<![CDATA[welcome to martin burley's website - Blog]]>Mon, 22 Feb 2016 15:43:38 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[O Captain, My Captain!]]>Mon, 22 Feb 2016 20:33:13 GMThttp://martinburley.weebly.com/blog/o-captain-my-captainChris Baird and Derby County parted ways last week. I imagine there was a tender goodbye as the dressing room responded in the same way to him as the students in ‘Dead Poets’ Society’ showed their feelings towards Robin Williams’ character. (I’ve included a link to this scene, just in case you’re in the strange position of never having seen this masterful movie.)
I can just see Tom Ince standing on his desk reciting the poetry of Walt Whitman as Baird walks out, proud of a job well done:
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,  
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting’
Or perhaps not.
Because Baird must go down as one of our most unsuccessful skippers of all time. (I believe it is eight league starts with only two wins.) There can’t be many that have suffered as an embarrassing time as him; losing his place to Cyrus Christie, having an Academy graduate preferred in the holding midfield role, remonstrating with supporters on the touchline and generally looking completely out of his depth.
Ironically, his most memorable moment may in fact be when he was knocked unconscious defending a cross in our first victory of the season at Preston. He’d been an ever present up until that point – in our first six games without a win.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not making a personal attack on Baird, he has been praised for his professional attitude and is well respected by Fulham supporters in particular, but why on earth was he made captain in the first place?
For me this was Clement’s first mistake. Surely your captain must be the first name on the team sheet; your go to guy in times of trouble? He has to inspire others in the team to follow him and be respected in his decision making. None of these were qualities I ever noticed in Baird.
As a new manager I can understand the need for wanting ‘one of your own men’ as captain. But if Clement wanted to show his authority to the existing staff then surely Shackell would have been a more obvious candidate? There’s no scenario I can think of, barring injury, where he wouldn’t have been first choice. Here is a man who has experience of being promoted from the Championship, playing in the Premier League and also knows his way around the club from his previous spell here. What you might call a no-brainer.
But, no, Clement plumped for Baird, a man whose preferred position is either right back or holding midfield. Now a captain playing in holding midfield is fine, but as Derby fans, we know that Thorne will play in that role when he is fit. So Baird was obviously considered first choice at right back – not the easiest place from which to communicate.
It’s of no surprise to me that when I think of great Rams captains I think of centre halves and central midfield players – McFarland, Wright, Hindmarch and, my personal favourite, Van der Laan. Although perhaps not the most gifted, Robin Van der Laan would have run through a brick wall if asked – dragging the rest of the team through with him. The promotion season with him in charge was littered with games where we went behind and came back to win, showing true character.
When Baird was dropped it meant that the captain’s armband was passed around like a tin of Quality Street on Christmas Day. In hindsight, the beginning of the end for Clement.
Wassall made a good decision in stripping Baird of the job and giving it to Keogh. He may have his detractors, but Keogh is a warrior; he never gives in and will demand the same of every player on the pitch.
If and when he leaves there may well be a few of the players standing on their desks reciting poetry, but as for giving Baird the captaincy in the first place, I can think of no rhyme or reason.
<![CDATA[Follow Me into the Dark*]]>Tue, 16 Feb 2016 15:19:35 GMThttp://martinburley.weebly.com/blog/follow-me-into-the-dark​The weekend can be a depressing time after an unexpected defeat for the Rams. So, being a positive person I generally try to look for things that’ll cheer me up. This normally involves eating and drinking, spending more time with my family, or going for a walk in the countryside.
However, one thing that is an absolute necessity on the back of a loss is to avoid social media and the internet for a minimum of 48 hours. I think back to Jack Bauer in ‘24’ and how he avoided contact with anyone by ‘going dark’. This normally meant destroying his phone so no one could get hold of him. Now, I don’t go to such extreme measures, but I did leave my laptop and i-pad charging this Sunday.
I don’t look at the match reports, I don’t check out the post-match interviews, I don’t watch the re-run of the match on Channel 5, and, vitally, I don’t read the moaning posts that clog up my Twitter feed and Facebook page.
I just don’t need it. I know if we’ve played poorly – I don’t want to re-hash it again – at least not until I’ve had time to reflect and ruminate for a couple of days.
