Visivae Auxiliis

In which Steven attempts to write a blog post about PowerPoint. I think. I’ll be honest – he hasn’t written it yet and already the idea bores me.

Is it better to die by PowerPoint or get motion sickness from Prezi?

It’s said that teaching can be one-fifth teaching and four-fifths theatre.

I’d like to consider it – for the purpose of this blog at least – as an opportunity for show-and-tell between you and the students, and this should be two-way.

What can we learn from TED Talks, the mixture of lecture, performance and visuals.

TED Talks are often inspiring, but can we use them to improve our own performance?

A picture can say a thousand words but these are only aids. They are there to aid you telling a thousand words.

The ppt or Prezi isn’t there to do the job and it isn’t there to be a badly laid out textbook for you to reiterate word-for-word what is on the screen.

It should be a visual guide for you – a map for the lesson and something to be looked at while you speak.

So make the pictures interesting, relevant and fun. (I think the BBC puts it a different way – Ed)


If you intend to have the presentation available (e.g. for a hand-out), have any relevant information in your notes – not as a block of impenetrable text in a slide.

Next, video clips. The Rt Honourable Mr Gove and I have a difference of opinion here (and that bombshell I am sure will keep him awake at night – Ed)He has stated he won’t spend a penny (wasn’t it a pound? – Ed) that leads to videos in class.

I believe that video in the classroom can be a great tool. (You mean aid. The tool blog was before – Ed)

I believe that video in the classroom can be a great visual aid – to highlight a point or theme. To introduce a topic. As part of plenary, whatever that is.

As part of the current educational focus on employability, I believe visual aids, as part of a planned scheme of screening and analysis, can through cultural literacy improve basic oral communication skills.

Exposure to art, TV and film, to clips relevant to equality and diversity issues and the latest meme. The opportunity to know what this stuff is, and then to discuss it, if not through embedded lessons but integrated into the schemes of work, will not only improve communication in the classroom but in the workplace as well.

When the cultural conversation moves on it’s good to know what people are talking about and to have an opinion on it, whether that be subjective or objective.


This is not a pipe.

(Then what is it? – Ed)

It is a picture of a pipe.

(Oh, ok – Ed)

Actually it is a digital reproduction of a picture of a pipe.

(Right. I see – Ed)

Finally, how are the visual aids in your classroom? Not just in terms of student work on the walls, but in terms of the department or faculty in the room?

Are there visuals to aid the atmosphere and environment of learning?

Be seeing you.


Pitching, the 6th P

First Blogged for MidKent College Feb 2013

In which Steven gets into an imaginary Q&A, invokes Glee, quotes the DoE  and tries to slip a sweary Clip past the Editor.

How often do you practice pitching?

Why you might ask back, do you need to practice pitching?

Our glorious leader Google defines a pitch in business as: to plan or design something in a way that will attract a particular group of people:

Education it would seem is a business, despite how much of a cold sweat that thought might bring you out in. And a large part of the dialogue is regarding our customers or clients, previously known as students.

Working in the knowledge delivery sector I need to ensure several factors;

–          That I am providing a course that interests future students

–          That the course is felt suitable by parent/ carers for a year of the students life

–          That the student is interested enough to enrol

–          That they are interested enough to attend induction

–          That they attend classes

–          That they submit assessments

–          That they complete the course

That requires what is referred to as the 5 Ps; Planning, Preparation, Personalisation, Professionalism and Proving It.

It also requires Pitching.

I require a certain number of students to ensure that my course runs, this guarantees work for my colleagues, resources for the students and that the curriculum continues to be delivered. This is even truer with new Study Programmes.

‘Study Programmes will extend the benefits of challenging and substantial vocational qualifications enjoyed by many students taking academic programmes to those studying more vocational subjects. The Government’s new principles for Study Programmes are central to the reform of 16-19 education.’


As well as a main qualification, the study programme must ensure Community Cohesion and Work Experience. Because students aren’t our only customers, there is also the community and local business needs.

Also as with other business I must ensure that I’m providing a product which beats my competitor; this includes other Level 1 and Level 2 courses at MKC, educational provision at other Colleges, Schools and Academies, plus apprenticeships and work. Unusually I also set entry requirements, to ensure that students are right for my products also. Assuming that I’ve done my job right and the customer has researched correctly, half the selling has already been done before we even met.

