Jonny Mitchell: Eyes down for full house of jargon

Thornhill Community Academy’s straight-talking headteacher Jonny Mitchell showed the world what life in the classroom is really like in the award-winning TV documentary series Educating Yorkshire.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 19th May 2014, 12:36 pm
HEAD LINES Jonny Mitchell.
HEAD LINES Jonny Mitchell.

Now he writes exclusively for us.

Every week he will give us his take on life in and outside school from his hometown in Dewsbury.

Being an educator, I am no stranger to business-speak. Indeed, things can become so turgid and dull sitting in some meetings, most of which have admirable aims and intentions, that I resort to playing buzzword bingo, hoping and praying that, in some way, I can relieve the tedium by standing up, A4 paper in the air, shouting “house” because I have successfully ticked off all 24 of the items of gobbledygook that people at work seem to spew forth with seemingly gay abandon.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, I can spout hogwash with the very best orators going, and I think I am pretty good at being obtuse when I speak, but the art of speaking a lot but saying nothing is, to my mind, becoming so much of a common phenomenon these days, that it is a wonder that face to face round-table meetings haven’t been banned by the authorities for their total lack of capacity to resolve any issues at all.

In such meetings, my thoughts inevitably wander to the outrageously clever utterances of Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minister. Yet, somehow, I find myself wanting to join in with these meetings, in order to exacerbate my own excitement levels, by selecting words and phrases which are as archaic and non-progressive as I can muster. It is the tip of the iceberg, the thin end of the wedge, the beginning of the end, a slippery slope, and whatever else we can think of to say absolutely diddly at all.

If I hear someone say, at the beginning of a meeting, that we should all have a “thought shower” so we can “plan forward” and arrive at “pro-active solutions”, I might well reach for the pre-prepared noose in my briefcase. I mean, “solutions”, what’s all that about? We have gas engineers who “deliver bespoke home energy solutions” for pity’s sake. Why do they not just say they can “fix your boiler” or “connect your oven”?

And, by the way, what is really wrong with “brainstorming”? Apparently, it is offensive to those with mental health issues. Well so is “a frank and free exchange of views”. Why can we not start the meeting with “what do you all think we should do next?” Once everyone has had their say, perhaps we can “drill down” to the “granular data” and make some headway “going forward”!!! Please!

Business-speak, however, is all about one-upmanship. If you can blind them with science, they will think you are good at what you do. So we use it more and more, to impress people.

As a Headteacher, I have to “action” decisions, “get people on board”, secure “stakeholder buy-in” and “deliver outcomes”. Which means I need people to think that what I am doing is right and then follow my lead. No money changes hands, and I do not own, or skipper, a ship. And I am certainly not a postman, so it is unlikely I will be delivering anything any time soon.

Before I started writing this column, I did a bit of blue-sky thinking, threw a few things up in the air, saw what landed, pushed the envelope and experimented with my emotional literacy. Only after all this was finished did I realise that I was supposed to be writing an article, and quickly resolved not to use any of these words again needlessly. You know what? I get more annoyed with this sort of tosh than I do when people cannot spell or use the right grammar. And I never thought anything would irk me quite as much as that.

Thanks for reading.

Jonny Mitchell, Chief Educational Solutions Practitioner - Deliverables Section