So what happened on Saturday? We changed manager, we changed formation, we changed our style of play, becoming more direct – but we didn’t change the result. It’s very early days to lay the blame for this at the door of Darren Wassall, but we do need to show we are a team again, not a collection of expensive individuals. One thing I did find frustrating was the lack of impact our substitutes had, particularly Bent and Weimann – we actually got worse.
I think what Derby require at the moment is a period of ‘dark’ as well. And I’d include the chairman in that. It seems that, however well-meaning, whatever he says is misconstrued or used as a stick to beat him with. I understand the desire to put his side of the story over and look for opportunities to put positive messages in the media, but it’s just not happening for him at the minute.
So, Mel, discard your phone, a la Jack Bauer; avoid any requests for interviews with journalists, even well-meaning local hacks; keep all club statements to a minimum, and try to create a siege mentality within the squad. The players, management and ownership of the club need to show a united front – even if it’s a quiet one.
Doing our talking on the pitch and leaving the speculation to others is the order of the day. Social media will blow hot and cold whatever statement you may or may not make – let’s not fuel the fire; ‘go dark’!
*Apologies to any ‘Death Cab for Cutie’ fans drawn by this headline. As a regular follower of #dcfc for Derby County purposes, I often see posts about this record and felt it worked well as a title for this post. Having enjoyed some of their music recently it just felt right to bring the two together!
<![CDATA[´╗┐Being PC on your CV]]>Thu, 11 Feb 2016 19:29:58 GMThttp://martinburley.weebly.com/blog/being-pc-on-your-cv​I distinctly recall, on Clement’s appointment as Rams manager a mere eight months ago, many comments about the quality of his CV: assistant coach at Chelsea, Paris Saint Germain and Real Madrid; mentee of Carlo Ancelotti. Impressive credentials.
I’m sure I was not alone in dreaming that Clement’s contacts would perhaps bring the next Ronaldo to the i-Pro. But that never quite happened – we got Chris Baird instead.
So when Mel Morris relieved PC of his managerial duties this week I can’t say I was either surprised or upset. What began with real hope that we had employed someone for the long term (our Fergie) fizzled out with dressing room arguments and sterile tactics.
Morris has come in for criticism this week, a great deal of which is unfair. He is not without blame, but his mistake was in backing the manager too much, both financially and verbally. A spend of £25 million and a squad brimming with quality can hardly be regarded as a lack of investment from the chairman; however it does seem to have created a squad of individuals rather than a cohesive team. But is that the chairman’s fault or the manager’s?
The reason for Clement’s dismissal was given as a difference of opinion over Derby’s long term strategy. Ridicule has been thrown at Morris because he said ‘promotion wasn’t the priority’. But do you remember the embarrassment of our last Premier League campaign? That ’11 point fiasco’ that is dredged up by the media virtually every season as the team bottom of the Premier League limps past the total at about Christmas. Do we really want to be that team again?
I applaud Morris’s desire to be a sustainable Premier League team when we eventually do go up; a team playing with verve and passion, making Saturdays exciting again.
So why isn’t that something Clement would buy into? Is it because that achieving promotion would be a means to an end, another notch on the belt? It would certainly make bigger teams sit up and take notice. Perhaps that is what Clement actually wanted, another impressive CV entry, so he can use Derby as a stepping stone to something bigger. And if, as a chairman, you work that out – why, the sacking of the manager is the next logical stage.
For this reason I’m backing Morris. Sure the timing isn’t great and he’s been made to look like the bad guy, but you don’t get rich by being popular. Just because the media love Paul Clement doesn’t mean you should avoid the tough decisions. And Morris hasn’t. He’s certainly not bothered about being PC on his CV.
<![CDATA[Welcome to the Circus]]>Wed, 24 Jun 2015 11:20:33 GMThttp://martinburley.weebly.com/blog/welcome-to-the-circusAfter a recent inspection I felt obliged to pen a few comments I needed to get off my chest. It was fantastic to be able to do this as part of a series of articles for the TES about the 'Ofsted' process. This article appeared with the byline as anonymous, but I didn't think it was that controversial! ]]><![CDATA[In The Library...]]>Wed, 24 Jun 2015 11:15:09 GMThttp://martinburley.weebly.com/blog/in-the-libraryEven though it's a couple of years since this assembly video was recorded, it was great to see it re-surface as part of this article I wrote for the TES. It's a refrain that is still sometimes heard following us down the corridors even now.]]><![CDATA[Got Talent? Then Go For a Teaching Interview.]]>Mon, 26 Jan 2015 20:20:31 GMThttp://martinburley.weebly.com/blog/got-talent-then-go-for-a-teaching-interview So, I was very confused. Was I in an interview situation applying for an internal post at school, or was it an audition for ‘Britain’s Got Talent’? Ok, so I couldn’t see the big red buttons waiting to buzz me off as soon as I said something that left the judges disappointed, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there.

