Blog post Look both ways before crossing.


Shibuya crossing ( you could find me here most Friday’s 12 years ago)

So a new year is just about to begin and I find myself sat here at my pc .However I have not started any work tonight and am fairly unlikely to as it is already 8.30. I am not really an evening person. I will probably write a to do list and get started properly tomorrow.


So I wanted this post to clear away the year that has gone and to set me up for the new year to come – hence the title.


Janus – God of transtitions and beginnings

I have had the most challenging year of my career . What could go wrong has gone wrong. I have doubted myself  more times than I care to remember and I have  been given some of  most devastating feedback  about the thing I spend my life thinking about and doing – teaching.

I can’t really put a finger on what went wrong this year , but I do know that I will not be having that happen again to me . Without going into personal details, I guess things started to crumble when I  lost the plot in a  maths lesson that was being observed by a LEA  person. She wasn’t even there to judge as such , but I just panicked and fled the room .

The class I had were a very difficult bunch of characters and I went in too soft with them ( they had a rough ride the year before with a ridiculous amount of teachers). Anyway my card was marked and I found it difficult to regain respect and control. Don’t get me wrong , they liked me – perhaps too much. So every lesson was me trying to give them all the attention I thought they all needed and of course failing miserably and not really getting a lot taught.

In contrast the year before had been great , the class was also a little challenging , but somehow I was getting good lesson observations and  holding everything together.

But the change was dramatic as I struggled to keep going  in a workplace that had its own problems.


I do not have an issue with maths , but every lesson that was observed was a maths lesson . Ofsted came and said I was satisfactory , but whenever  school staff came it all fell apart- not once but probably 3 or 4 times.

I am a literacy leader and it got to a point where I doubted my ability to even have a decent lesson there .

Luckily for me , people saw what was going on and tried their best to support me . I was offered another go at lesson obs and would always come out satisfactory  on a second try. I didn’t feel like my lessons were terrible , because my children had work in their books and seemed to be learning and enjoying what they were doing.

I was given some amazing support by one particular  person who turned my vision of maths teaching on its head . It was like a light went on . A light that was there anyway , but this person helped me to believe in myself and to find my own voice where it had been so often shouted down.

It was too late for the class that I had ( only in terms of numbers )- Sats came and went and the  results were unfortunately terrible ( some children were so close ),

but remember those children had  a previously not had a teacher for the whole year . 


 I looked at the data  and yes they had made progress – despite everything .( some of them amazing progress- I never once gave up on them ). Once I realised this I could begin to rebuild myself as a teacher.


So here I am ready to take on the challenge of a new year group and a new way of teaching.


I have spent the summer resting , but also learning .


I took an online course in maths teaching on the NCETM site, I have read a range of books about teaching practice and twitter has been an amazing source of support and inspiration. I am no quitter – when I fail I want to prove everyone wrong – so now I will work on teaching the way I probably always knew I should . I have been fed so many initiatives and ways of doing things I have just lost sight of what it means to teach and what it is to learn.I hope I have now redressed that balance.

I am excited about the year ahead although I know that almost immediately I am going to face challenges and battles.That is why I have spent most of the summer  doing nothing .

I am fully recharged and ready to go ….

This blog will act as a reflective journal ( with some  other stuff added in )……







Blog post 50 day challenge DAY 4 A photo of you taken over ten years ago



I must have been about 5 and as you can tell it is Christmas day .This was in our little flat on South Eldon Street. We had an outside toilet that used to freeze over in the winter and also housed various scary creaures. Eventually the flats were condemned and we moved to Boldon, to the house from which I am now writing this .

I always love coming back in the holidays , although eveything changes .


Inspiration on the Seventh Story

Teaching Inspiration on the Seventh Story


Yesterday I was honoured to have the chance to listen to the Illustrator and writer Shaun Tan at the Seven Stories  centre in Newcastle. I nearly didn’t make it due to a mix up with dates and then  a hurried journey on the same day up from Northampton. But I made it and bagged my front row seat.

Shaun was sitting on the arm of the story chair with his laptop and a projection of” Eric”  one of his only characters that actually has a given name . As people filed in I bagged a front row seat and along with a family next to me had the chance to say hi . Shaun had only arrived in UK that week and the previous night had done his masterclass in Edinburgh. He checked his phone and told us that at home it was midnight .He joked that he might just leave us to talk among ourselves while he caught up on sleep ( I suggested that the story chair looked pretty comfy).

