You knew me in the womb: Delivering the Behaviour Key Note at the institute of Education

28th February 2014 at 15:21

How it feels to deliver the behaviour lecture:



One of the best gigs of the year today: speaking to the PGCE students at the Institute of Education, delivering the behaviour keynote. I have to confess a prejudice, as the IoE is my Alma Mater, the womb and crèche of my teaching life. Home cooking, however plain or precious, always remains comfort food.


Which isn't to say the building doesn't resemble a Soviet artists' concrete sculpture of the inside of an elephant's colon. I saw three people ask for directions out- two of whom were no more than ten yards from an exit. Chris Husbands, the fabled Director of the IoE also moonlights as the king of Minos.


I sat in Logan Hall ten years ago, earnestly taking notes from a cavalcade of tutors as if it were the Coptic Scrolls. When you're new to the profession, sometimes such things make little sense- they're speaking in Armenian and you're listening in Yoruba. It's only after a year or so that theory and lectures start to make sense, either in agreement or not, with experience. I wish we could stop teaching for six months after two years, and go back to learn for a bit, with some career in our bellies.


Now look, Mama, I'm dancin' I'm dancin'. I remember lectures that were only attended by the foreign exchange students, who didn't realise how many you could bunk and still pass. Other lectures were days of religious observance, unmissable. Behaviour was one. New teachers are terrified by behaviour. Quite right too- it's still one of the biggest causes of drop out in the profession, and we still haven't got it right nationally. I listened to my behaviour tutor like he was the burning goddamn bush, but one hour is nothing compared to the ocean of heartache that bad behaviour represents.


So when I was asked to speak, I wanted to make it count. I tried to say everything I wish I'd been told when I was new, and newer than new, now that I'm five and as clever as clever. The audience of colleagues was, as always- and increasingly so- terrifyingly young. I thought it was a sixth form conference. And they were desperately patient and polite, laughing at all the right moments and making me feel welcome. So thank you to them. (Interestingly the biggest laugh was a gag about Teach First which, I assure you, went down like a free bar at a staff part. They nearly carried me out on a sedan).


And you know who was on after me? Only Dylan Goddamn William. I was, essentially, the warm up act for the Godfather of AFL: the fluffer, if you will. From what I hear, he spent half the session trying to remind them of the godawful mess that schools have made of his perfectly sensible suggestions. Some say that AFL was doomed the moment that Inside the Black Box was made compulsory reading in schools. By making it dogma, a cargo cult sprung up around it.


Thanks to Katherine Vincent for inviting me, and to Jane Saville, a familiar face from my teaching career, for buying me a coffee. The Institute faces interesting times: the imminent merger with the UCL is making hearts flutter in every chamber of its concrete heart. And the recent knock back of Their proposed Holborn Free School is still sending ripples of controversy. I wish them well, as I wish all teaching institutions well these days. It is better that times should change, than they should end.


It still took me a while to get out. Also, I noticed the bookshop appeared to be sold out of my books. I IMAGINE


How it looks to deliver the lecture