Am I the only one that feels as though the interview process in the teaching profession is akin to a talent show nowadays?

I remember when I first applied for a job at a bank. One interviewer, not a whole panel, who sit there smiling at you, trying unsuccessfully to put you at ease; firm handshake and brief introduction, not a welcome process that takes longer than the handshakes at the beginning of a Premier League football match, but which is just as phoney; questions that actually build and explore different aspects of your character, not a pre-prepared list of facile interrogatives with no room to discover interesting and possibly important avenues of enquiry.

When I was a journalist I’d think up a few questions before an interview, but rarely would I complete this without diving off my list at some point to try and clarify some area that intrigued me. I always worked on the premise that if I was interested enough to ask about something that cropped up out of the blue, then the readers would be as well. You might say that interviewing for a news report as opposed to a job is a completely different ball game, but I’d disagree, if there’s something you want to know about the candidate you owe it to your company to ask the question and find out about it.

This is all before we have the absurd situation where everyone has to hang around and find out the verdict on the same day. What world do you live in teachers? That’s not how real life works.

In reality, you go home. You wait a few days until you get a phone call (if it’s an important job) or a letter (if you’re just one of the minions) giving you the news.

All this hanging around is bizarre. And there seems to be this politically correct mind-set that everyone has to know at the same time. It’s an impossible task. Unless you get everyone in the office at the same time and reveal the winner in a Sugar-esque point of the finger, you have to tell someone first. Just send a letter – I’m happy with that.

And then we have the ‘feedback’ that will help develop your interview skills. Well can I tell you something – when I’ve just been ‘unsuccessful’ I’m really not interested in the excuses that are made up on the spot as to why I didn’t get it. Just be honest – ‘we preferred her, sorry’.

So while I wasn’t buzzed out of the room, I didn’t make boot camp. Looks like I won’t be performing in front of the Queen again this year.

<![CDATA[Clarence Wiggins - My Tribute]]>Tue, 30 Dec 2014 15:45:01 GMThttp://martinburley.weebly.com/blog/clarence-wiggins-my-tribute I never actually saw Clarence Wiggins teach, but I know he was inspirational. I’m not judging that by any narrow official criteria, only by the way the kids talk about him. When they hold that much affection for someone and believe that he has their best interest at heart – that’s inspirational. That’s what Clarence had – a deep desire for every child to be the best person they could be. He cared. Clarence was one of the good guys.

I first met Clarence when I was a young bank cashier learning how to transmit foreign currency and he was the star overseas basketball player for Derby Bucks. Every week he’d come in and buy an International Money Order to send some money back home to Richmond, Virginia. At first I was quite star struck – serving a famous sportsman. But within a couple of weeks we were chatting like old mates. Clarence was not a star; he was an ordinary, thoroughly decent man. He had no ego – he was more interested in me than in spouting stories about himself.

Fast forward 20 years and our paths cross once again. We have changed careers, we are now teachers, but both of us immediately recalled where we had met before. Talking to Clarence was so easy – he had plenty of life advice to give, but only after he had listened to what you had to say. Too many people are only interested in themselves these days – that’s never something that could be levelled at Clarence.

As well as a prospective teaching career I also worked as a freelance writer for The Derbyshire Magazine as a sports correspondent. I managed to convince Clarence to let me interview him for a forthcoming edition. I think he only agreed as we had become quite friendly whilst working at Noel-Baker, it was more of an indulgence to me than any ego trip on his behalf.

It was a great piece and hopefully I’ve managed to attach it to the bottom of this post so you can see it for yourself.

A few months later I brought some of my journalistic work into school for my Year 11 class, hoping they’d be inspired to write themselves. It didn’t work.

