it, stop telling me to change the focus and talk about pupil emotions and treating pupils as individuals, on the understanding that “this will be more interesting”.  That is NOT the focus of my research. A consideration, perhaps, but not what all the research is working towards.

5) Underlining terms used in school.
STOP UNDERLINING THINGS LIKE ‘SEN teachers’ and ‘ASC department’. The school has an ASC department.  I know in your out-of-touch, ideal, self-indulgent world of research, we don’t separate ASC pupils.  Sorry- pupils who have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition. But this is a case study. In a school. Where I have been allowed to conduct research. They have a department for pupils with ASC.  It is called the ASC department.  I really can’t do anything about this when I’m writing about the school. Please stop underlining it and suggesting that I change the wording to something your dippy dreamland researchers like more.  That is what it is called.

6) Commas
Yes, I overuse commas sometimes. And many of your corrections are valid.  But once in your stride in removing excess commas, an excess of zeal has led to the obliteration of nearly all the commas in my meisterwerk. Seriously. You eliminated all the commas in an entire paragraph and now it reads like a children’s book.

7) Repetitious repetition
Constant comments about taking care not to repeat. Duly noted.
Followed by ENDLESS requests to reference a comment that was referenced in a previous section. “Use a reference to discuss pupil voice”. Terrific... I refer you to the ENTIRE CHAPTER I wrote on that, full of interesting, relevant references. Should I just repeat myself? Or would that be repetitive?

8) Trust your own judgement.  And then don’t.
I suffered prolonged conversations about how my view as a practitioner IS relevant, and how my own observations and views carry weight. Followed by constant requests to back up my views with documentary evidence and references.  There is no evidence. There are NO references. These are my views.  The ones you just asked for.

9) Anecdotal evidence that is widely published and scientifically validated.
My dissertation- as advised, is about exploding a myth. Or perhaps supporting it, depending on outcomes. This is based on ANECDOTAL evidence. On staffroom hearsay and even hyperbole. There is no material evidence for this. My dissertation is the first time this has been explored. As far as research shows, this has not been written about before. Please stop asking for evidence of this anecdotal evidence. I already told you it is anecdotal.

10) This will be more interesting.
This is a little repetitious of point 4, but we will proceed as it deserves some exploration in its own right. Having accepted, sanctioned and seemingly understood my dissertation project and the focus of my research, you now keep skewing it, pushing it in different directions and telling me to focus on something else that you prefer because “it will make it more interesting.” This is annoying and unreasonable. I can’t change the focus of my research now. It’s nearly March. There is no time, and the research is essentially finished. But what is more annoying is you saying that YOUR ideas are more interesting, and that YOUR research likes to focus on this, that and those. That is YOUR research, based upon YOUR interests.  I am interested in autism and EBSD, and how hard it is to co-educate these pupil groups. It’s fascinating, really! It really isn’t very helpful or professional to keep trying to push my investigation of pupil behaviour in different conditions into some fluffy, flowery rhapsodising over pupil emotions and individuality just because that is what YOU are interested in.  It doesn’t interest me remotely. Which is fine, but I haven’t burst into your office and ordered you to change your research into something more in-keeping with my own interests and preferences.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Kettering is...

Apparently nothing.

Even Google won’t auto-complete with anything interesting or amusing.


On Wednesday, I have to get up at 4.30am, pick up two colleagues, then drive for 3 hours to go to Kettering. There is nothing nice about Kettering. If you haven’t heard of it, there’s a reason; if you have heard of it, it’s because it somehow manages, simultaneously, to be both horrible and boring.

I am to go to a TEACCH course.  This is a course to teach you all about how to teach children with autism. Something I know a little bit about- I used to be an advisor on autism for mainstream schools one day a week. The other 4 days were spent teaching children with autism.

Not to say you can’t learn more... but looking at the programme- it doesn’t bode well.

“Did you know, some young people with autism don’t like changes to their routines?”

Well fuck me with a brick- I *did* know!

But I am being sent nevertheless. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t

a) Miles away

b) Starting at 8.30 in the morning

Also, some friends went and did the same course a while back- said it was good, but they were there in a little group. I’m going with two old ladies.

It is going to be BORING.

Three days!?! 

And after getting up so early and driving for 3 hours (which always wipes me) I’m so going to be zoned out for the first day anyway.

Why can’t they just run the course in London like normal people?

I’m going to have to take secret hotel booze and secret hotel porn with me to get me through the week. Then explain to my old lady colleagues as to why I have no interest in sitting in the dubious Holiday Inn lounge drinking tea because I have massive amounts of pornography to watch.

I don’t want to go to Kettering. 

I want to stay at home and sit on my massive sofa and watch Game of Thrones and drink cocktails.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Fuck the Insanity Workout.

Okay, so I’ve started doing the Insanity Workout. It’s like circuit training at home, doing a ridiculous amount of ridiculous exercises for a ridiculously long time.

