'Ode to Joy' without hypnosis?

27th November 1998 at 00:00
Just wait a minute while I remove my wet-suit, Donald Duck mask and blue-and-white striped wellies. There. Now I'll just switch off Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, brush away the sawdust, replace the purple fluorescent lights, extinguish the joss sticks and scrape off the peanut butter and pork dripping.

Sorry about that, only I now realise I have got management training all wrong in the past, so I am practising to be a new-style 21st-century management expert.

For years I have been cluttering up my management courses with tired old jargon, such as "teachers", "children", "parents", "learning", "classroom observation", "appraisal", "curriculum", or "assessment". I have simply not adjusted to the new all-singing all-dancing 21st-century methodology.

I first saw the light when I watched the televised launch of the new "training college" for headteachers. A proper staff college for people in positions of educational leadership is a great idea. There is much to be learned from each other and from those who have relevant and interesting ideas and experience.

I was a bit surprised, however, to see a room full of headteachers singing Beethoven's Ode to Joy. One head was asked to stand on a chair, and the engaging presenter thundered away on a piano, talking about "one buttock piano playing". It was the most hilarious scene I have witnessed for many a year.

I wonder how the planning meeting went.

"I bet you I can persuade a group of heads to sing a song in unison."

"What, you mean, Jerusalem, or Land of Hope and Glory, like at the end of Conservative party conferences?" "No, better than that. Beethoven's Ode to Joy."

"Get away with you."

"In German."

"What, without even using hypnosis?" "No problem. And I bet I can talk to them about sitting on one buttock and then get one of them to stand on a chair. "

"You little rascal, you're joking."

In America, one of the fast-food chains set up its own staff college. It was called Hamburger University. Apparently the assembled delegates leapt to their feet and shouted in unison: "We will sell more." The Director of Chicken Nuggets probably accompanied them on the bongo drums.

We British are just too sober about these things. I like the idea of this new uninhibited management training so much, I shall be setting up my own showbiz-style educational management training college, called HappyClappy Academy.

I think I understand some of the key principles of these futuristic management courses. You see, "management" is really a piece of free-floating magic, out there somewhere, nothing to do with specific professional expertise, or the sordid realities of classroom life.

Dangling high in the ether is a set of detached management tricks of the trade. They are omni-purpose and can be applied in any context. Pull them out of the air and you can run a black-pudding factory, a crematorium, a school, anything.

So HappyClappy Academy courses will generate lots of free-floating energy. For example, overly-serious heads and teachers will pretend they are at a football match and all sing: "Who's the bastard in the black?" We shall have a "loudest burp" contest, or get everyone to hop blindfold round the room, seeing who can knock most people over. On the surface it may appear unrelated to running a school, but that's the subtlety of modern management training.

HappyClappy Academy will also apply our newly-developed educational management techniques in other areas, such as professional football.

"Right lads, it's half-time and we're already six-nil down. Here's what I want you to do in the second half: Sanderson, you mark their number 10 closely and keep singing Verdi's Requiem in his left ear. That should distract him. Jenkins, next time we get a corner, you sit on the penalty spot, on one buttock only, mind, and ask their goalie to stand on a chair. He might die laughing. "

As a little sideline, HappyClappy Academy will also be manufacturing bottles of moon water. And if you know anyone who wants to buy the Tower of London, then, as a tip-top management expert, I'm sure I can negotiate it for them. "Vorsprung durch hysterics", as they say in managementspeak.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today