What is inspiration and motivation? – @ASTSupportaali

On Wednesday the 26th of March the National Union of Teachers staged a national strike. This affected 10,000 students and many thousands of schools. (I am totally FOR striking as a way of democratic protesting.) However, unlike (?) most schools, we chose to remain open for all years other than year 7 & 8.


Luckily, we as a school had already organized for three separate special events to take place for our year 9, 10 and 11 students on this day. (Sixth form was to just have normal lessons/independent study.)


Outside agencies:

Humanutopiawww.humanutopia.com were booked in to work with our Year 9 students on a ‘Who am I’ day. The Head and I spotted Humanutopia at the Whole Education annual conference late last year. We were blown away by the conviction and enthusiasm of the young people they bought with them to ‘sell’ their work and its impact. I instantly filed a proposal to the Governors to receive payment to book them in!


@Alastair_Arnott was booked in to work with our Year 10 students after he presented during #TMOxford. He was requested by our students who were helping on the night! He is the author of the book Positive Failure and we had arranged for him to speak to our students about the ‘vaccination of failure.’


@TheFixUpTeam were also arranged to work with Year 11 students. I have ‘known’ @ActionJackson for a while now; I really wanted to have his company work with our students on the theme of ‘revision.’ I also put in a bid to the governors to get The Fix Up Team in. @ActionJackson and I have met at a few teach meets and I kept telling him I would be getting him in to work with my students. I am still grateful for this video he created for my students (at my former school) a while back!


Blown away…

All the sessions were simply incredible. I have never ever been so proud of myself?!


Humanutopia were simply mind blowing, the way they (Graham and Tom) interacted with our young people, the way they maintained their full attention and the way they managed to get young people to reflect, engage and apologise to one another! Yes, they got students to stand up and say sorry for times they filled each others ‘bins’. I cannot recommend this organization with strong enough feelings. They are pricey(!) but definitely worth it. I have booked in a whole years worth of work with Humanutopia- we have big plans!


“Get out of your comfort zone, move past the stretch zone… life is more fun in the panic zone!’


Alastair Arnott’s message that it is GOOD to fail was really well received. Students were relieved to hear the idea that having regular little bits of failure is healthy and actually it makes you stronger as an individual. Alastair supported this with evidence/research and presented with conviction and humour- although he did take the mick out of my beard!


“We all need a vaccination of failure to spark our thoughts.”

The Fix Up Team- were simply AMAZING. Alim Kamara managed to engage every single student. Every. Single. Student. He held their interest, he got them to participate, he channeled his insurmountable energy into a contagious frenzy of happiness/motivation/inspiration. I am most definitely getting The Fix Up Team in again… this time Action Jackson himself will be coming in… Although Alim was superb!


“You don’t come to school for your teacher, you come to school for your future!”

Why them?

I had the pleasure of being able to spend time with all the visitors on Wednesday. I was able to view the way the speakers interacted with the young people and hear the messages that were shared.

It really made me think how important the following things were to students.


  • Humour

  • Knowing the young people are young but not babies

  • Respect/Fairness/equality

  • Trust

All the speakers displayed the above. They were all hilarious. They had the students hooked with their humour, with their personalities. I was really interested in how much all the speakers relied on humour. I think (!?) I am a funny guy! I think this helps me in my lessons…! I know some people will say we are not here to entertain our students, but think back to all the courses, training, CPD you have ever had? Wasn’t it better when you had a laugh? (This is different to having fun?)


The young people were also clearly treated like young adults they were shown respect, fairness and equality. This was then expected to be reciprocated back. This was not a choice. This was an expectation.

I wonder how we translate this message of respect to our students? If they ever feel any injustice, inequity, or disrespect then how do they react? I mean, we all know how we act…

“You can’t talk to me like that!”
“How dare you speak to an adult/member of staff like that.”
“How can a child….speak to an adult…”


I have reflected on my interactions with young people and thought about the way I engage with them both when happy and angry. I think are we a little too ‘power’ driven? Do we take things too personally?


Why didn’t any of the visitors have any arguments with any of the usual suspects? Why didn’t they kick off with them? Why did they chose to sit and listen to them the whole day?


I think one reason is because they were external to the school, but that’s not enough. What makes them different to us?

  • The way they dressed? None of the speakers had a shirt and tie on!
  • Was it the way they talked? None of the speakers asked the students to call them Sir.

Do we create a massive divide between us and the young people? I know there is a divide! I know we are not here to be their friends or act like them. I just find this all very interesting to see how others can instantly create a life long bond with our young people that we may not be able to do all the time?


I also noticed how all the interactions with the young people started with the students’ names! (HOW did they manage to remember all the students names!!!)

The speakers used an incredible amount of self reflective wording when asking questions. Almost all questions were batted back with another question. I have thought about this in more detail since then and wonder if we as teachers do this enough? Are we using the write phrasing when challenging? When trying to push a student further?



What does inspiration mean?
What does it look like?

Is it sustainable?

Somebody asked me, why couldn’t we have just done what Humanutopia and The Fix Up Team performed/shared. I did wonder… well, why not? Why couldn’t we? I am confident I could (see my reference to my assembly to year 10&11 boys.) BUT I think there is something special about new people creating a brand new relationship with young people.


One thing I am unsure of, is whether these inspirational days are ever sustainable or long lasting. However, I don’t think that matters, all that matters is that our young people were exposed to a day where they challenged themselves and asked many questions about their inner workings.


I learnt a great deal about the way others can focus our young people and despite the relationship you have with a student, they can still surprise you, every single day.

Having just read through this post- I realise all I have done is pose questions… maybe you can help by commenting?

Thank you to all our visitors.











  1. Amjad – really enjoyed reading this post. I think sometimes in the heat of the moment (we are only human) we as teachers can forget that every interaction we have with a young person is an opportunity to make a difference and have a positive impact on that persons life. Every day I take a moment to think about that and reflect on how students perceive what I say to them.

    I recently read an interview with David Levin one of the cofounder of KIPP. He summed up a turning point for him when a student said to him, “Sir you do realise your shouting at me to stop shouting.”

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Amjad.

    I think there is value in novelty – it’s good for students to hear periodically from speakers they DON’T know, who they don’t necessarily see as authority figures (which teachers will always be, no matter how positive our dealings with them) and with whom they don’t have an already established relationship. There’s a freshness and an energy about such interactions which can complement what we routinely offer in school, especially if the speakers are lively and enthusiastic and make the effort quickly to get to know the students and to engage with them.

    It’s good to hear how well-received this was.

  3. […] These are our version of the AA Promises, which are equally wonderful: “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. / We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  /  We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.  / No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.  / That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. /  We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  / Self-seeking will slip away.  / Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  / Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.  / We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.  / We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. ” 26 Question:   […]

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