I can say goodbye to only so many hamsters: my #teacher5aday

How those prawnseyes bore into me: 'J'accuse!' they say.
How those prawn’s eyes bore into me: ‘J’accuse!’ they say.
I can say goodbye to only so many hamsters. Indeed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my neighbours suspect me of having a long-term plan to make a jacket out of a thousand hamster hides: less Buffalo Bill, more Hamster Harry.

But it’s not true. Every hamster that has expired on my watch has with it taken a little piece of my heart. I know that love is limitless, but there are limits. No more hamsters. And this time I mean it.

As usual, I have sat down to write something and found myself writing something entirely different. I’m supposed to be here to update you on my #teacher5aday. Instead, here I am mourning the loss of yet another hamster. When the winter mists roll in (Southern Hemisphere, Pacific), they bring with them a death to hamsters: a very specific ill-wind that has blown no good to an almost laughably diminutive victim. Mrs Peanuts.

And so, another name is carved on the memorial to lost hamsters: adding Mrs Peanuts to a pantheon that includes Twix, Junior, Lenny (short for Lenin), Pooky (he had a prolapse), and Chip (by far the most anthropomorphic of our hamsters – we miss him sorely. In fact, Mrs Whatonomy managed to resuscitate him twice before he finally shuffled off his coil).

The Whatonomy house-hold, black-armbanded, is no little subdued tonight. And it is against this background of light mourning, that I reflect upon six months of #teacher5aday. Here goes.


My addiction to Twitter is now total. Whilst you may snot up from time to time at the various memes and puns that ping from my account at an unseemly rate, the reality behind the off-beat, leftfield, often mordant façade is a man looking at his phone, often when he should be doing more meaningful things (often with his family). I am going away on holiday in the next few days. Woe betide me if I am found on Twitter during this time. Remember what Sir Steve Redgrave said about getting back into a boat. Well, ditto that me.


Oh lord, I ran a marathon in May. And by God I’ve been paying for it ever since. Not physically in terms of injury, just general knackeredness. I enjoyed the experience and will, in all likelihood, do it again. But I’m going to listen with a little more care to my body from now on: depletion is a horrible feeling. I don’t want to feel this way ever again. [Pops to fridge to get a sugary drink.]


My MA in Education started two weeks ago. So far I’ve read an excellent toilet analogy from Basil Bernstein. I’m tumbling through various virtual learning environments like an undergraduate George of the Jungle. Oh, and my academic voice is on the blink: in every essay I write, I sound like Gandalf.

But so far so good, I’m nodding in all the right places, scratching my chin thoughtfully on cue, and if I need to look reflective, I’ve perfected a kind of abstracted glance to my upper-right. Sometimes it looks perilously close to Joey Tribiani’s ‘smell the fart’ acting, but nobody has commented yet.


I’ve noticed that my children are growing up around me like the mangrove in Where the Wild Things Are. Their talents are emerging in the most surprising ways. My eldest daughter has started to make little paper rock stars that pop up everywhere: Jimmy Page in a desk-tidy, Kurt Cobain hanging precariously off a glass shelf in the bathroom, Ringo dangling appropriately close to the vegetable drawer of our fridge.

My youngest told me a knock-knock joke on Tuesday. It made me laugh out loud. I didn’t think it was possible for knock-knock jokes to make me laugh any more. Sad to say, I can’t retell it here because, so ingenious it is, it doesn’t work at all in writing.


Professionally, I’ve volunteered to give a couple of workshops: one on using improvisation to generate ideas for creative writing; the other one on identifying curricular Big Ideas to give planning a tighter focus (and improve your appreciation of why you do what you do). I’ve also volunteered to be trained up as a kind of informal, formative inspector for a group of local schools, which I’m really excited about. I’m going to polish my shoes now. And will probably need to perfect a walk with hands clasped behind my back. I’ll also need to get good at looking at things and smiling. All in good time.

It has been a busy time. I’m quietly proud of some of my achievements, but also wracked with guilt. What does it mean to achieve, to reach for the top of Maslow’s pyramid? What emptiness is it to self-actualise, when your accomplishments rest on the stickle bones of a thousand dead hamsters? [profuse sobbing ensues]


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