It comes highly recommended. Lots of my friends at school are doing it. I can well imagine it does wonders, because if you do anything that intense for that amount of time every day, you can’t help but looks super fit.
Here’s the thing.  I exercise quite a bit anyway- I like to do it.  It feels healthy, it feels exhilarating, and I like to look fit as fuck when I take my clothes off.  So I’ve kept a fairly keen health regimen for the last few years, and kicked it up a gear this year.  I do roughly 200 press-ups and 200 sit-ups a day, most days. Then I sometimes do 8 minutes abs *after* that. Sometimes I do it *twice*...

I’m pretty keen.

But this was something else.  It’s SO FUCKING HARD. And I’m someone who isn’t averse to or unaccustomed to fairly thorough exercise routines.
45 minutes of non-stop, crazy, intense and unforgiving jumping around and pulling bits that shouldn’t be pulled. It really is insane.

And this morning I got out of bed and couldn’t walk. It must be doing me good.

Probably because, despite my good work in recent months, I probably neglect my legs.

I’m doing the next bit now... Wish me luck.

Friday, 7 June 2013

What do you do?

What do you do with a boy who hasn’t been to school in 8 months?

What do you do when he’s sent to your school, to your class, to get him back into school routine?

What do you do when he pretends to be sick, to be sent home, to avoid being in school?

What do you do when he has done this successively, for 8 months?

And what do you do when his mother colludes with him? When she is too soft, too weak, and allows him to be off school for so long? Ignores the faking, collects him from school, keeps him home for months on end, with one pretend illness after another? When she is afraid to challenge him?

What do you do when he starts crying, wailing and whimpering that he’s going to be sick, that he’s so unwell, that he has to go home, that you must ring his mum? When he’s been in your class for a day and a half?

Here’s what you do...


I didn’t accuse him of lying as such. Not initially anyway. He has used this as an avoidance tactic for months, years even, taking control of his home environment completely, and using feigned illness to completely opt out of school. He’s an anxious boy, and we need to build his confidence and make him happy and comfortable in my class.

But I’m not having that. Not after a day. A DAY!!

So I let him splutter, cry, wail and retch. I let him refuse to eat lunch. I let him moan and whimper and cry. I let him beg and plead to call his mum.

But he still stayed in school all day.

I even said I’d call his mum, but that I would be advising her that he was fine, that he was anxious and was making himself feel sick, and that we should see the day out.  He refused to eat a thing.

I said fine.

And then I spoke to mum. I said he was faking it. But I said it tactfully.... I said it was an avoidance tactic, and that he was anxious and that we really should not give him control of the situation so immediately, as this is where things went wrong in his previous school. I said that I advised we keep him in school, and that she collect him at the usual time, and that we would keep a close eye, but we should stay strong at this point and make the placement work.

And then she surprised me.

A parent actually took my advice.

So he stayed.  And you know what?  As soon as he knew the gambit had failed, and that he was staying right where he was, he settled down, his anxiety lowered, he joined in, he had a successful afternoon.  He even enjoyed himself, a little grudgingly.

It was a power struggle right from the start. One where he’d always won in the past, because the school and the parents had caved so quickly. All children look for control of the situation, lots of them find ways of getting it and keeping it.

But once we took back control- for him and for mum, he just got on with it.

Fuck me, what child wouldn’t rather be at home? I know I would.

But if you give them a tactic that works, they’ll use it to control everything.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


I love holidays. Holidays are awesome. I’ve just been on holiday. And it was awesome.

But there’s something pretty wonderful about not being on holiday too. After 5 days I was totally ready to go home. Don’t get me wrong – I had a great time, and I didn’t *want*to come home – but I was well ready to go home. I wasn’t sad.

7 days subsisting purely on Pringles and vodka really does me no favours at all. After 5 days, my body was screaming at me to stop drinking, eat normal food and stay in, have an early night and read a book. All I want is beans on toast.

It’s funny though- you could just take it easy whilst you’re away.  But it NEVER HAPPENS. You’ve paid all that money to stay somewhere exciting, where you can go nuts, drink like a fish and dress like a whore... so staying in your hotel for the evening, watching weird Euro TV just seems such a waste.

So we push our luck. Every night. Then feel horrible all day, every day, and struggle to crawl to the beach to lie in the unforgiving sun for the rest of the afternoon.

But here’s the thing. I like to go home because actually, my holiday routine and my home routine aren’t actually that different. I go and sit on the beach, I go out for scrummy dinners, I drink cocktails, then I go and have dirty drinks in some dirty gay bar, then maybe end up dancing in a binty outfit. It’s not that different at all. 

I’m never sad about going home because I like my life at home. It’s pretty much identical to my life on holiday. I kind of feel like some people go on holiday, then HATE coming home because they’re actually not that happy with their normal, day-to-day life.  

But yeah- it’s pretty much identical. With the exception that when I’m home, I can do all the same things, but have a night off and sit on the sofa watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race and eating pasta without feeling like I’m wasting my money.

Long live pasta.