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Clean in the Classroom


On my very first day at infant school, I fell in love with the idea of being a teacher. How wonderful, I thought, to be standing at the front of the class telling everybody what to do. So I spent the next seventeen years working towards this ambition - and when I got my first teaching post, I walked into school feeling very proud of myself. I was a teacher at last!

But that pride came before a fall and it wasn’t long before I realised that teaching mathematics in a secondary school was NOT what I really wanted to do with my life after all. I had no idea how to ‘discipline’ those children who saw maths as a waste of time and who would rather be anywhere than in school. I’d given up my early aspirations to be ‘in charge’ and I was now wanting to ‘negotiate’ - but I didn’t know how to do so effectively, and I ended up flipping between these two positions - one minute taking a hard line with pupils, the next trying to be their friend. You can guess what happened… it wasn’t nice.

A few years later, as a leader for Weight Watchers, I found that I LOVED teaching adults. And now, I have found the subject I love to teach - Clean Language - I am really in my element when I’m running a training, a workshop or a seminar. And of course Clean Language skills come in very handy in training situations, and give me a chance to ‘walk the talk’ too.

But I have often wondered about my first love - what would have happened if I’d chosen to teach primary school children instead of being lured into secondary education with the promise that there would always be jobs for maths teachers? Or what if I had stuck it out long enough to discover NLP, coaching and Clean Language while I was still teaching? Would I still have discovered them? And would Clean Language have made a difference to my behaviour management skills? Of course, we can never know what would have happened if… But recently I was offered an opportunity to have a ‘sneak peak’ into what might have been - and it was too good an opportunity to pass up…

Julie McCracken is a primary school teacher who, unlike me, persevered when the going got tough, so when she discovered coaching, then NLP and then Clean Language, she was able to put them to the test in the classroom situation. I haven’t actually met Julie (yet) - but for the last two months we have ‘skyped’ every Thursday evening. Julie tells me her latest adventures with Clean Language as she puts it into practice with her class of five- to seven-year-olds, and I type like crazy… for together we are writing a book about how she uses Clean Language in the classroom. And I delight in every minute of our conversations - noting what might have been, yes - but more in the spirit of celebrating what is happening as this extraordinary lady uses Clean Language, Clean Space and Emergent Knowledge to: bring subjects like handwriting, story telling and science to life; create mutual respect and understanding between children; sort out playground arguments; put on a school play; eliminate behaviour problems; and teach children the Clean Language questions themselves. A visitor to Julie’s classroom - there because she was mentoring a student teacher - remarked that her children have thinking skills more akin to that of juniors. To which Julie simply replied, “I know.”

I can hardly wait for each Thursday evening, for the next instalment of ‘Clean in the Classroom’. I am so thrilled to have this opportunity to link my first love - teaching children - with my latest (and lasting) love of Clean Language and to see what is emerging. I am looking forward to the day the book is published and can help teachers to use David Grove’s fabulous legacy for themselves, and if we can help even one teacher to avoid some of the problems I had as a young teacher, and to keep going - it will have been worth it.


Since the time of writing, Julie’s book, Clean Language in the Classroom, has been published and is available here.

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

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About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.

Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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