Saturday, 19 May 2012

What does he want?

Then we come home to a brouhaha! What's this about Sir Michael Wilshaw, King of Ofsted, picking a fight with bad, bad, bad, bad teachers?

Sounds like he's taking them all on. He's probably outside now, red-faced at the school gates, huffypuffing away, fists circling like spinning bowling balls. Or is he at home, shovelling dog crap into envelopes so he can post it through their letterboxes?

I wonder why he's picking a fight like this. What's the game plan? Does Ofsted really have an imagined template of 'delivery' they want to see rolled out in every classroom? Or does this government want something to happen that they need the 'independent' Ofsted to prepare us for first?

Well, I don't know what passes in whispery corners between Wilshaw, Gove and Gibb. But I would like to tell you about the worst teacher I ever had. Really. The worst. He'd fail, by every one of Ofsted's standards.

My English teacher at college. He was so bad, they wouldn't even give him a classroom! They considered it a waste! They provided him with a table in the dining room and a window sill for a bookcase. Here the twelve of us uneducated A level students would troop three times a week, wondering if he would show up.

Might do. Might not, if he'd been on a bender.

If he shuffled in, you could guarantee the stink of stale tobacco and drip of last night's alcohol; the bloodshot eyes, chaotic appearance, odd socks.

But I'm still not doing him justice. Because beyond the eccentricity and maverick style, he was a shameless reprobate.

And he was also the most engaging teacher I ever had. I remain grateful I had the opportunity to be there for his characterful blunt speaking, forthright manner and unique approach. Bill Gray inspired me to find out; to read more widely than any prescribed texts; to never be afraid of saying it bluntly; and to ask questions like, What does he want?

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews. 

I cannot think of anyone else I ever met whose interpretation of this poem was as exact and true.

Quick! Get 'em off! Drop 'em!

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