40 comments on “What it feels like to be surprised, very surprised!

  1. Jeremy,

    Twas a good event, I think – and well done to the organiser! It’s one of those one-offs, I reckon. It’ll never be quite the same, and if people come to expect it, maybe someone’s going to be disappointed. What we need to do is look for other opportunities of genuinely making people’s day, rather than the recently much-publicised ‘love in of Twitter’. This was fun, genuine and exuberant – what’s next?

    On a separate note, poor old Nicky keeps getting lumped in with that other Hockley. For the record, it’s Nicky Hockly and andy Hockley

    Oh, and Lindsay’s not a woman… 🙂


  2. So happy this joint venture produced the desired effect.

    We also all felt good conspiring and plotting to make your day – this was a first and perhaps not quite the same again, as Gavin says, but who cares?

    It’s nice to know people like you, isn’t it?

    And we didn’t quite expect another articulate blog post – tsk!

    A good hug next time we see you would have been just as fantastic!


      • I didn’t expect it! But I love it!

        Especially the part about the profound effect of praise, and the energising effect of being positive rather than negative.

        A lesson to remember and thank you for reminding us all.

        You are very special.

  3. I agree with you Gavin that (a) we have to think about what to do next, and (b) I just can’t tell my hockl(e)ys apart! But I have done my correction like a good student!


  4. Dear Jeremy,

    Being part of the #JHsurpriseparty, which was so efficiently organised by Karenne Sylvester, was probably just as exciting for your friends as it was for you. I had been thinking about how I could surprise you on your big day for weeks, but couldn’t come up with a half-way sensible idea as I knew you would not be home anyway. When I got Karenne’s DM on Thursday evening, I knew this was going to be a helluva lot of fun. There was a Google form to be filled in by all people who wanted to take part on which they announced what they wanted to contribute. Just reading the list made my heart jump with joy because all those different people had such wonderful ideas and I anticipated how much fun you would have reading their tweets and opening their links.
    All this made me feel once again what I’ve felt very strongly in the past couple of months, namely that social networking can be a real blessing if you do it with the right people. It is just amazing how much affection and support you can get from people you might have only met once or twice in real life, or some of them maybe never before… It baffles me again and again, every day, and has made me a much happier person. And it stands in total contrast to the things Nick has said about Twitter, conferences and cliques on his blog. Whenever I need positivity and warmth, I log on to my Twitter account and read people’s conversations. They make me laugh, they make me smile and they make me feel optimistic about the future. And they make birthdays a lot more fun 😉



    • Hi Petra,

      yes, that’s it, isn’t it. Except for the crabby days when the blogosphere goes a bit rancid and someone has a fit, Twitter has made me, too, a happier person.

      Wow. That’s amazing.


  5. Jeremy,

    Yes! I love how my friends continuously surprise me with their warmth! Although, I have met many online first I feel so close to them. I was so happy to be part of the fun and must thank Karenne for giving me the heads-up on it and Vicky for having the idea to do a Voxopop!

    I like what you say about recognizing teacher strengths. I follow education in America and find that too much negativity and criticisms are given to teachers. I think if we focus on the strengths then tackle the weaknesses perhaps we can have teachers a bit motivated to work on the weaknesses. If a person is constantly told she/he is rotten at her/his job then I think the person would just begin to accept this. Perhaps, you’re onto to something, but really we’d have to convince all the administrators in the world to take this step. Therefore, the question becomes how, because in education we definitely need motivated teachers.

    • Good question Shelly. How do we persuade people to spend at least as much time making people feel good as they do making them doubt themselves?

      Hmm. We need to think. But at the very least, where teacher observation is concerned, what is good is just as important (more important) as what isn’t!


  6. What a lovely piece, Jeremy! Thank you!

    I probably shouldn’t admit to this but, much as I try to remind myself that we’re all equal on twitter, I just can’t help feeling a thrill at being able to be (a very small) part of the birthday celebrations of not only one of the nicest people in my twitter stream but also ‘the’ Jeremy Harmer!! (My special thanks to the organisers too!)

    And, since Gavin’s right that this is a one off, I’m looking forward to what happens next…!


  7. Just let me highlight this again :
    ” we should spend much more time telling teachers how good they are, rather than identifying their weakenesses – and that complimenting teachers (something that doesn’t happen too often) may have a more profound effect on those teachers’ development than any manner of training sessions and observations.”

