It was a piping hot bank holiday Monday so what better time to stay indoors and play ‘Guess Who?’ After stumbling upon an original version (circa ‘82) my friend and I thought it would be fun to revisit the game where you attempt to narrow down a line-up of faces to a single mugshot via a series of questions about their appearance. We noticed that, this being an early incarnation of the game, the ethical diversity of the Guess Who gang was slightly limited, and, that the women made up just over 10% of the population (although they were all conveniently huddled together in one corner of the playing board so they could all easily be knocked down in a single handspan – thanks Hasbro!)
Inevitably, before we started playing, we carefully studied the characters’ faces. By doing so we began to discuss what sort of lives they’d led and soon we had hit upon a neat idea: Would it be possible to play the game by asking questions about their lives and experiences rather than their appearance? For example, which of the Guess Who gang has no desire to be promoted above their station (Herman), which character would not help out a friend in need (Claire) and who loathes their job and is trapped in a loveless marriage (Robert). It turned out that you could play Guess Who in this manner, thus proving that you can judge a book by its cover.
After a successful 90-minute match (ending in a stalemate of three wins each) it was time to go home. But I couldn’t get these colourful – praise be for Anne, last name ‘Token’ – characters out of my head. The more I thought about them the more I became convinced that I had met them all before…they’re all educators!
Sweet on the surface but self-assured Susan. She’s taught in every year group and there isn’t anything she doesn’t know about education. Whenever a new initiative is launched, you can rest assured that Susan is somewhere in the staff room, rolling her eyes, and whispering to the NQT next to her ‘Oh, they’re trotting that idea out again, are they? I remember doing that in the 70s.’ She’s only ever taught in one school. She has a planning file that she will not deviate from. She’s never gone for a senior leadership position, but everyone knows she’s the real ruler of the school.
Quiet old Herman. Last to leave the staffroom when there are cakes on the table, so he can pop a few in his pocket for later when no one’s looking. (Well, it will save him from having to eat tinned chilli again when he gets home.) Everyone likes Herman although nobody can remember ever having a conversation with him. He is described by everyone as kind but dull. The advancement of ICT has nearly ended his career twice: once when he failed his performance management technology target after his head found out that he hadn’t even turned on his very expensive visualiser at any point during the year, and a second time when the ICT technician punched him in the head after he used permanent marker on the electronic whiteboard. But still Herman survives.
Bernard is a God on Twitter. His uncompromising views on education policy, discipline and teaching styles have seen his followers grow to Mariah Carey proportions. (At one point he was even considering getting his account blue ticked.) He courts controversy and will fight to the death (well, to the block) over issues that mean a lot to him or even more to someone else. His teaching has been described by each of his line managers as ‘average’ – something he sees as being proof that education in this country is going to hell. Bernard is not a happy man.
Old smug-chops! Richard is always ahead of the curve. He knows about every initiative at least an hour before everyone else, and by the time they’ve finished reading the memo he’s already blogged about it. Richard describes his teaching style as enigmatic. ‘I refuse to be labelled as a ‘this’ teacher or a ‘that’ teacher,’ he says. ‘I just do what’s right for the kids.’ His colleagues call him Mr Fad and believe his penchant for insisting he be called by his first name is the reason why he is so popular with children and also why the children do not behave for them. Richard’s goal in life is to set up a progressive free school in Kenya.
All Alfred ever wanted was to be a bass player in a hard rock band. He no longer cares about anything to do with teaching. The only reason he turns up is because he needs the money to support his excessive gig-going lifestyle. In class, Alfred has two settings: angry and less angry. He has nothing but disdain for school leaders and he holds his colleagues in contempt. His pupils, however, can provide an occasional respite from the drudgery of teaching, when they ask him to once again go through the differences between the bass styles of John Paul Jones and Craig Gruber. Alfred hasn’t marked a book since 2009.
She’s passionate. She’s cool. She’s full of ideas. Few of them are any good, but her colleagues feel so protective over this enthusiastic young teacher that they haven’t the heart to tell her. She once wore a green beret when teaching MFL and got judged ‘outstanding’ by her university tutor. Maria now has an extensive collection of hats. Before and after school she can be found marking her books, bare footed, whilst listening to Fleetwood Mac and Eva Cassidy on spotify.
Philip. Just gets on with his job, doesn’t he? His books are always perfectly marked. His lessons are meticulously planned and his children make excessive progress. He is well-liked by staff, children and parents. He is a supportive colleague. He is even friendly towards Bernard! He arrives at 8:30am and leaves by 4:45pm. On Mondays, he shares tales about his work-free weekends along with the pictures of his healthy children and the treehouse he’s making in his massive garden. Bloody Philip. I hate Philip.
Oh Anne, what happened? You were once so full of life. Remember that time you took your class on an impromptu visit to the British Library because none of the children said they liked books? You changed lives that day! But, over the years, the system has worn you down. Some say it all started when you were put in charge of managing the school’s risk assessments. It’s true, you haven’t agreed a school trip for nine years now, claiming that it’s just too darn risky. Last year, you even banned the staff party. Come on Anne, come back to us!
Paul is a chair of governors. He has been a governor since 1975. He is a kindly man, even when he is dismissing the headteacher over the school’s recent ‘good’ Ofsted inspection. ‘We were hoping for outstanding.’ He constantly reminds the governing body that they should not be concerned with the operational side of the school. He will then look over the rim of his glasses, towards the Acting Head and ask what time she wants him in tomorrow to help conduct staff appraisals.
Tom is now an Ofsted inspector. He joined the inspectorate after failing several headship interviews. He is a positive and diligent man who always looks for the good in schools. Tom is often the third additional inspector during an inspection. It is his role to sit and have lunch with the children and find out about SMSC. Tom feels happy that he is making a difference.
Eric is no longer allowed to work with children.