However one lad, with a troubled family background, seemed particularly disinterested until I pointed out the article about Clarence. It was the first time I had seen him sit down and read something from beginning to end without talking. And it wasn’t my writing that did it – it was Clarence and his story. The lad loved Mr Wiggins and wanted to know all about him.

Well, we all loved Mr Wiggins. A man with a profound sense of right and wrong. A man with an innate understanding of the value of teamwork. A man of decency and integrity. A man we shall all miss terribly.

God bless you, Clarence.

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<![CDATA[Facebook Friends]]>Sun, 14 Dec 2014 18:43:41 GMThttp://martinburley.weebly.com/blog/facebook-friends Offending colleagues is never a smart thing to do – particularly when you’re the only male in the English department. But what I said wasn’t meant as a slur. Let me explain…

The departmental meeting was drawing to a close and the minor items on the AOB were getting a hearing: the last of which was the Christmas night out. Everyone that knows me will realise that this is a topic I have no interest in. I never go out with my work colleagues – don’t like to talk shop after hours and would rather spend time with family and friends.

That’s all I said – ‘I’m not coming. I don’t go out very often and when I do go out, I like to go with my friends.’

Well, you would have thought I’d dangled a kid out of the window by his ankle from the looks that were shot my way. But the key word here was ‘friend’. That’s what got their goat. Not the fact I wasn’t going out with them – they expected that anyway. But that I didn’t consider them ‘friends’ was my most heinous crime.

It’s a common theme for me I’m afraid. I get a similar kind of silence in the classroom when I explain to my students that I’m not their ‘mate’. Just because I’m an amenable and agreeable chap everyone thinks I’m their best buddy.

I think ‘Facebook’ is to blame here. And it’s a crucial point that goes a long way to explaining the dangers facing our kids when they go on the internet.

To be a ‘Facebook Friend’ is very different to being an actual ‘friend’ and my experience in the staff room shows this is a distinction adults struggle with, let alone children.

Being my ‘friend’ would mean that I confided personal information to you; that you attended a meal either in or out with my family, or were invited to a family birthday; you may have known me for a couple of decades and shared a lot of a similar life experiences; you would almost definitely be a football fan and more than likely support The Rams (as a good 80% of my conversation topics revolve around this subject).

If you don’t fulfil any of these criteria, but still are aware of my existence then you could well be a colleague, or an acquaintance – you may well be a friend-in-waiting. But you won’t be my ‘friend’. I’m sorry. You’re just not.

Please don’t take this the wrong way. It doesn’t mean I dislike you. I just want to reclaim the word that Facebook has stolen from me. So, if you’re after a definition, how about this one:

“Just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you’ve got to do is call, and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.”

So, as James Taylor says, if I call your name, would you drop everything and come round?

Nah, thought not. You’re not my friend – just someone I know.

<![CDATA[What Makes Me Such an Expert?]]>Tue, 02 Dec 2014 19:58:46 GMThttp://martinburley.weebly.com/blog/what-makes-me-such-an-expert If you're wondering about the aims of my book, or why I consider myself an expert, then read The Author's Note and see if this helps!

'Firstly, let me be honest about the aims of this book.

I want to encourage you and your kids to read.

It may be that your child has fallen out of love with the written word (or were they never in love with books in the first place?), perhaps it’s just that books have been usurped, overtaken and pushed to the back burner. Lots of people (teachers included) will shake their heads, tut and explain that your child should be ‘reading for pleasure’. But this won’t just happen; you have to convince your child that they need to ‘read to succeed’.

In this book I lay out a simple, six week, step by step approach to get your child reading again.   

I also want to be honest about what this book won’t do.

It will not help you teach your kid to read. There are some hints about how to help struggling readers, but that’s all. I don’t want you buying this book under false pretences.

The advantages of regular reading are discussed further on, but I don’t think anyone in their right mind really needs convincing of its benefits. So, if we can all agree that regular reading helps children then let’s get more specific.

Who is this book actually aimed at?

Are you a parent or guardian of children aged between eight and sixteen? Then it could be you.

Do your children have an aversion to picking up a book, protest when made to read or claim reading is ‘boring’? Then come in and settle down, we have much to discuss.

