What price honesty?


As a Year 6 teacher, I’m sure you can imagine; we’re in the final throws of SATs preparation in my class. Yes there are the obligatory practice papers, but we’ve also enjoyed celebrating Shakespeare’s anniversary and The Queen’s 90th birthday – which also provided great opportunities for writing evidence!

However, there’s been more of a dilemma recently with the class’s questions about what they should know (easily found here, thanks to the wonderful @michaelt1979 – a lifesaver for me and numerous other colleagues!)

Now, this is tricky for me on numerous levels, not least because I’ve only taught them since September and I don’t want to openly criticise previous teachers – regardless of whether they are at the school or have long since departed. So, where to turn for inspiration in answering honestly?

The world of sport of course!

At the start of the week, watching Ronnie O’Sullivan lose to Barry Hawkins I watched, impressed with how (despite Ronnie putting him under pressure to pull back to level terms) Barry Hawkins admitted a foul; missed by the referee and commentators alike! This let Ronnie in and could have cost Barry the match – it didn’t! Amongst snooker players this is not a rare occurrence, Judd Trump did the same a few days before and I remember Jimmy White doing so in a World Final against Stephen Hendry – unlike Hawkins and Trump, he lost!

Or what about football? Paulo Di Canio’s infamous moment of sportsmanship against Everton still lingers in the memory. Alternatively, there’s Robbie Fowler’s moment of honesty against Arsenal – albeit ruined by Jason McAteer!

Perhaps Billy Joel summed it up best in his song ‘Honesty’:

Honesty is such a lonely word

Everyone is so untrue

Honesty is hardly ever heard

And mostly what I need from you

So, I decided – within limits, to give the children what they needed, honesty. Why? Because, I felt it was only right, when faced with the question, “Mr Creasy, how important is it for me to know the subjunctive verb form?”

You see, having taught my class to be independent learners (thanks #unhomework!) , they not only spend time voluntarily practicing and reviewing their performance and plugging ‘gaps’, they also want to know more. In doing this, supported by parents, this was an area that seemed to cause a concern – based on a 1 mark question on a practice paper (out of 50, the children having scored 48, 45, 43 and 42 respectively!) Now active to passive voice and vice versa had been a doddle – it improves the writing, clauses – the same, even past continuous tense had been mastered, but this?

Remember the limits to my honesty I mentioned? Well that’s because I recalled wise words from Ian Gilbert previously about motivating children (more here), to (heavily) paraphrase

“Remember the two acronyms, WIIFM and WGAS, as the learners will be basing their decisions on them: What’s In It For Me and Who Gives A Shit”

Clearly, whilst the second acronym may reflect my view, it’s not one to repeat to a class of 10-11 year olds! But, as a council estate boy from the outskirts of London – ‘appy ‘ayes (in Middlesex), I have managed 42 years without worrying about it. In fact, I wonder (if they’re honest) how many colleagues have had to learn/ re-learn the grammar to deliver it to Year 6?

But what to do?



My need to be honest prevailed and…, well actually, what would you have done? What if it was your own child asking – would that be different, would they deserve more honesty?

I’ll leave it to you to work out the thread of my answer, but perhaps the ridiculousness of the system for this year’s Year 6 was best summed up by one of my boys:

“I used to think I couldn’t be a doctor, or lawyer, or anything smart like that because I couldn’t spell, but now I know I can,” [Embarrassingly, I’ll admit here, from his tone and delivery towards me I was awaiting a mini-Oscar speech thanking me] “But I know I can do it now. Did you know, when I went to the doctor’s he just spoke into his phone and he told me he that it typed all of his notes and his secretary just checked everything and then he signed it? Now that’s the sort of doctor I could be!”

If only that would get him to meet the standard expected for a Year 6!

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