The interview process is an unusual business response; you can’t imagine Sainsbury’s asking you to prove your interest Lasagne, before you buy the ingredients for tonight’s dinner. Once there you engage in a mix of mutual appreciation and challenge. At the same time as I am assuring the student that my course is right for them, they are assuring me that they are right for my course. Simultaneously I am testing that they really want to do the course and they are checking that the course is really what they want to do.

If it all works out, then we have ‘conversion’ and the student enrols on the course. If it really works out then we have ‘retention; and the student completes the course. That’s your livelihood, your collegaues livelihood, the colleges reputation and the students future, potentially dependent on a series of one to one conversations you have.

How often do you practice pitching?

Be Seeing You.

Warning Clip contains a Great scene from a great film.

It features a great script superb acting.

also contains swearing

State of Play

First blogged for MidKent in Feb 2012

In which Steve discusses the midpoint, being in the mood, the importance of state, and having flow (because chicks get him high).

As of writing it is the first week back after half term, and I am tired. My peers, colleagues, friends and I joke that it’s not long now until Easter, but only so much of it is a joke.

Five-and-a-half weeks, 28 working days.

Halfway through the year and that midpoint fatigue is starting to settle in. Things aren’t fresh anymore, colleagues make the same jokes and I know which student will make what type of comment, which student will eagerly want to contribute and which will try to hide under the table.

I know which will be in college half an hour before class and which will be half an hour after.

Midpoint fatigue – so long till the summer break…

This is obviously my personal account – you are no doubt fresh as a daisy, and I envy you.

It’s like any relationship – it needs to be kept fresh, interesting, honest.

Seriously getting me down… Listen to this and come back. Editor

Ahh, that’s better.

State, as they say, is everything.

Mental health strengthens and supports our ability to:

  • have healthy relationships

  • make good life choices

  • maintain physical health and wellbeing

  • handle the natural ups and downs of life

  • discover and grow toward our potential

Rhode Island Psychological Association

 When we enter the classroom, what state are we in and what state are we communicating to the students?

Are we angry and annoyed before we have even entered the room?

Are we bored of the lesson we haven’t even taught them yet?

Are we anxious and apprehensive of their behaviour?

Are we relaxed?



We are empathetic creatures by nature.

One person can seriously crash a mood and another can be the life and sole of the party.

When we plan our schemes of work, our lessons, how much do we take mood into account?

Should we?

How much has the phrase ‘death by Powerpoint’ affected our decision whether or not to use Powerpoint?

If your lesson was a colour, what colour would it be?

You may or may not have come across the concept of ‘flow’ from Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (side note, if you ever wanted to remember how to pronounce that name, think chicks-get-me-high. Not classy, but it works.)

It’s often used to discuss challenging learners, ensuring their skills and the challenge match.

How often do we use it to consider ourselves?

How is your flow?

Is your skill level equal to the challenges you face?

Are you bored?

Are you aroused?

When was the last time you learned new skills, and do you have challenges that enable you to use them?

And most of all leave a comment and let me know – are you feeling good?

Be Seeing You

This Teachers Life

First blogged for MidKent 5th Dec 2012

In which Steven becomes the Cliff Richard of MKC blogging. You do not hear from him all year then he releases greatest hits just in time for Christmas. With enough new material to make it almost seem worthwhile.

Things have changed, as they have a habit of doing. When last we met I had a goatee beard. Now I have a full beard. Important changes make us reconsider our life choices, our daily choices and occasionally our lack of choices. Who we are, defined by something other than what we do, and why we do it. Next month I will have been employed at MidKent College for five years. My interests, perspectives and knowledge have changed dramatically in that time, but an aspect of my attitude and sensibility has not. What changes will occur over the next five? I ask myself a lot.

