Filling in application forms for jobs in the teaching sector is very much like making love to a beautiful woman. You have to go through all the boxes carefully a right pain. All the usual basic information is required, plus a fiddly level of detail, and – the nub of my crux – an annoyingly variegated range of formatting styles, designed to make the process as unstreamlined as possible.

Name, age, addresses (going back at least five years because child protection legislation), edumacation details, and a full list of jobs from when you finished school. I mean, for me, that’s a longish time ago now. I asked a Head of Recruitment recently if they really needed them all. She assured me they did, because child protection legislation and the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service).

While it seems likely that citing DBS regs is probably the new ‘Health and Safety’ sorrowful headshake for HR, ‘post Savile’, I’m happy to comply with all that, because, well, protected children, and of course me not having my application binned. Fortunately, having neglected to cover the years 1995-1997 on that occasion, ‘Eleventy thousand bars and shops I pinballed round for two years in my early 20s’ seemed to be an acceptable gloss 20 years on.

The application forms for most teaching jobs in the UK all seem to have pretty much the same layout, too. Tables, in Word, with the end of cell markers that signify orphaned post codes unless you fudge about with the size of text or font. Annoyingly, filling out multiple variations of the same form does not allow for easy cut and pasting of job details, exam results, etc. There is always a somewhat different format, always multiple variations of box configurations. One I filled out two days ago had a section for every single detail of my schooling:

[from mm][yy] [to mm] [yy] [school] [school address] [exam] [grade] [certificating body]

“Make it easy on yourseeeeelllllf” I warbled somewhat desperately as I tabbed and c+v’d. The app I was copying from was laid out in precisely the reverse order as well.

While resisting (somewhat feebly, given my embrace of products Googlish) the 21st century urge to spreadsheet database centralisation, at 22.45 last night I considered forming, or at least joining, a campaign to force everyone advertising through TES Online to use a central CV/application form resource. This far-too-sensible-to-work-in-real-life notion rapidly extrapolated to the more entertaining scenario of being able to plug my brain in, Matrix-style, to some industrial virtual teacher repository, where our smiling avatars sit arrayed like apps in the Apple store. Teacher with the most up-votes gets the job.

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23rd April. One cannot let the occasion of Shakespeare’s death, and possible birth, pass without a tip of the hat.

An “ask any question” question, written on a post-it note in an English class I taught one time:

“What would win in a fight between Shakespeare or of Godzilla?”

"...then have at you with my wit!"

“…then have at you with my wit!”

I keep the original post-it about me. Shonky grammar from student – and now shonky photoshopping – be damned. It’s this kind of question that sustains my glee in teaching English.

Perhaps you might like to continue the celebrations by casting an eye over a couple of The Mortal Bath’s prior notes on the Sweet Swan of Avon: Shakespeare’s presence on cheat sheet websites and the previously unspoken love betwixt Shakespeare and George Orwell.

Happy Bard Day everyone!

It is the start of the holidays, yet I cannot quite escape the chalkface. First, Britain’s state propaganda news organ the BBC reports on a forthcoming speech by Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of the schools inspectorate Ofsted, to be delivered later today (3rd April 2014).

(I will quickly gloss over the annoyance of news media pre-reporting speeches as having been ‘said’ by someone, an annoyance prompted by five years spent transcribing and editing speeches, scripted and unscripted.)

The meat of the nub of the crux of Sir Michael’s gist is that nurseries, playschools, need “greater emphasis on structured learning”. However, in a related report, the Beeb notes that despite expert advice to the contrary, “play” at playschool is not deemed worth mentioning in Early Years Teacher training.

“While the Early Years Teacher (qualification, EYT) requires the teacher to have a clear understanding of synthetic phonics in the teaching of reading and appropriate strategies in the teaching of early mathematics, there is no mention of theories underpinning structured play.”

There are several hats I could put on to be annoyed by this news – as a qualified teacher, as a parent and as someone who likes playing about, for three.

Any fule in teeching kno about the benefits to be gained from play, if only looking as far as the vaunted Finnish approach to education, which features no formal learning until the age of seven.

This pre-school annoyance sits, second, beside further dismay at the non-news that an “ultra-high grade” will help a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) “shake-up” in England and Wales. Again, I will gloss over my irritation at the term “shake-up”, which rather than actual change suggests snow-globe inversion, cascading flakes for a short time then as you were.

When the idea was first floated last year, I was saying – informed comment in my capacity as a teaching professional, just to waft my certificates at you once more – that the problem of “A*” becoming devalued is not one to be solved by introducing another scheme entirely. As if letters have suddenly stopped being able to do what we tell them. Maybe numbers work better on spreadsheets? Or should we just go for Alphas, Deltas, Gammas? Aldous Huxley gently rotates. The concept of the A* has in any case always seemed risible:

“…these go to 11…”

I will now be thoroughly annoying myself and quote my own commentary on the grades from Twitter, last Jun:

Education is too easily seen and used as a political football… with successive governments and inspectorates also moving goalposts, widening them, or replacing them with giant sausages. I dunno. I do not have ready answers. There’s a lot to think about, and I’m supposed to be on Easter hols as well. All I can say is, people know what Sam Cooke means when he sings of “being an A student, baby”. Do we want A student babies though?

Sometimes I love the career I embarked on. Sometimes it just makes me feel like I’m playing for the wrong side.

Hey! Teacher!

Hey! Teacher!

What the student might have meant to write:

“Both Shakespeare and Orwell use the emotion of love to interesting effect.”

What the student wrote:

“It is also interesting to see how Shakespeare and Orwell make love.”

[If you have any similar examples – typos, Spoonerisms, unintentional smut – perhaps you’d like to share them with everyone.]