On what Thumper’s father told him



Thumper: He doesn’t walk very good, does he?

Thumper’s Mum: Thumper?

Thumper: Yes Momma? 

Thumper’s Mum: What did your father tell you this morning? 

Thumper: If you can’t say something nice…don’t say nothin’ at all. 

When I was growing up my mum would regularly say to me, ‘What did Thumper’s mum say?’ and I would repeat back to her the maxim that if you can’t say anything nice you shouldn’t say anything at all. Words to live by; not least because being nice doesn’t mean that you can’t give feedback and constructive criticism. (Before we go on, I think this is an apt moment to be clear that my mum didn’t get all of her parenting advice from Disney – sometimes she quoted Highlander at me too: There can be only one.)

You may be wondering where I’m going with this… Well, sometimes Edu-Twitter is an incredibly supportive place (I think especially of #teamenglish) and sometimes it isn’t the most friendly of spheres. I’ve seen plenty of blog posts by people explaining that they’ve been nervous to post before because they’ve been worried about how ideas might be received: worried about being accused of stating the obvious or being patronising or being arrogant. Equally, I’ve seen people unwilling to blog about their ideas (which might be better explained in a post than in 140 characters) for the same reasons. This seems a shame – who knows what we might be missing out on – but I understand that it takes a certain level of confidence to write a blog and share ideas.

Now clearly I have enough confidence to think that the things I’m doing in the classroom might be useful to other people and I’m clearly not put off by the prospect of criticism. I don’t pretend that the ideas I share are revolutionary and I don’t pretend that all of the ideas are my own. Most teaching ideas are built on things that we’ve seen elsewhere or a tweak of an activity we’ve picked up from somewhere (which is part of why I’m against teachers selling resources). I don’t get paid to blog and I do so purely out of a desire to share what works; hopefully help other people out and to help me reflect on my own practice. Lots of what I share is simple and can easily be adapted by other teachers for use in their own classroom. Some of the things I share might not be new to you – in which case you might better spend your time reading something else – but they might be new to other teachers and trainees.

I welcome feedback and want to be challenged in my thinking; I want to be the best teacher I can be. But I am taken aback when a few people choose to respond to blog posts with insults. It doesn’t happen often but I’ve had a bit of it recently in response to my post about speed-planning essays which I’m sharing as an example of some of the behaviour I see on Twitter that I think inhibits others:



Whilst I don’t expect everyone to be wowed by what I’m writing, I don’t see what’s to be gained from this. I find the first post particularly perplexing – why share something you think is pedestrian? As far as feedback goes it’s like the feedback you get from holding a microphone too close to a speaker: irritating and pointless. What am I meant to learn from this? Of course people have been planning poetry in broadly similar ways before now but I know that the post had something to offer because I had plenty of positive responses:


And I’m a carrot kind of girl – knowing that other people want to use the ideas I share in their classroom encourages me to keep sharing. I won’t be dissuaded from posting because I get a bit of stick but I know that others might well be. Teaching is a profession that demands that we continually review and refine our practice. It’s made better when we share, support and encourage one another. It’s a demanding job. Let’s not bring each other down.

Let’s remember what Thumper’s father told him: If you don’t have anything nice, or constructive, to say then maybe don’t say it all.


  1. When I saw your blog on Facebook Rebecca I was delighted and quickly shared with my English dept. Responses from them were genuinely positive and grateful. The updates on the new AQA GCSE we thought were so helpful. This week my year 11 set are preparing for a paper 2 mock and I’m using your advice about question order. I find it hard to believe that fellow English teachers could be so negative when we all understand the stress of our workload – we should all be grateful when people like yourself share what’s worked for you.


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