_ _ _ _ _

I recently went to a conference that looked at the future of Media and Film education. There was much discussion about primary, A-level and higher education, but not further education or the lifelong learning sector. “However, not enough discussion is given to the role of FE, and the fact that for many students they are the first generation to stay on at college or sixth form, let alone go to university.” – Me, previously. I still don’t understand students, but I think I’m closer. Thanks to a colleague I have been reading ‘Why Children Fail’ by John Holt. I understand that for some of them, choosing isn’t pro-active, its just better than having no choice and doesn’t fully mean they have clear aspirations. “Students are great. They challenge my perceptions and assumptions…and they enable me to have a class and a job and a home. That’s very important to remember.” – Me, previously.

“Though teaching isn’t a job is it? It’s a vocation, a calling. One of those roles we choose to do because we believe we can make a difference…” A touch of cynicism there, which I have since underpinned with theory, thanks to our friend Stephen Brookfield, who states:

“Reflection becomes critical when educators consider how to challenge our own untested hegemonic assumptions to uncover practices that appear to make teaching easier but actually work against our own long-term interests. Hegemonic assumptions are those that we think are in our own best interests, but have been designed by others who are more powerful to work against us; they have, however, become so embedded in our practices that we can no longer identify the oppression or disenfranchisement contained within them. Examples of hegemonic assumptions include beliefs about teaching as a vocation or calling that justify an overwhelming workload to our own physical and mental detriment.”

_ _ _ _ _

So, as it is the end of the year, what are your academic New Year’s resolutions (that you will admittedly break straight away)? Academically, how will you lose those extra pounds you’ve gained? Academically, how will you experience more culture? Academically, how will you…etc. If you do ‘something’ a certain way, is it because that is the best way to do it, or is it the way it has always been done?

_ _ _ _ _

I still don’t have a business card. I think about it occasionally. Rarely. But I do wonder. Maybe 2013 I’ll get one. Who would I give them to?

_ _ _ _ _

I updated my CV recently, for reasons that were beyond my control (honest!) I’m no longer a school governor and there were a couple of other things to remove. I recently enquired about a slot as a speaker at a conference, and they informed me they could only offer lunch and kudos. Well, that’s all I ever ask for. How is your personal literacy? If you had to write a bio about yourself, when would you begin? What would be the most up-to-date thing about you?

_ _ _ _ _

I’m still lucky and enriched by the conversations I have with colleagues, though there seems to be less of them these days. Less time, though no less inclination. Something to note for 2013. How much of that chat will be productive? Depends on your definition of productive and if you consider touching base important. I do. There is an Anglo-Saxon term – Wyrd. Considered by some to be the personification of fate. The more you try to achieve, the more people will arrive to help you.

_ _ _ _ _

Whilst getting myself up to speed, I rediscovered the following set of questions, around the subject of state, and realized I had never answered them myself. I’m going to spend some time doing that. Will you? Are we bored of the lesson we haven’t even taught them yet? When we plan our schemes of work, our lessons, how much do we take mood into account? How much has the phrase ‘death by PowerPoint’ affected our decision whether or not to use PowerPoint? If your lesson was a colour, what colour would it be?

How is your flow? Is your skill level equal to the challenges you face? Are you bored? Are you aroused? When was the last time you learned new skills, and do you have challenges that enable you to use them?

_ _ _ _ _

Before I vanished I asked the question of whether you feel valued and how much are you worth. In an age of austerity and public sector pay freezes, I really must get back round to that question as well.

Be Seeing You

Using the right Tools

First blogged for MidKent in January 2012

In which Steven defends Dance, gets passive aggressive (but not with you, he likes you), takes issue with western philosophy, doesn’t refer to anything metaphorically or euphemistically, makes no use of Urban Dictionary and hopefully finally finishes his story.

I’d like to apologise – even if it’s felt I don’t need to. Editor

Let us discuss Professional Communication Skills. No really. They are an important tool.

Communication skills are an important part of what we do, and our ability to connect with students can make all the difference in their development – whether that be ensuring they progress to Uni, supporting students through personal experiences, or even – shockingly – learning something fundamental in a subject.

Communication skills are also an important part of how we talk to each other, listening as well as speaking. And this is something often forgotten about with long days, pressures, and occasional lapses of basic human dignity and respect.

Part of the issue with western philosophy is a focus on ‘or’ rather than ‘and’.

This very early on infects the educational system, with an insidious subject hierarchy, and informs public and political perceptions.