    I am so glad you said and wrote this. I couldn’t agree more.
    Merci for your “personal” post, it made my day.

    • Thanks for this, Alice.

      The question is, I think – as Shelly points out above – is HOW to get authorities working on this (the complimenting stuff).


  8. Dear Jeremy

    I was thrilled to take an indirect part in your birthday celebrations and it was a first to do so in such an innovative way via Twitter. I am so glad you had an amazing day. Being part of the “mobile generation” at whatever stage of life we are at, is an awesome feeling.

    Janet, from Oxford

    • Hi Janet,

      yes, it’s a great feeling isn’t it. And Petra’s right (see above). It mostly makes us all feel happier.


      what next?


  9. Jeremy,

    How wonderful! This post made my day! Happy belated birthday from someone who has been taking a bit of a Twitter/blogging sabbatical and so missed the call!

    • Hi Marcos,

      thanks, and sorry for the late reply but I am locked in a life and death struggle with my broadband provider so I haven’t been able to get on!

      Any reason for your ‘sabbatical’?


  10. I’m glad you enjoyed it Jeremy, and as one of the participants I must say I enjoyed it too.

    I really like Gavin’s comment at the start of the list here as well. He’s right. As much as I enjoyed this little surprise birthday party, a part of me was worrying whether (a) this might come to be expected within PLNs, and certain people might get all bothered if they don’t get birthday ambushed on Twitter, and (b) certain people were going to get all huffy because this happened for ‘the (one and only)’ Jeremy Harmer.

    To repeat Gavin’s sage social media advice:

    “It’s one of those one-offs, I reckon. It’ll never be quite the same, and if people come to expect it, maybe someone’s going to be disappointed. What we need to do is look for other opportunities of genuinely making people’s day, rather than the recently much-publicised ‘love in of Twitter’. This was fun, genuine and exuberant – what’s next?”

    I’m with you on that, Gav!

    And glad you had a genuinely nice day, Jeremy!

    ~ Jason

    • Thax, Jason – I mean I’m glad that you are glad that I was glad!!

      I hope it wasn’t just ‘the JH’ thing. It felt quite genuine to me – and lots of people I’ve met recently.

      But anywway, it WAS a one-off. There will be other reasons for the Twitter flock to fly up as one, I think…


  11. Belatedly happy birthday Jeremy! I was unfortunately unable to attend the event, but it’s great to learn that it achieved its objectives so successfully (been intensively training project management all week, so apologies if this is reflected in my choice of language.).

    Anyway, hope you had a great day and it sounds like this was a fantastic idea. Kudos to Karenne.

    “poor old Nicky keeps on getting lumped in with that other Hockley” – As I’m sure Nicky would be the first to tell you, this is a great honour, and “poor old” ought to be replaced here with “lucky”. Anyway, in retaliation Gavin, I shall now be referring to you as “David Cameron” until further notice.

      • You’ll have to catch me first, Dave. And I figure you’ll be too busy rolling back any vaguely progressive policies put in place by any previous UK government to bother too much with me.

    • Thanks Andy. Sorry for lateness of my reply, but locked in a life and death struggle with my broadband provider so ‘borrowing’ conection from someone else at the moment.

      Karenne’s fantastic, I agree. It was a really cool idea – and see Amanda’s comment below (well you have, so that’s a bit silly).

      Anyway, In Cairo on Sunday your name came up twice. Once from Ukraine Tanya and once from me (talking about Twitter). Fame!

      I won’t let Gavin aprehend you.


  12. Andy Hockley :
    You’ll have to catch me first, Dave. And I figure you’ll be too busy rolling back any vaguely progressive policies put in place by any previous UK government to bother too much with me.

    Sure, but after a week or so I’ll have some spare time on my hands… I know where you live…

  13. Hi Jeremy,

    It was REALLY fun to be part of your birthday surprise and I enjoyed keeping Karenne’s marvellous idea a secret. It was so funny when on a couple of occasions, related messages went out inadvertently on the Twitterstream and the Twitter Police had to apprehend unsuspecting criminals for nearly spilling the beans.!!

