A bbc Interview with @positivteacha

My name’s Matt Pinkett, and I’m a Head of English in Guildford. Been teaching since 2012 and currently writing a book on Masculinity in Schools with Mark Roberts (@mr_englishteach)

1. What made you become a teacher?

Without a doubt, the reason I’m a teacher is my year 7 English teacher, Mr. Honeyford. I’d love to be able to tell you that we all hated him at the time, but realised years later that he was the reason I can recite most of Shakespeare’s sonnets from memory, but I can’t remember a single thing he taught me. He was just cool: I think he used to say ‘crap’ in lessons. And he loved teaching, that much was clear.

After him, there were a few other figures who meant a lot. Mario Scanella and Phil Stock were both teachers from my school that I really admired. And Miss George, Miss Burt and Miss Harrison were great too.

This answer is so common. Good teachers make more teachers.

2. What has been best thing you have done at work this year?

The best thing?

There’s been a lot going on- I think the English department has improved. Practices are stronger, teaching is stronger, assessment is stronger. And our direct vocabulary instruction programme has been a huge success. We’ve also managed to buy a book for every student, simply by hassling rich people for money and free books. Managed to secure funding also, that means the Guildford Shakespeare Company will be providing 300 minutes of workshops for each year group on their Shakespeare text. That’s important as students don’t often see live theatre, but now they can.

The best thing though, is being part of staff body who have completely changed around the school. The December I started, Ofsted came in and judged us to be Inadequate. We’re awaiting our final judgement, but the school’s a different place now. It’s been a tough, but amazing experience and I can’t wait to hear the official judgement.

3. What 3 songs would be on your driving to work playlist?

They have to be clean right?

Stupid question- of course they have to be clean. This year’s drive to school has mainly been sponsored by...

1: Rap God, by Eminem. I’ve only discovered it this year, completely missing all the hype that surrounded it when it was released. It’s so visceral. I love the aggression there and that rare sort of bravado that is completely and utterly justified because he’s so damn good at what he does.

2: Unchained Melody, The Righteous Brothers. One of the greatest songs of all time, no question. Can’t beat singing along to that one.

3: Another Girl, Another Planet, by the Only One’s. I like songs sung by people that can’t sing. Reminds me that one day, I’ll have a hit single.

Sorry: 4. What is your guilty pleasure?

Easy. Westlife.

Least said, soonest mended... moving on.

5. If you weren´t a teacher, what would you be?

I want to say, ‘Rich’, but I’m not sure that’s the case. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was 12 years old. I’ve never really thought about anything else. I didn’t get into teaching until I was 26 and it seems like I did every job under the sun before them. And I was rubbish at all of them. Rubbish, because teaching was all I wanted. So, if I weren’t a teacher I’d be depressed and doing a job I’d be embarrassed to tell people about at parties.

6. What are you passionate about (teaching-related or not)?

I’m not going to say family or friends or any of that because that goes without saying. It’s boring, and I wish I could say skateboarding or playing guitar or jumping off of rocks into cold water, but I can’t.

I am passionate about teaching. It’s the only job I’ve wanted to do and it’s still the thing I love. I’ve said this before, but there’s a point on my journey to work, and every time I drive past it, I think, ‘I am ‘effing lucky to be doing this job.’ I dunno why that particular point in the journey triggers that thought but it does.

I think it helps that I think I’m good at teaching. I don’t think I’ve ever felt good at anything before.

I think that confidence is important. Too many teachers made to feel not good enough.

7. If you had to pick one subject/topic to teach on a loop forever, what would it be?

Shakespeare. Everything. The sonnets, the plays, the context. All of it.

8. What is the most effective routine/method/system you use in the classroom?

Repetition, or interleaving as it’s preferably known. I honestly think it’s no stretch to say that once a kid is exposed to some new knowledge in my classroom, they’ll revisit that knowledge at least ten more times over the course of the year. We have 100 minute lessons at my place and it’s brilliant: I can revisit previously learned stuff-spend ten, twenty, thirty minutes on it- and still have time to lecture the kids, discuss the lecture, and do some writing.

9. If you had to pick 4 people (Twitter or otherwise) to invite to a dinner party who would it be and why?

Been racking my brains on this one and it just came to me as I was having a workout. And I’m sure people are going to it’s a sign of my egotism but, you gotta help yourself before you can help everyone else right? So, here goes:

1. 18 year old me. I’d have a word with myself. Tell myself that I didn’t have to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. That actually, one day in the future I’d feel really happy. I’d also tell myself not to go to University. Or at least, not THAT university. I’d tell myself to take up a sport and stick with it. And to read some bloody books because one day, I’ll be playing catch-up.

2: Stormzy. I wanna talk to him about my letter and find out a little more about his young writer’s thing with Penguin. Might even ask if he can teach young me a thing or two about rapping. I would’ve liked to be a rapper.

3: David Beckham. He’s just been one of those celebrities I’ve thought, ‘maybe if I met him just once, he’d actually like me and I’d become his friend.’ So yeah, him.

Just realised, I should probably be saying people like Martin Luther King, or John Lennon, or the Dalai Lama. They are probably bored of imaginary dinner parties by now.

4: Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. I want to thank her for that book she wrote about how to raise a daughter a feminist. It’s brilliant. Everyone needs a copy. Also, I think I’d like to have a discussion with her, younger me, and Stormzy about gender representations in rap music. David can jump in if he wants to.

I'm sure he has lots to say on the subject.

10. What are the best/worst pieces of advice you've been given as teacher?

Worst piece of advice: it’s a toss up between, ‘written marking works’ and ‘You should give your students a VAK questionnaire.’ We’ll go for the latter.

The best advice is something along the lines of, ‘As a teacher, your job isn’t to make things easy for students; your job is to make things difficult for your students.’


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