Okay, easy on the politics. Editor

Maths is seen as more important than geography. Fine art is seen as more important than dance. To paraphrase Ken Robinson, in defence of dance (and in no way because Louise Molton is my Head of Faculty), what’s more important than dance? To study movement?

The hierarchical attitude to students can not only damage their sense of self, but also educator’s attitudes towards each other. Making them put down other courses, other people.

Those teaching ‘Mickey Mouse’ subjects, feeling the need to overcompensate, will often do just that. And for clarity and honesty I can argue why Media Studies is the most important subject in any modern educational system. I can argue why the use of the word ‘studies’ in a subject should be stopped. I can argue how the subject Cultural Literacy should be created and made mandatory, on all courses.



There are many interesting, funny, hardworking, caring people that work at this College who you have never met, and have no intention or opportunity of ever meeting, of communicating with. You have a tool, which you really should, and could, use more often.

Following the previously discussed, enlightening conversation with the wonderful Vanessa Kent, I went to see Lesley Mayo, seeking opportunities to further my community experience. Timing (as is often the case) is everything. Thanks to Mr Grix recently connecting the College to local primary schools, Burnt Oak had made it clear they were looking for a Community Governor. I instantly put my name down. And because I had in previous years taken the time to get to know the School Partnerships team and provide them with support where possible, Lesley was very happy to support me.

And that’s how I became the Governor of a Primary School.

A Crackpot and These Women


First blogged for MidKent College in December 2011

In which Steven talks about the importance of the women in his life, quotes teaching theory, touches upon Anglo-Saxon concepts of personal destiny and fails to get to the end of the story he started last week.

I’d like to apologise if any teaching theory does get quoted – I did advise against it. Editor

I was a governor at a primary school. How did that happen? Editor

I have a contact routine. Is that the answer to a completely different question? Editor

What I mean is that I set aside a particular time when I will go send emails, tweets, Facebook messeges and texts (never actual calls? Editor) to friends, colleagues, people I vaguly know but have their contact details of, and I’ll say hi, ask them how they are doing and (re)initiate conversation(s). Sometimes they are casual chats, sometimes deep and meaningful, occasionally they are even informative.

Outside of anybody called Step(v)hen, the conversations that have made the most impact on me at MidKent College have been with women. A variety of intelligent, funny, experienced women. Ladies who I can talk to, discuss thoughts and ideas with, who will be supportive, who will pretend to be interested and aren’t afraid to call ‘rubbish’ ‘rubbish’. Sorry Steven, I can’t let you use the word you wanted to here. Editor

And I’m lucky and enriched for it.

The College has, I’m told, a common meeting slot. How much time to you spend talking with your colleagues? What about those not in your department?

What percentage of the time talking do you spend on:

> The College

> The course

> The students

How much of that chat is productive? And never underestimate, the importance of a good vent, rant, tirade, from time to time. You’ve just used three words that mean the same thing. Editor

But where does that lead you? Do you come to any solutions? Do you follow the ideas up? Do you share them?

Or do you vent and return to the Wall?

‘If you always do, what you’ve always done,

You’ll always get what you’ve always got.’

How much time do you spend talking about you?

> Your weekend

> Holiday plans

> Television viewing habits

How much time do you spend talking about you?

> Your goals

> Your aspirations

> Your desires

Through Personal self-reflection, we become aware of the paradigmatic assumptions and instinctive reasonings that frame how we work.

When we know what these are, we can start to test their accuracy and validity through conversations

Stephen Brookfield

We don’t reflect on ourselves, on our teaching. And we aren’t encouraged enough to either. Sure there is lip service provided to it after teacher training, but at best it becomes a solitary experience.

Breaking this vicious circle of innocence and blame is one reason why the habit of critical reflection is crucial for teachers’ survival. Without a critically reflective stance towards what we do we tend to accept the blame for problems that are not of our own making.

We read poor evaluations of our teaching immediately conclude that we are hopeless failures.

A critically reflective stance towards our teaching helps us avoid these traps of demoralization and self-laceration. It might not win us easy promotion or bring us lots of friends. But it does increase enormously the chances that we will survive in the classroom with enough energy and sense of purpose to have some real effect on those we teach.