    Regarding Gavin’s first comment, I think that your birthday celebration was a very special one-off and it would be quite hard work and full of disappointment if people came to expect it. Apart from really just wanting to wish you personally a happy birthday, my deeper motivation for wanting to take part was a reaction against all the rubbish that has been poisoning my PLN over the last few weeks or so. I know it’s important to discuss things because change would never happen but it’s all got to be constructive.

    Finally, you ask if there is any more to say on this. I start my next round of teacher training observations next week for the CertTESOL and I am seriously considering the ratio of positive to constructive feedback I give and the impact that it all has on my trainees. I am quite new to teacher training and find it absolutely fascinating how different people react to feedback. I tailor my approach to each trainee as I have some who cringe when I say anything good and some who wither if I suggest there may be another, perhaps more constructive way of doing things. I am open to all suggestions about how else I can improve this though.

    Anyway, I’ll keep positive about it all because it’s the only way I know how,

    Best wishes once again!!!


    • Hey Amanda, I am SO sorry it has taken me such a long time to reply. It’s my (see above) life and death struggle with BT Broadband that has stopped me (oh, and travelling to and from Cairo).

      I was very happy that people wanted to say Happy Birthday, but of course I was aware that actually DOING it was half the fun. I am pleased I provided a pretext. A one-off, though the Flock is girding its loins again, I am sure for something different but similar.

      On trainer feedback? Well I do a whole workshop about that and i wish you could come along. But in essence (and I’ll see what article Andy’s referring to at the moment) feedback depends on three things, I reckon:

      a) accentuate the positive
      b) let the observee do most of the talking
      c) concentrate on the future not the past.

      The real danger is that the trainer says (and we’ve all done this, by the way), “love your clothes, you’ve got a great smile, I iked the way you talked to the students and your laugh, BUT [here follows hours of what you did wrong]

      How about instead asking the trainee questions like ‘so how do you think it went?’ and ‘what do you think your particular strengths are? Which of them do you think were on show just now?’ ‘If you did this again is there anything you would change? Why?’

      A lesson I learned recently (and I should know better) is that trainees, like humankind cannot bear too much reality. Shortish feedback on only a couple of things is much more effective than long long dissection of everything. Trainees just don’t tale ‘everything’ in.

      There’s so much to say. I would be more than happy to discuss with you when and if that might be helpful. Drop me an email or a DM if you want.

      I think (how can I know this?!! Hunch based on small amount of available evidence) that you’ll be a great trainer.


      (at IH Newcastle last Thursday I happened to see a fabulous part of a lesson – I wasn’t observing or anything. Without thinking I said how great it had looked when I was doing a session with the teachers later. I hear that comment really made the teacher (unsurprisingly) feel really good. What a powerful thing genuine heartfelt praise is)


      • I saw this approach/methodology to feedback at work in your latest editions of PELT and HTE (or rather, the excellent DVDs that went with them). Besides being able to verify that you actually practice what you preach here, I think this was one of the things that made the follow up interviews to the taped classroom settings really positive and interesting. The teachers themselves were the ones who came up with the most interesting observations about their classes and teaching methods – I thought you (Jeremy) handled those interviews brilliantly, and it inspired me a lot in the way I talked to my own teachers following observed classes (or just classes they told me didnt go well or involved particular difficulties). So thanks for that!

  14. BTW …. I don’t mean “if I suggest there may be another way” … I mean “when”.

  15. Lovely post Jeremy! I practised the pas-de-deux with Kev, and I think Dirk will be impressed! I have bought him an appropriate outfit as a sort of indirect birthday present for you.

  16. hello Karelia,

    Dirk can’t wait to try on his new outfit. Unfortunately he, like me, is locked in mortal combat with his broadband provider and so is stuck in first life!


  17. Hello,Jermey
    we should spend much more time telling teachers how good they are, rather than identifying their weakenesses . Nice point which I support it very much . I am a teacher of English .These word you wrote touch my heart.

  18. Hello .Mr.Jermey Harmer
    I would like to say I support what you have said:(I say that we should spend much more time telling teachers how good they are, rather than identifying their weakenesses).I am a teacher of English . I like a person who say something good about my teaching.It encourages me to go ahead .
    Thanks alot

    • Hey Vicki,

      I should have answered this days ago, but broadband problems, and then being on the road…

      Still the night before last I stayed in the same hotel in Katowice that you stayed in on your last trip here, so I felt a connection!


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