The Saddest Thing About Being a Teacher.

The saddest thing about being a teacher is seeing the amount of wasted potential leaving our school gates every year.

How dispiriting it is to see what standardized testing and what some (often well-intentioned) teachers can do to a young person's confidence and sense of self-worth. (What makes it worse is how often I am part of the problem myself.)

I despair at the amount of young people who finish school without a sense of purpose and belief that they can change the world in their own special way.

Foolish optimist that I am, though: I live for the day when schools will realise that their job is not to create businessmen and doctors, or even good test-takers, but to help every child to find the desire and the confidence to make their own special mark on the world.

And to be happy.

All the rest follows.



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Collaborative Writing Experiment: Call for Contributions

Dear Reader

I want us to write a story. It will be a story about a school. Sometimes funny. Sometimes serious. Perhaps a little ironic. Maybe even a touch zany.

What would happen?

I want you to help to write this story, one line at a time.

Here’s how it will work:

  1. Compose a line to go into the story.
  2. Add it as a comment below this blog or tweet it and add my Twitter name @SeanHCole.
  3. Share this project with your friends and on social media.
  4. If I get enough responses, I’ll weave them all together into a story. I’ll edit where I need to so please don’t be afraid of the rough edges.
  5. I’ll try to develop the central characters and story lines out of common threads.

Feel free to contribute as many lines as you like. I’ll need about 4000 of them.

Think about it as a crowd-sourced creative project. Instead of money, though, you contribute your ideas.

Let’s see how this goes.


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Peeling Potatoes: The Peculiar Challenge of Teaching Teachers



A One-Armed Man in a Juggling Contest

I used to think that teaching kids under the age of ten was the most difficult thing a teacher could do. It isn't. Or else that it was teaching chimps sign language. It isn't that either. Teaching adults is more challenging by far. And teaching other teachers is the most difficult thing any trainer can possibly do. Mainly, this is because teaching some teachers is like teaching the most disruptive / most demanding children – except that you'll find that you can help these kids… if you really work at it. Too often, teaching teachers feels like being a one-armed man in a juggling contest: you can be as entertaining as you like but it usually feels like you haven't actually achieved anything – simply because of the limits of what you've got to work with.

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Imagine a world with no more exams

Sean Hampton-Cole:

Less testing, more teaching. An idea whose time has come.

Originally posted on Buzzing Blue Room:

Take a moment, imagine it.


Six weeks a year we spend writing exams. A week before each of the two the examination periods is given over to exam preparation. And before those dreaded weeks I am constantly aware of how much I have to leave behind, unexplored, because of the dreaded syllabus that needs to be completed before my kids have to sit down and prove, again, what they have already shown me in class.

Even I (and I am no Maths boff) can work out that eight weeks will give me an extra forty days of teaching time.

What would I do with an extra eight weeks of teaching time? I probably would not even add anything new to my syllabus. But I can teach in greater depth, have time for discussions and side-ways exploration. We might even go off-topic and come full circle back on-topic.

Okay, truthfully, I…

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30(ish) of the Best iPad Apps for Education (2014 Edition)



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Powers of Ten (1977). Still One of The Most Exceptional Short Science Films Ever Made

No words. Just watch:

Navigate to: for more about this little marvel.


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What is it? (A Riddle)


Every year it gains as many young as it loses old (more or less).

No-one there seems to age. And then suddenly you realize that they all have.

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What Would Your Mother Say, You Blackguard? (Funny Fallacious Fallacies.)

I found this here:

It's already 12 years old.

Seems like another brilliant idea that didn't get enough airplay.

Time to revive it, I say.


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25 Questions Every 21st Century Student Should Be Able to Answer

25 Questions Every 21st Century Student Should Be Able to Answer

(And then a few more)

  1. What is the value of creativity?
  2. How do I evaluate the reliability of a website?
  3. How do I stay safe online?
  4. Why is metacognition important?
  5. How do I learn most effectively?
  6. How do I create an engaging presentation?
  7. How do I keep my brain healthy?
  8. How do I manage my time effectively?
  9. What are the common fallacies in arguments?
  10. What productivity apps should I use?
  11. Why is the scientific method important?
  12. How do I spot chicanery and fraudulent thinking?
  13. How do I analyze a text critically?
  14. How do I write and speak to convince others?
  15. Why is standing up for myself and being assertive important?
  16. Why is it important to be kind to others?
  17. Why is it important to be kind to nature?
  18. What things can I do to ensure a sustainable, equitable future?
  19. Why is it important to fail?
  20. Why should I be courageous and determined?
  21. Why is it important to read?
  22. Why is it important to sleep?
  23. How do I manage my money?
  24. Why is art important?
  25. Why is it important to find mentors?