I hear these kinds of comments all the time in my day job as an English teacher and Literacy Coordinator. There is too much other stuff going on in kids’ lives these days for them to just stop and read. Also, it’s hard! Consider how intuitive computers, phones and tablets are these days: they do a lot of your thinking for you. When your child is fed a constant stream of information, without time to process and consider its relevance, you quickly realise they are losing a vital life skill. Because when you read, you’re sharpening your brainpower – reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

I try hard in my job to encourage children to read, but I realised quite quickly that I am not the most important or influential person in their lives. You are. That’s why I need your help.

But why listen to me? What makes me such an expert?

Well, the first thing is, I have never really considered myself an expert. I’m sorry if that doesn’t inspire confidence, but to my mind it sounds a bit pompous.

However, in his book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’, Malcolm Gladwell  claims the key to success is applying the ‘10,000 Hour Rule’ – to become an expert you need to take 10,000 hours of deliberate practice at something. If that’s the case, then pompous or not, I do qualify.

I have worked as a teacher for over seven years and have always been involved in some area of Literacy. (Being an English teacher you would hope that was the case, wouldn’t you?) So I believe I do have some ideas worth listening to.

I am not some kind of genius within this field, though. There are hundreds of people who understand the scientific theories behind Literacy and can write detailed articles on the subject. I’m not one of those people.

First and foremost, I am a father of two fantastic boys (at the time of writing aged thirteen and ten) who read widely and enjoy it. That’s not to say they wouldn’t rather be doing something else at times – they would, but we have an agreement. It doesn’t just happen; a lot of work goes into it. But I’m convinced they ‘read to succeed’ and have been doing for years.

Secondly, as already stated, I am a teacher, so I understand the limitations of the school in encouraging your child to read. There is a lot to fit in during the school day, all the timetabled lessons, after school activities and pastoral care. Your child probably gets about three hours a week of English tuition – and their teacher will have to squeeze in an entire curriculum into that time. Hopefully they’ll have a great and inspiring teacher, but I’m guessing that they’ll be in a class with 30 other kids all demanding attention. So checking on your child’s reading progress is not going to be at the forefront of their minds for the vast majority of the week. I’m sure they try, but there is only so much they can do. You might consider this a disgrace and complain they are not doing their job properly, but, to be honest, it’s only masking the real issue – your kid doesn’t read nearly as much as they should. That’s why I’m here, to help you help yourselves.

Thirdly, I am a Literacy Coordinator. I do understand the importance of reading. I am fully aware of the obstacles that we all face to get youngsters reading. And, over the years, I have read widely and accessed lots of information about reading strategies.

But, perhaps most importantly, I haven’t always been a teacher.

I think this is vitally important, so I’ll apologise to my colleagues in the education field now, but I do know what life is like out in the ‘real world’. I worked at a bank (as a customer facing cashier, not as an investment banker – so don’t throw stones at me) for sixteen years. I know what it’s like to get back home late, too tired to do anything except veg out in front of the telly, but with a hundred little jobs still to complete. The last thing I want to do is to make you feel guilty, like you’re a bad parent. I’m guessing you may feel that already, because you’re reading this book. Don’t beat yourself up about the fact your child doesn’t read – at least you’ve realised this and want to do something about it. You’ve made a step in the right direction – that’s the sign of someone who cares about their children’s future.

Finally, I am also a journalist and writer. That means I am used to communicating through the written word. I worked for an award-winning local magazine and wrote hundreds of articles for my local newspaper. I hope that means I can string a sentence together. And, gosh, if it’s entertaining and informative as well, so much the better!

That’s why I decided to write this book. I believe I have a few different hats I can wear at opportune moments to help you encourage your child to read. That’s what we’re both after, isn’t it?

So, I’ve told you what this book can do and what it can’t do. I’ve told you why I think I’m qualified to write it. Now, let’s get to work.'

<![CDATA[TES article]]>Sun, 30 Nov 2014 15:47:42 GMThttp://martinburley.weebly.com/blog/tes-articleIt was great to see an article in the TES last week using an abridged version of the opening chapter of my book. It caused the most activity I've yet had on my Twitter feed. Even though I'm no Kim Kardashian or Stephen Fry, there is something powerful knowing that your article has been read and retweeted as far afield as Illinois, Thailand and Australia.
You can find an online version here.]]>