All I learned at school was how to bend, not break, the rules

Being an irregular column in the life of an ICT teacher.

So. New term, new school, new kids, new colleagues. Just under a month in post and I had my first complaint.  Well, second.  The first was about the tone of my emails. “Could I not send emails like that to the IT helpdesk?”

You know the conversations. A member of SLT pops into your classroom for “a little chat”. Anyone who’s been involved with management in any shape or form will know the shit sandwich. Praise / problem / praise. And this was a finely crafted example – ensuring I was settling in well, assuring me that good things were being said. But there was just one thing that had been raised.

A fellow staff member (with whom I have presumably interacted in some way) has taken offence at my choice of neckwear. Another man in school has actually gone to the headmistress and put in a formal complaint about my choice of ties. (don’t shoot the messenger!)  I’m not setting the right example.  It’s not smart.

Y’see, for the last 5 years or do I’ve taken great pleasure in wearing an increasingly diverse and fun range of bootlace ties, collecting the neck pieces at steampunk festivals and making them into ties myself. They’re a talking point! A way to spark conversations with students, to begin building those all-important relationships.

But, according to the complainant, it’s not a tie.  And despite what the Wikipedia article on neck ties says, what the OED says, and what the staff uniform policy says (it’s vague to the point where I am clearly and definitely obeying it), it isn’t a tie.  So could I wear a “real” tie.

Now.  Take a look around the staffroom the next time there’s an all-staff meeting.  You’ll see a wide variety of “ties” tied with a wide variety of competence.  You’ll see the tie with a fat knot to conceal the fact that the collar isn’t fastened.  You’ll see what I can only describe as the “letter of the law” or “it’ll do” that, if worn that way by a pupil would cause uniform concerns to be raised.  And you’ll see some very smart, very tidy, ties.  But they will almost certainly be the same knot.  The knot they learned when they were at school.  One that takes seconds to tie and does the job.  If someone’s been to a fancy school, you might catch sight of a Windsor knot.  But that just scrapes the surface of what’s out there…  So I set myself a little challenge.

Every school day I would wear a different knot.  The more outrageous and flamboyant, the better.  “Wear a tie”, you said.  So I am.  The uniform  policy says wear a tie.  It does not say how to tie it.  It also does not say whether it should be tasteful or not…  Game on.

Since that day I’ve done over 50 knots.  I’ve done full Windsors, helix, shuttle, vampire, prince, Edison, aperture…  For the full list, look me up on Twitter – @dogbombs is the username, #TiesForTeacher the hashtag I’ve been using.  I’ve used two YouTube channels primarily for this as their instruction videos are brilliant – Linwood at @WhoSeesThis mirrors his videos to make them easier to follow, Patrick Novotny doesn’t but if you swap “youtube” for “mirrorthevideo” in the url it does it automagically.  And I’m going to continue to do it.  There are more knots out there for me to try, more ties for me to try them on.  My only problem is, as a taller gentleman, I need extra-long ties to be able to tie these things and look good, and for some of them I’d need extra-extra-long ties, which I just can’t find.  So 2020 might just be the year I learn how to make a necktie myself.

Has this improved my teaching ability?  No.  Has it improved my relationships with the kids?  Actually, yes.  Especially in the 6th form.  They spotted that I wasn’t wearing a bootlace the very next lesson and asked why.  So, I told them the story in full.  And the very next day, one of them had a Trinity knot, one was trying the Merovingian…  They’re learning new skills and, in the words of Madness, they’re learning how to bend, not break, the rules.

And, perhaps even more amazingly, I only got 2 ties for Christmas.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to work out what knot I’m wearing for day 1 back at school tomorrow.  I’m thinking the V-trix

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