Chelsea Makes West London Man’s Day

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I keep in touch via ‘Social Media’with many ex-students from my days as a Secondary School teacher of Art and Design.

The pupils I taught were in the age range 11 to 18, mixed ability, boys and girls from a variery of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.

Now, I don’t make a habit of doing this, but I thought I would share this with you, because it was so out of the blue.

It came in the form of a message last Saturday morning from … let’s call her Chelsea to save her embarrassment. Although Chelsea and I have been ‘friends’ for years and I have always been a fan of her upbeat Facebook greetings (and occasional rants!) we have never corresponded. This is the first time and is reproduced word for word below.

Best art teacher ever. xx

Chelsea, I’m honoured!

Seriously though Mr Daly- best teacher I ever had. A true legend.

What’s brought this on?

Always thought it, but just thought I’d say. Only lesson I actually liked lol

Thanks. Made my day.

R u still teaching?

No. Had to give it up. I’ve had Parkinson’s for 13 years, so life is a bit of a battle.

Your’re a true inspiration sir- u were always my fav teacher. Loved your lessons and always an inspiration.

Thanks. Hope life is treating you well.

All good thank you. I hated school but looked forward to art- u taught me to express myself.

Well to help people to express themselves was all I set out to do. I miss it but when people say the kind of things you have I feel better.

U r a true legend sir.

Look after yourself Chelsea. I love your daily messages – ‘Good morning you gorgeous lot’ Keep ’em coming! X

I will sir- and keep being you! I have the up most respect for you xx

Look at that hair! and the tie ... What was I thinking?

Look at that hair! and the tie … What was I thinking?

A few words that mean a lot.

© Andy Daly 2013

A Fist Full Of Pencils

Now then. Long long ago when Professor Green was still  in the infants, a friend of mine teaches in a secondary comprehensive school in West London. He is an alright kind of teacher: not brillliant, but not hopeless either. In fact, he keeps his classes in pretty good order, which is the type of thing Headteachers and senior teachers generally approve of, because it means less work for them. Moreover, he gets on pretty good with the kids and their parents too, and is thought of as a safe pair of hands when it comes to the teaching dodge, which is just as well as he is at it for well over a decade by now. Besides, he teaches Art so nobody gives a cuss anyway as long as no-one is throwing paint around or walking about the school looking like Coco the clown.

For six years my friend is a Sixth Form tutor. This means the kids it is his responsibilty to register and look after in what is known as ‘Pastoral Care’ are of the older variety and studying for important exams such as A level, AS level, GNVQ, NVQ and FA. On the whole these kids are much more mature than the younger ones and it is usually thought of as an easier ride than having to cope with hundreds of ankle-snappers. Although what with sorting out love-affairs, hungover students, what radio station to have on in the mornings and the ‘ghost writing’ of endless UCAS applications for university and colleges the kids have no intention of going to, I’m not so sure.

Well it seems that someone is looking a bit too closely at the allocation of teachers to form classes and they spot that our hero is generally having a fine time; whereas they could put any old dipstick in to look after a six form group it is so easy; and use him far more profitably ‘up the sharp end’ let’s say, as a form tutor to a band new crop of eager-faced, enthusiastic Year 7 students. (My friend says there is nothing to make his blood run cold such as eager-faced, enthusiastic year 7 students.)

In considering this state of affairs, it is evident that his relationship with these eager-faced, enthusiastic year 7 students could last as long as 5 years: until they reach year 11 and their GCSE examinations. He ponders a while about the year 11s he teaches and the year 11 forms he knows and how he will be blowed if he has such a shower of shi – apologies I was about to use an educational term there which not everone would have been familiar with; he will be blowed if he has such a group of disaffected and disobedient pupils in his form in 5 years time.

So he figures on training up his new class of eager-faced, enthusiastic crumb-chasers so that they know things like what is right, what is wrong, where to hang  their coats and bags, to always carry their homework diary (signed) and probably most of all: to stick together in the face of adversity. And how does he manage the latter in prticular? Well on their first day in their big school, they get to go around and have fun taster lessons in subjects like science and technology. You know the ones which use all the cool equipment and apparatus that you never ever see again all the time you are at school. After that they have something called ‘lunch’ then go to their form rooms with their new teachers for ‘a de-brief.’

