CPD Teaching

Colleagues at work 1978-1987

The people in one’s first work setting make a distinct impression and in all likelihood have quite an influence. In the early eighties the two people who took an interest and provided most support at Deal Secondary School were Brian Redfern, a French teacher with a pastoral responsibility and, later, Deputy Head, and Malcolm Birt who was my boss as Head of Social Studies. Both remained at Deal and are now retired. I remember the Friday evening badminton club, followed by refreshment by a few pints of mild at The Jolly Gardener, which served as both cathartic exercise and an opportunity to put the world right.

When asked if I missed teaching, I would answer that it was the spirit and humour of the staff room that I missed most. Later jobs had their own pressures, but in teaching, surrounded by critics as it is, professional colleagues are a very important strength.

We did miss living by the sea in Deal and Walmer after moving to Ashford. The characteristics of the place to live and work was an important factor for the early working experience, too. It was undergoing change as the main employment of the coal-mines disappeared and the Dover port activities were transformed. Combined with the mobile nature of the marines, since gone, and other features of sea-side town life made for a challenging social mix. The beguiling charm of the place could not conceal the problems.

This photograph shows a number of other staff making up a hockey team to play against a school team or, perhaps, another school. I don’t remember the result of the match. This group includes a number of people who started working there at about the same time as me.

Deal staff hockey
Deal staff hockey 1979-80?

Back: Tony Hollow, Ian Pettitt, Angus Willson, Ron Canwell, Alan Hodges
Middle: Elaine Smallwood, Malcolm Perry, Graham Millar, Roger Darby
Front: Sue Alcock, Sue Greenhalgh

So much has happened in schools, and beyond, in the intervening years it is like looking back at a more distant era. I have met up with Chris Hardy a number of times since and he always manages to remind of enough, with an alternative perspective, to avoiding viewing those formative times through rose-tinted spectacles.

I left Deal on a secondment to the local authority not knowing that I wouldn’t return. It was what I now regard as phase one of a four-phase working life. I had learned the importance of  having an interest in the people around you.

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First written January 2011
Addition June 2016

Not knowing the meaning of softwareSchool-based CPD

I have been throwing out some papers from the loft, long over-due. There was a whole box from work I did with Computers in the Curriculum which I have have written about here >

However, what came to light was the presentation I made in an INSET Week in July 1985. It was a series of one-day active workshops which included all the teaching staff. It was detailed in aims and content – and the whole week was evaluated by questionnaire. Naturally, I emphasised the learning rather than the technology and concluded:

“where an area of the curriculum relies heavily on information skills there is a wide range of sources.  The requirement is usually the choice of the most appropriate media, using a variety of sources and presenting it in a variety of ways. Ian Shepherd has written “the computer will have become so normal a part of everyday teaching that it will be as gratuitous to speak of computer assistance as it is to speak now of “library assisted” or “teacher assisted” learning.”

There was a copy of a formal ‘thank you’ note from Keith Hargrave, Deputy Head, that had been posted on the staff noticeboard. A further two-sided sheet reminded me of how contentious this CPD week had been in certain quarters. I wasn’t the sole target of his ire, but Clive Dunn, a bitter mathematics teacher and hobbyist computer-buff, had written “I venture to say that I would have learned more by teaching my first year class than attending the computer course.”

There was also an article by Ted Wragg from The Times Educational Supplement (1 June 1984) referring to the staffroom “Early Palaeolithic Obstructionist… the seasoned stopper, the practised doom merchant, the block artist.” We had our fair share of those.

By Angus Willson

Angus Willson is editor of this site and author of this blogpost.

7 replies on “Colleagues at work 1978-1987”

I did my first year of teaching at Deal. 1984 -1985. Brian Redfern was such a help to me. Have lost touch with him, also Martine Wells (also a huge help/support) I taught French alongside them both. Tracey (Webster) Moores.

Hi Angus
Just found these articles purely by chance. I don’t think I have seen you since you left the school. Are you and Margaret still together? You didn’t mention the School Ski Trip that we went on, or does that still give you nightmares? I left teaching a life time ago but am now a member of the Border agency keeping our country safe.

All the best

Ian Pettit

Hi Angus

My daughter found a copy of this article about colleagues at work 1978 -1987 and forwarded it to me. I just thought I would write to fill in the missing details for you. The woman at the back was Elaine Howarth-Maden who later became Smallwoood when she married Jeb Smallwood from over at the Ramsgate School. The young girl at the front was Sue Alcock who taught in the Maths Dept. She left Deal to follow her true love to Harrogate never to be heard of again.

How are things with you? Someone, Malcolm Birt I think, told me you were living over in Ashford and working still. The older ones of that time have now retired and in my case for thirteen years- I was one of the last ones to get it at fifty. I did supply for about five years and now work two mornings a week doing accounts in an old peoples home. I still say I could have retired at 21 if they kept sending me the pay cheque.

I still see Graham, Malcolm, John Young, and Tony Hollow occasionally and Martine Wells ,Sue Greenhalgh, Linda Yates ,Janet Dean every now and then and though I pass the old place every so often I never look sideways. I think it’s still there.

Take care

John Yates

Hi, John
How kind of you to reply! I have a very clear memory of you in my first week of teaching when I took over the second period of a double PE cover lesson (the dreaded yellow slip). It seemed like a twenty-a-side match on a muddy corner of the playing field. You very helpfully pointed out some kid in Doc Marten’s saying ‘he’s a corner flag and he doesn’t move’.
It seems like a long time ago!
Cheers, Angus

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