Anyway I am waffling- you don’t need to know this stuff , so onwards.

Talking about creativity Shaun said that although he is a fairly disorganised person ( as many creatives are ) , he still has to be methodical to make the magic happen. I read an article a while ago about how Nick Cave goes to the office every day  and writes. I liked the way Shaun said that you need to trust in the wastage .There will be a lot of failures or pieces that for one reason or another do not work out , but this is an essential part of the creative process.


As a teacher I found this interesting in terms of thinking about how the children think about their work and the processes of redrafting and editing. Do I give them enough time for that process of wastage? Does every piece of work need to be pored over ? How do children learn to make the decisions over what is  good ?


Shaun explained how as a child he was encouraged by parents , teachers and his friends .When other kids saw his drawings, they would  praise him and it became a good way of making friends. This reminded me of two boys that I taught last year and how they  functioned within the class as the “ kid who was great at art” and the “kid who was great at inventing characters”.


Talking about how his teachers encouraged him ,he was grateful for teachers who allowed him to draw what he liked  (often violent war machines and sci fi inspired images).

 I must shamefully  admit that, as a teacher ,I have sometimes discouraged pupils from writing about guns and war scenes – Is that fair?  I was actually more worried about what others would say if they saw that in my children’s books than being offended by it myself. Shaun’s teachers   gave him the freedom to experiment .


In terms of telling a story, Shaun talked about how he was more interested  in the unexpected reactions of characters.  For example  Shaun in “the Lost Thing”   quite happily feeds the creature Christmas decorations  from the top of a step ladder.  In fact nobody  in the book reacts strongly to the thing.  As a writer he avoids emotional words and prefers to let the  reader draw their own interpretations of the  story.

Again this made me think . Do we expect children to use too many “wow words”  Do we teach children to over describe everything and  become writers who can paint a picture in the readers’ mind , but create  black and white images. I have no answers , but what Shaun talked about really got me thinking .

That is what I will take away from the event . Shaun gave us an insight into the way he creates his images and stories , but he left me with more questions than answers and that is just the way it should be .

I learnt a lot… ( and I was the primary school teacher!)





DAY 1 Introduce yourself / List your likes and dislikes

Hello ! I am Jen

I am  a primary school teacher and have been so since qualifying in 2004 also the year I got married:-)


I came into teaching in a round about way .

When  I was at school I always wanted to be a teacher .

I  then toyed with the idea of being a journalist and a window dresser.( had work experience at Dorothy Perkins and a local free paper interviewing  people about their neighbours ha ha ) .

I didn’t do so well in my A levels  and so couldn’t go to university that year and ended up working in a fast food place for a year . 

The next year I headed to Birmingham to start a B ed, I lasted a term . A headteacher on my first placement took me into his office and told me I would never be a teacher because i was ” unprofessional” My mistake? calling in sick and  believing the university nurse when she said she would pass on a message.

Alongside some personal stuff I made the decision to quit. I just wasn’t ready to teach

Then I ended up in Derby doing the ambiguously titled course Ba Hons ( History of Art, Design , Film and Photography) .It really wasn’t the best course for me  but having quit once I wasn’t about to drop yet another course.

One of the best things that happened while I was there was that I became involved in new technologies . I wrote my dissertation about the internet and how it might affect art  and had the chance to meet some amazing artists using the latest technologies in their work.I also took part in one of the first webchats in 1995 with Colin Angus from the Shamen ( really!)


Anyway finished my degree and ended up working in Habitat for a year and  moving back to mum’s after a relationship breakup. After a few months of call centre hell, I got a job in Japan as an English Teacher ( yup i know ! you only needed a degree and I had been doing some voluntary work as well 🙂


Japan is another story  ( i will do a whole blog post on that!)

In 2002 I moved here and decided to do a PGCE , and so here you find me in the 7th year of my career ,having just finished one of the most difficult years of my career, but hey ho – whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right.


I still love technology ( again i could go on )

aah yes likes


Technology,my kindle.reading, dancing like a loon,Pavement and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

6music and spotify,Writing poems and making up rhymes and puns,My cat Toby,Teaching


rude people,Ofsted,Michael Gove, being disorganised ( which is a shame as I often am!)





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Classroom Tales

Reflections, Resources and general musings from a primary school teacher.

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