I keep this post on the site to remind me just how far I’ve come. When I wrote this in 2011, despite teaching for 12 years, I knew practically nothing about education. I am now rather ashamed and embarrassed at my naivety but it’s good, i think, to remind our selves that we all have feet of clay. 

If you do decide to read on please know that I would now disavow pretty much everything that follows. 

December, 2018

Day 1

Have just finished reading Phil Beadle’s book, Dancing About Architecture at 2.39 am. I received it in the post today and tore open the packaging about 7pm. I have never read an education book like this. And I’ve just noticed that there are several ways to interpret that last sentence: all of them appropriate.

Basically, it’s about creativity (or lack of it) in education. Clearly, it is a ridiculous little book which advocates ignoring Ofsted; not having planned lesson outcomes and being unclear about what it is that students are supposed to be learning. Heresy. But I’m inspired.

I tweeted, somewhat humorously a few hours ago that I was going to teach the structure of JB Priestly’s somewhat turgid play, An Inspector Calls using hula hoops. I’m not sure how or why or what will happen, but I am going to do it.

Tomorrow’s (or should that be today’s) To Do list

1. Ask PE dept if they have any hula hoops (if not I’ll have to go to Sainsbury’s and buy some of the snack based version)
2. Research how to hula
3. Think about something else
4. Wait for inspiration
5. Give it a go

We’ll see…

Day 2

OK, I have a plan. Lesson will start with us trooping outside for a hula tutorial . (Why? Because I can and the weather will be good.) Obviously I’ll be required to make a fool of myself and so will they. I’m guessing some will feel intensely uncomfortable and try to find excuses not to participate. Do I need a strategy for that, or should I just wait and see what happens?

Anyhoo, I will then ask what hula-hooping and guilt have in common. I have some expectations, but will be interesting to see what they think.

I will then ask them to meditate on these connections whilst simultaneously hula-hooping and reading Act 3. I’ve not attempted this yet, but I’m imagining it’s tricky. They will be in teams of 5/6 to cover all characters and if any hoop hits the floor, they have to go back to the start of the page and read again.

Maybe they will decide that the lesson was designed to make them think about how hard it is to do something relatively straightforward if you’re feeling guilty. Maybe not. I’m not going to have an objective – I will ask them to decide what the objective was when we’ve finished. I have no idea what will happen and according to Mr Beadle, that’s probably about right. He says, what fascinates here is the infinity of potential in having the outcome completely lead by the process.”

It may all go horribly, disastrously wrong but they are unlikely to forget it. In that case, as Phil says I’ll, “rip it up and start again.”

Day 3

I learnt two things today. Firstly, hula hooping is really quite difficult. Secondly, letting go and taking risks can be hugely enjoyable and extremely worthwhile. Actually the second one was more something that I’d forgotten – but it was freshly confirmed by having one of the most enjoyable lessons of my career.

As explained in my previous post, I made the possibly spurious decision to use hula hoops in my teaching of An Inspector Calls and then felt obliged to actually go ahead and do it.

Things were looking good when the PE faculty were able to give me 30 assorted hula hoops this morning. I quickly reviewed my planning which consisted of:

1. Inform students that today’s lesson would take place outside and that they would need their copy of the play and a hula hoop
2. Give out hula hoops and hope at least one student is sufficiently talented to give short tutorial.
3. Pose question: what do hula hoops and guilt have in common
4. Explain task: students to work in teams of 5 or 6; they are to Act 3 whilst simultaneously hula hooping. If hula hoop is not “in motion” then the team have to go back to the beginning of the page they’re and start again. Differentiation: less able are allowed to use their arm to keep hula hoop spinning.
5. Check learning
6. Students to suggest possible objectives for lesson and state whether they have met ’em.

Wowzers! A six-part lesson plan!

The students were magnificent. After 20 minutes of attempting to read the play we had established that it is pretty much impossible to have an impromptu group reading of a play whilst hula hooping. But had we learnt anything else? My favourite conversation in response to the hula hoop/guilt debate went like this:


Student 1: I learnt that you feel guilty when you drop the hula hoop because your team has to start the page over again.

Student 2: I didn’t feel guilty when I dropped it.

Student 3: That’s because you’re Mrs Birling! (for those who don’t know, Mrs B is a character who refuses to take responsibility for her actions)

Other interesting outcomes included the observation that the structure of the play is like hula hooping because it just goes round and round in circles with nothing really changing. Awesome! It might have taken me hours to have ‘taught’ that idea.

Some of the learning objectives the students came up with at the end of the lesson included:

– To be able to work as a team and accept responsibility for failing your team

– To discover the relationship between hula hooping and Act 3 of An Inspector Calls

– To be able to multi-task

– To be able to concentrate on a task and co-operative effectively

– To be able to learn through my dismal failure to hula hoop!

All of these are laudable objectives. But had I chosen just one of them, how much would I had limited the opportunities for learning?

We then had a discussion about what other crazy stuff we could do to inspire each other. Some of my favourite ideas are: build a class boat; fly kites; make cakes. My personal favourite suggestion was, “Why don’t we all go to sleep in the lesson, have a dream and then write about the dream.”

I will endeavour to try all of these in September.

To finish, I asked students to jot down their reflections on what we’d done and these are some of their comments:

“At the beginning I though it would be a bit silly…but I learnt that i needed to concentrate more on the play and it was a change to be outside in the fresh air.”

“However pointless this lesson appeared to be, upon reflection links were made that helped me understand the play better. It was also philosophically eye-opening.”

“I loved this lesson! I enjoyed the hula hooping challenge. I like role playing but only in a small group of friends, so that was fine. And I caught some sun – yay!”

“I thought the lesson was refreshing and new. It helped gain a different way of learning. However, I hate hula hoops, use footballs instead :)”