Northern Rocks – Outbound Journey

Part of the Northern Rocks blog sync –
After a catalogue of stupid errors, forgotten reservation codes, technological fails and aggressive queueing incidents worthy of a sketch on Curb Your Enthusiasm, I made it onto my northbound train from Kings Cross. I heavy breathed for a good half hour on the train, after sprinting through the terminal like a thing gone wrong, and gradually my face returned from its purple veiny state into its usual milky placidity.

Dad picked me up from the car park of the station. Whilst driving home, I told him of my impending illness borne of poor diet, and of my intention to fast with my kids through Ramadan. Then he asked if I wanted a KFC, to which my answer was obviously an immediate yes.

Then I slept, chicken grease slathered across my happycheeks, with thoughts of Northern Rocks.

I write now on the train to Leeds where, to be appropriately Northern, it’s ‘pissin it darn’.

Northern Rocks then. I am obviously looking forward to it, and it will be great to hear and hopefully meet some of the Tweachers who have been setting my pocket a-vibrating for the last year or so.

Being a Yorkshireman myself, who lives and teaches in East London, this is my first time doing anything educational in the Motherland. There is something quaint for me in returning to the place where ‘shank’ is an edible noun rather than a menacing verb. And where ‘rude boy’ is something a bristling aged substitute teacher might shout at an unruly male child, rather than something the kids shout at each other dotingly.

I am keen to learn today from my Northern kinsfolk who teach in and around God’s Own Land is because of my current dorky preoccupations. Through a combination of my role within our teaching school, my work with pupils and indeed because of my own sociological meanderings, I have been spending a lot of time thinking, writing and discussing (in linked but separate conversations) about Britishness, community cohesion and the role of Islam in Education and in society.

The interesting thing about Britishness is the way it is reimagined and redefined by different people in different communities. I am really looking forward to hearing Tait Coles’ session today, after having spent a lot of time recently working with his academic partner Dr Nasima Hasan. I am curious to see how the need to ‘actively promote British values’ has been taken up by schools, and I want to see how critical an approach is being taken. The approach I have engendered is that it is enriching for children to gain a sense of who they are through a discussion of Britishness. Many of my pupils identify as British plus something else; British and Indian, Pakistani and British, British Muslim, Nigerian and British for example. Other kids don’t though. Some fear the fact that they do feel British, as they feel this causes a sense of distance between their parents’ language and culture – ‘I don’t like that I am becoming so British because it is pushing out my Polishness/Bangladeshiness/Romanianness/Somaliness.

As a teacher in a school with a Muslim South Asian majority and with a diverse array of other backgrounds aside that, my experience of exploring cultural, national, religious and local identity has been made far more wide-reaching and brings in a range of different perspectives. In schools and communities with different catchments, I am really curious to see what sort of discussions are being had.

Anyway, I am pulling into Leeds station now and my 6th sense (Northernness) is begging to be satiated with pastry, so I shall switch my appetite for thought with one for hydrogenated fat.

I am, for my sins, wearing double denim today. If I look lost or forlorn, take pity on me and say hi. You may also know me by the fact that my socks are patterned like Nemo of CGI fish fame.


2 thoughts on “Northern Rocks – Outbound Journey

  1. As ever, lol-ed to the last word – but (1) Is it really the only educational thing you are doing in the Motherland? What about all the playing in the street, talking to people on the bus and oh yeah your primary and secondary socialisation?(2) prodigious ref to ‘rude boy’, what a great example of the north/south divide and (3) Nahima?
    Have a great time and come back with sufficient stores of northerness to get you through to end of term, at least.

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