And a few more:

  • How does my brain work?
  • How do I work effectively as part of a team?
  • Why is important to be curious and to learn about things independently?
  • How can I find my own way to be happy rather than sticking to some formula?
  • Why is it important to question and think for myself?

Got any to add?

This post was inspired by this piece of brilliance by one of my favorite education gurus: Mr Terry Heick:



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No, We Are Not Civilized. Or, Why the 21st Century is Still Stuck in the 12th (The Persistence of Middle-Ages Mentality in the Modern Age)

Hans Rosling has shown us that the world is getting better. We have by far the greatest proportion of humanity moving out of absolute poverty that we have ever had. At the same time, Stephen Pinker proves that, remarkably, we are also becoming less violent as a species. We have the internet to exchange ideas, and hundreds of thousands of social justice and environmental movements are springing up demanding a better world.

But in so many ways, we are still enormously backward. So medieval, in fact, that I do despair sometimes. How can we be simultaneously becoming so enlightened and still suffer from these plagues to our collective progress:

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Student Appraisal of Teacher (Form)


Feel free to download and modify this form.

Suggestions are welcomed.

Student Appraisal of Teacher


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Why I Am Frightened of Getting Old

I like getting older. Age brings simplification; a channeling of the raging torrent into an essential trickle. I enjoy the clarity that this narrowing-down brings.

But I am also mortally afraid of getting old. I am afraid that I will stop appreciating the intricate workings of the world around me. I am terrified of losing the ability to see from a divergent perspective and to catch on to change. I am scared of no longer being surprised.


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The Humanistic Physicist (Kurt Vonnegut)


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I Have a Dream: The Future of Education

I have dream that one day students will be more important than syllabi.

In the not too distant future, education will be a collaborative enterprise, with teachers and students assuming shifting roles as coaches, mentors and learners.

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Bad Teachers Win

You win. Your students get better results in your subject than they do in mine. You must therefore be a better teacher.

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A Bangarang Peter Pan

Here’s what Barrack Obama had to say about celebrating the life of the man who could make everybody laugh, except himself:

Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.


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Dear Teacher: Welcome to Teaching. You’re Going to Like It Here.

Dear teacher*:

Now that I have scoffed at your youthful enthusiasm and use of university lingo the customary fifty-four times, it falls to me to welcome you officially into the fellowship. I know you are still running on adrenaline and trying to keep your head above the administrative floodwaters, but spare me some time. There are a few things you should know.

Firstly, you need to figure out why you are here, doing what you do. And please make it more specific and detailed than 'change the world' or 'make a difference'. If your overarching goal is too vague you will never reach it, no matter how hard you try. (Mine is to motivate kids to think more clearly, independently, critically and creatively than they did before arriving in my class.) Oh, and if your goal is to help kids get good marks so that they can become successful, you really need to have a rethink. There isn't a simple correlation between these two things. Aim a little higher.

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Teachers: 11 Steps Towards Becoming a Recognized Professional (A Message From the SOTP)


Dear teachers

We are considering officially recognizing your vocation as a profession. We realize that you have all felt that what you do has always been a profession, but honestly, we at the Society of True Professionals have had some abiding concerns about the way you conduct yourselves on a day-to-day basis, and hence have withheld certification for a number of decades. Nonetheless, we are prepared to reconsider your status as ‘soft professionals’ if the following conditions are met by all of you in a consistent and meaningful manner:

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20 Really Bad Things Some Teachers Would Say If You Forced Them to be Honest

There’s a very funny list floating around the interwebz on 10 things teachers wish they could say but can’t. It goes like this:

10 Things Teachers Wish They Could Say

  • Since my last report, your child has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.
  • If this student were any more stupid, he’d have to be watered twice a week. Continue reading
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The Most Insidious Thing a Teacher Can Say About a Student.

Perhaps the single most damaging and insidious belief in education over the course of the last century is the notion that any ability (and intelligence in particular) is hereditary. You either have 'it' or you don't. To this day, teachers, students and the general public take it for granted that intelligence is somehow genetically encoded – like curly hair or blue eyes. It is an ingrained belief that your IQ is somehow naturally determined, and this in turn sets a course for your life. This kind of Social Darwinism has no doubt resulted in the waste of enormous amounts of human potential, innumerable wilted dreams and many, many muted lives.

But none of it is true. We now know that genetics plays the smallest role in determining intelligence.

And then we write student reports or comments that include a phrase that goes something like this:

“Johnny has achieved to his potential this semester.”

The only thing this does is reinforce the tired and silly notion that Johnny has some kind of limited range within which he is capable of operating. The underlying notion being that Johnny's genes have determined that this is as well as he can possibly do.

I've said this kind of nonsense to students and parents before. And apologise sincerely to those who believed me.

From now on I am only telling Johnny that his results are commensurate with his level of effort. To improve, he need simply work harder. Any other limitations he experiences academically are entirely of his own making.


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