Stephen Brookfield

If you agree/disagree then leave a comment. Editor

I am very fortunate to be surrounded by smart women, who havent (yet) worked out how to get rid of me. And we talk. And to ensure this I have set aside time in my calender every week for this. Because it’s important. They are important, their knowledge, opinion, perspective. My aspirations, plans and targets are better for their insight.

Until at least they grow tired of me. (Such low self esteem. Editor)

Two years ago flush with relative success. (Runner-up best new teacher? Editor) I started having these conversations, because I had ideas. Ideas above my station, experience, pay grade. And last year I did very little about them, I was busy. But that’s another story.

This year I was keen to pick up these projects.

Are you going to explain what they are? Editor


Keen because I believed that these ideas and projects could improve… stuff. Keen because I am a naïve fool. Keen because I didn’t want to become known as somebody that talks a good game, but never actually achieves anything.

So for me it’s important to have a contact routine. Set times. And to keep track of how long it’s been and how it’s going. It’s important, so very important, to be surrounded by like minded people.

And in this regard, I’ve been very fortunate.

There is an Anglo-Saxon term; ‘Wyrd’. Considered by some to be the personification of fate. This is something I’ll come back to in a later blog, but it was best described to me as:

‘The more you try to achieve, the more people will arrive to help you.’

I was chatting to Vanessa in the Inspiration Station, as I do every other Monday, from 9.15 til 10.15(ish). I took with me a job ad. If I was to apply for this job (which I wasn’t), what skills and experience would I need? Vanessa was great, the job played into her experience, into her MA (who knew she had an MA?). She said I should speak to Lesley Mayo, in School Partnerships, as I need more experience with community work.

And so I did…

To be continued.

Dedicated to Carol, Emma, Jo, Louise, Lesley, Lucy, Lydia, Rosie, Sue, Vanessa

Personal Literacy

First blogged for MidKent College November 2011

In which Steven, for no apparent reason, wants to talk about CV writing and continues to forget that the blog is about MKC, or teaching and continues to talk about himself.

It’s a metaphor!


I mean an allegory.

(Do you even know what you mean? Editor)

The CV, a document so apparently important, there isn’t a definite answer on how they should look/read. And yet lots of guidance on how they definitely shouldn’t.

Writing a CV is an esoteric experience; discussions over fonts, spacing and paper seem to take up more time than the discussions over the content. And what discussions they are… 1 page or 2? …to profile or not to profile? …how much education to mention and how far back to go?

‘What does your CV say about you?’ …would seem an obvious question.

But what does your CV say about you?

Are you creative, formal, conformist, succinct?

How honest are you?

Does your CV have power?

Is that enough questions?

Is that? (Stop. Editor)

Does it matter?

Are you on LinkedIn? Add me…

At one particular complicated crossroads moment in my life I had five CVs, depending on which job/career I was pursuing.

What purpose — if any — would a CV serve in your life?

The reason this is on my mind is because I’ve spent a considerable amount of time recently updating and rewriting my CV.

(Which should interestingly highlight whether your boss reads this blog, by them tracking you down with a fearful/gleeful [delete as appropriate] look in their eye. Editor)

The reason I did this, rather than because I’m looking for a new job…

(Sorry to worry/disappoint. Editor)

…was because I wanted to identify opportunities to develop, personally and continually.

(They really should develop a term for that. Editor)

The title of this blog, just to take you behind the looking glass for a second, was from putting Curriculum Vitae into a thesaurus. One of the results was Personal Literacy. I loved it. I used literacy, because I remember somebody telling me once that if you called something ‘Studies’, it wasn’t a real course… Social Studies, Media Studies. Of course we now call Social Studies, Sociology. But that just reminds me of the BT Ad.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I then discovered there were actually some courses running in Personal Literacy, but that’s not important right now.

How often do you update your CV?

Have you ever?

I find it a great opportunity to look at myself.

(Shocked that you would be so narcissistic. Editor)

In doing so you can look at your achievements over the last six months, or reflect on any lack of achievements and set personal goals.

Which is what I did…

And it sent me on a journey from the Inspiration Station to Burnt Oak Primary.

To be continued Next Time…