It is at this point the pencils come out. Right. Who’s feeling strong? (says my friend). Some hands go up (This is a good start. No 30 voices all yelling out together) OK. One is chosen and thrown a pencil. See if you can break it. Well, snap naturally, snap it is no big deal, snap. Anyone else? Hands go up. Snap, snap, snap and so on. After about 4 tries my friend chooses the biggest, strongest in the class and chucks them thirty pencils, tied together with 2 elastic bands. Now, have a go with that. Well, this guy ends up going purple in the face trying: he can’t do it. Eager hands go up again, and the next one has a try and so on and so on until they get to bashing them on the table and just as someone has the bright idea to drop them out of the window, my friend takes the pencils back.

You know what these are? He asks them. He sees 30 eager-faced, enthusiastic children staring back at him (in fact, he tells me to this day he still sees those same 11 year old faces and admits that if he was an old softy it would choke him up more than somewhat, but that thankfully he isn’t)

You know what these are? He asks again. These are like our class. We all stick together and look out for each other, for if we don’t, look what happens; at which he takes a couple of pencils from the bundle, and breaks them snap, snap like so. If we don’t stick together, people will be able to break us easily or wear us down. In this class we take care of each other.

Well, it seems to work pretty good, for although to begin with my friend plays the ‘Old Mr. Grumpy’ once he feels his class has got it together he begins to kick back a bit, and what do you know, by year 11, they are not a shower of shi – apologies, I have slipped back into complex educational jargon again. They are not a class of disaffected youth with a resentful, isolated teacher but best of friends who spend their morning registration time enjoying each other’s company (as well as sorting out love-affairs, hungover students and what radio station to have on)

In fact my friend tells me he keeps in contact with nearly all of that old class by something called Facebook, which seems to be a bit like the old town crier (You know with the bell and ‘Oye! Oye!’) but works with electricity and is much quicker and quieter. They are all grown up now, some are married, many have crumb-chasers of their own but they always remember the fist full of pencils.

Affectionally dedicated to AD and thanks to Chawkey for the idea.

© Andy Daly 2012

Marc Forni

Congratulations to Marc and his wife on the birth of a baby girl at 2:10pm today.

To mark the occasion, published here, for the first time – giving a real insight into the complex dynamic between Newly Qualified Teacher, Observer, and Students is a copy of the observation record of Marc’s groundbreaking Art lesson 15/07/04

Lesson Observation Form for Newly Qualified Teachers

 Name              MARC FORNI

Date    15/7/04                   Subject: Art                                   Lesson/Class  P.1

Teaching Group          YEAR 8 M/A

Planning and preparation

Good. Your lesson was meticulously planned and prepared. Your written documentation clearly highlighted the importance of making sure I got a cup of tea beforehand. (The omission of brandy is put down to pre-observation nerves: but remember, this could happen for real with ofsted. So be prepared)

The lesson was divided into 3 parts and involved

  •  Looking into the kiln (at a temperature of close to 300 degrees C) and forlornly exclaiming ‘We didn’t have enough time! They are a bit hot’
  • Making paper folders
  • Looking at students wandering around aimlessly.

The objectives were met and satisfy the school’s criteria for an ‘excellent’ lesson.

Seating plan would have been used had there had been enough stools.

Teaching content – style and strategies

The first 25/30 minutes was taken up with trying to clear mess left by the Head of Department, which although impressive, was over – long and meant that many students lost interest. You did not take the opportunity to pose questions or allow the students to question you. Try to break this aspect of the lesson down into smaller ‘chunks.’

Communication skills

Good classroom presence. Clear voice. I particularly thought you got through to the students in a very special way with the middle finger to Student X and the no-nonesense ‘Yes girls, I’ve got 4 earrings, now piss off’ comment. Sadly however, these are both approaches which although effective, are not fashionable these days.

Learning environment and use of resources

No resources were prepared in advance: A sign that you have truly found your feet at this school.

Classroom organisation and management

Students lined up outside the room and took off their coats in an orderly manner on entering the room. (I think, I was still drinking my tea)

Pupil response

  •  Minimal. Their response to your lesson did, frankly not reflect the time and effort you put into it. (Why was this?)
  •  You have reservations about your ability to meet the needs of all pupils. You are right. On the whole you don’t meet any.
  •  However, you are teaching Art, so no one gives a toss.

 Use of prior assessment to support pupils’ learning


Subject specific comments

 You clearly have good subject knowledge in Art and are confident with it.


  •  Try to make your teaching a little less didactic. Encourage more active learning. For instance, students could have been given the initiative to use blue, or even black paper for their folders.
  • Use questioning more. For instance: ‘Why am I here?’
  • Finally have you thought of teaching a more popular subject, say RE or ethics for example?

NQT signature………………………………                                       Date……………….