John Blake: This is how I work

I am John Blake and this is how I work


John Blake
John Blake

Blog: // twitter: @johndavidblake

Current job: Head of History, editor of Labour Teachers

Been a teacher since: 2006

Location: London

Current mobile device: Samsung Galaxy SIII – I like it much better than my old iPhone, although it’s resolute refusal to communicate with my iPad is a bit frustrating

Current computer: iPad, my lovely, lovely iPad. I also have a computer at home that wheezes to life when I need something that’s got Flash in it

School-issued devices: None, yet, but change is coming – very excited about the possibilities of tablets in schools

One word that best describes how you work: Efficiently (I think)

How do you manage your calendar/diary?

When my son broke my iPhone and I couldn’t afford to get another one, I lost access to Google Calendar on the move. It was a disaster. Now I live my those little red boxes.

How do you manage your lesson planning?

My department does a lot of collaborative planning for medium-term stuff, so most of my planning is adapting down to my specific classes – it’s great to have colleagues whose work you trust, saves time and effort.

How do you manage your marking?

The driving force of all our assessment is reducing the marking load – marking is best when it’s done quickly, but our school is huge so it’s always a challenge. That sounds like an excuse for not marking enough, which it probably is.

What’s your best tip for term-time weekends?

Set up everything for Monday before you go home on Friday, so you’re not worrying about photocopying whilst trying to listen to briefing. Don’t take work home.

What do you do during school holidays?

Aside from family life, a lot of my time outside of school is taken up with political stuff,  either Labour Teachers or campaigning locally for Labour. Other than that, I read a lot of history – knowing more about my subject is the best way to improve as a teacher.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Twitter appears to have conquered my life; I don’t tweet as much as other people I follow, but I watch a lot of conversations about education politics with interest. Sometimes I think we might all be learning too much about what we all think, but I enjoy the clash of ideas.

What offline tools can’t you live without?

Books. Waterstone’s 3-for-2 on History books gets me every time and discovering cheap second-hand books about Labour politics in the 80s on Amazon nearly bankrupted me.

What’s your main workspace like?

Terrible. I currently work part-time and another teacher uses my class on Tuesdays. I occasionally pin Post-It notes with “I’m so sorry” written on them to the piles of stuff, but I don’t think she’s ever found them amidst the detritus. I’m getting my own office next year, in which I hope to be tidier.

What do you listen to while you work?

Musical theatre (currently a lot of “Book of Mormon” but there’s always room for some “Les  Mis”) – but I have to do it after school, or the kids catch me singing along.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Unless there’s a pressing reason not to, do little stuff immediately. Occasionally, I find myself writing “send ‘thank you’ email” in my planner and I think “That’s taken more time than the email would have done.”

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I’ve got a free app on my iPad called “Errands”. I downloaded it because it was the first one that come on on the App Store but it’s actually really good.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Remote control for my Virgin TiVo Box – it doesn’t seem to have any other way you can operate it and you can’t make our DVD player work without switching the box off, which you need the remote to do. Last time we lost it, our only viewing option for four days was CBeebies.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Denouncing the quality of leadership of the teaching profession provided by the main trade unions. I despair at the things ‘teaching leaders’ say sometimes, so I’ve just got more and more pointed in criticising them.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Entirely depends on my kids.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I’ve got a loud voice and lots of opinions, so in most political meetings I tend to appear an extrovert, but—aside from time with my family—I’m most happy reading a good history book on my own.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The struggle is not the victory.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

“If I believed the development of socialism meant the absolute crushing of liberty, then I should plump for liberty because the advance of human development depends entirely on the right to think, to speak, and to use reason, and allow what I call the upsurge to come from the bottom to reach the top.” – Ernest Bevin

I would like to I’d like to see @headguruteacher answer these same questions.


Many thanks to John for agreeing to post here. Other This is how I work posts are available here.

John Blake: This is how I work

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