A bbc Interview with Ed Finch

Ed Finch is a teacher at Larkrise Primary School, Oxford. He lives with his wife Diane (@dfinchuk) and his ten-year-old son who is also a pupil at Larkrise. He has a ´weird´ role in his school, including overall responsibility for the School´s idiosyncratic storytelling curriculum, the Arts and the Outdoors. He teaches Music, Dance, Gymnastics and ICT as PPA cover. He´s excited to have his own class (for two days a week, but still his) and doing all the great stuff he gets to read about on Twitter from great teachers like Miss Merrill and the Primary Rocks gang.

What made you become a teacher?
         - I did lots of other things before becoming a teacher. I worked delivering leaflets around Oxfordshire and beyond for many years whilst attempting to build upto some sort of career in the theatre. When I got sick of that, I took a VSO placement in Ethiopia teaching English at a Secondary school in a remote town in the mountains. I rather liked it and carried on teaching English as a foreign language for a couple of years after my placement ended - in Poland, Edinburgh and Oxford. In the end I thought I should maybe make a career of it and took the GTP route in Primary Teaching. Very glad I did. 

What is your favourite part of the job?
         - I love the interactions with the children. I´ve been at my present school for fourteen years now and I´ve seen whole families pass through. I like seeing them grow and move on . I also love playing a positive role in the community of the school and the wider community in East Oxford. A colleague who is leaving our school gave me a copy of Gregory David Roberts ´Shantaram´ and wrote this in the front- makes me feel I must be doing something right.  

Also Twitter events, Oxford Reading Spree, Oxford Writing Spree and #BrewEd are all Twitter-driven, happy, sharing events that put power back in the hands of teachers. 

What is the most frustrating thing about teaching at the moment?
- From my professional perspective, my most frustrating challenge is trying to ensure there´s room in the school day for anything that isn´t reading, writing or arithmetic. We know that children with wider life experiences will have more to talk about, more to write about and will - quite frankly - end up doing better in tests, but even so there is unceasing pressure to give more time to SAT subjects. I fight the corner for wider curriculum but I know how hard it is for colleagues who, quite reasonably, believe that their professional effectiveness is measured primarily through the three ´R´s (plus SPaG).

What songs would be on your driving to work playlist?
         - I don´t drive to work, it´s a five minute cycle across the park. In the car CD player at the moment I have a Now That´s What I Call the 70s compilation I bought on the way back from Northern Rocks. It´s wall to wall genius- it´ll be a while before I get bored of that. 

What is the funniest thing a child has ever said/written in your class?
         - A child pointed at my left shoulder and asked ´have you ever had a parrot on there?´ I said ´no´. He pointed to my right shoulder and asked ´have you ever had a parrot on there?´ I said ´no´. He said ´open your mouth.´ I did. He said ´I bet you´ve had a cockatoo in there.´

I guess that isn´t from a cracker.

What is your guilty pleasure? Besides beard-wearing.
          - My guilty pleasure is Twitter. I spend far too much time on it and am forever resolving to set a limit one way or another. Then another conversation kicks off, and I´m back on it again. 

Did you know that my BeardOff ended up raising over 1,100? I was amazed - most of that was Twitter contacts so I guess my guilty pleasure has at least served some purpose. 

There are downsides, but Twitter can have a massive impact, both personally and professionally.

If you weren´t a teacher, what would you be and why?
         - I´d be a storyteller. I´d have a yurt and travel around schools, festivals and interesting places doing amazing immersive storytelling events. It would be great. I love telling stories and I love travelling around Britain. It would suit me beautifully if I wasn´t looking after my family and trying to pay a mortgage. 

I think you would need the beard back for that to work.

What are you passionate about (teaching-related or not)?
         - I´m passionate about books and music-you can barely move in my house for stacks of books and instruments- accordions, mandolins, ukeleles, harmonicas, whistles and a bunch of strange things I´ve built for myself. 

If you had to pick one subject/topic to teach on a loop forever, what would it be?
         - Poetry isn´t either a topic or a subject by some of my best lessons have been focussed on poetry so can I go with that? It´s a cheat because there´s pretty much nothing I can´t approach through poetry so it leaves me pretty free. If you have to tie me down to a topic I´ll have the Vikings please. Love those Vikings. 

What is the most effective resource/technology/app you use in the classroom?
         - I´m old enough to remember when smart boards came in and the opportunities they gave us to make our teaching more interactive and accessible - simple things like changing the colour of the background or increasing point size suddenly made it possible for some dyslexic children. To feel part of what was going on. Recording a working in maths and playing it on a loop made it possible for children to see the demonstration as many times as they needed. I think a lot of teacher have lost track of that and are using their boards just as screens for projection. Used well, a smart board is a brilliant tool and a whole lot of fun. 

What is the most effective routine/method/system you use in the classroom?
         - Cold calling. Pose, pounce, bounce. Regular use of the visualiser. 

If you had to pick 4 people (Twitter or otherwise) to invite to a dinner party who
would it be and why?
         - To get real benefit out of this once in a lifetime opportunity, I´d better choose folk I haven´t got to hang out with before. Some people I´d really like to spend time getting to know would be P4C Champion, Darren Chetty (@rapclassroom), wise positivity maven Mary Myatt (@marymyatt), Northern Poetry powerhouse Ian MacMillan (@IMacMillan) and ukelele prophet Will Grove-White (@WillGroveWhite). I could write twenty more names without stopping for breath frankly. 

What is the best and worst advice you have been given as a teacher?
         - Best: Use the behaviour policy, it´s there to support you. There´s no medals for trying to do it all yourself and getting knackered out. 
    Worst: Don´t smile till Christmas. Also ¨Every lesson needs a full sentence lesson objective, recorded in full in their books, key vocabulary and success criteria displayed on the board.¨ Or anythng which starts ¨Ofsted wants to see...¨

Final Question: What drives you as a teacher?
        - What drives me in teacher is making School better for pupils than the schooling I got. I hated school and hope that by putting humanity and creativity at the heart of what I can do I can make it less bloody awful for the children who came through the School. 

If you could choose one person who you´d love to have the bbc interview treatment, who would it be and why?
- How about Darren Chetty? He has got a lot to say. What about you, Ben?

I´m quite enjoying being the interviewer, but we will see!


  1. The funniest thing a primary school pupil has said to you?? That's a very worrying story, not to mention inappropriate. Unless I'm misunderstanding the meaning??


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