Sunday Feb 14, 2021

Episode 20 - Smells Like Renaissance Man & Mashed Potatoes

This podcast is available in iTunes. Subscribe with this URL:

For other podcatchers, subscribe with this one:


Well this is a celebratory episode. It was a year ago that the Teacher’s Teatime Podcast was launched, and this is our 20th episode. We have had short stories, teacher’s stories, news about the latest goings on in education, while all the time we maintained a focus on schools as communities, whether they meet in person or virtually.

We’ve been download just under 400 times. Our most downloaded episode was Episode 3 when we asked for student’s perspectives on the abrupt switch to remote learning when Covid first struck. Episode 14, our first pub talk was the next most popular episode, with episode 15, Doug Wren’s teacher story, a career in education, our third most popular.

The podcast has been listened to in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, India, Japan, Russia, Brazil, and Spain. Here in the US we have a footprint in Virginia, Kansas, Texas, Michigan, California, Washington State, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Georgia, Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Oregon.  Wherever you are listening, thank you for supporting the podcast by taking an interest. It is much appreciated.  Don’t forget to subscribe using the links in the show notes on the website and tell your friends.  

This year we have more stories from the classroom, more interviews with educators, more pub talks, and more about schools as communities. We will also have a periodical feature focusing on the history of education – how did we develop the education system that we have? I’m looking forward to putting that one together.

As always, I love to hear your stories from school, as teachers, parents, and students. Feel free to share your stories with me at  

Anyway, as we are celebrating, here are a couple of school stories:

Renaissance Man:

The first one is one that came out of a chat with a friend of mine. We both used to teach World History to high school freshmen and sophomores here in the states, so that would be the equivalent of years 9 and 10 back in England. I don’t know about you, but most of the stories I hear about come from classrooms frequented by 14 and 15 year olds. When I think back to my own school days, my best stories come from being that age too.

Anyway, here is the story– and I quote - it was early in the school year and we were just beginning a unit on the renaissance. The tenth grade course began with the renaissance and went all the way up to the modern world. The 9th grade course ended with the renaissance so most of what we were covering was already familiar to the kids. For my introductory lesson, I thought I would hook the student’s interests by focusing on just how groundbreaking the renaissance was. I created a slide show of all the cool architecture, art, and inventions of the era, editing it into a movie trailer. This was before cool apps like Imovie so it took some doing. I thought it was a cool thing to do.

Then my lesson focused on the main man of the renaissance – Leonardo Da Vinci. With the class we played a game called “Leonardo, or Leonardon’t” where we would see pictures of modern day inventions, like the tank, the helicopter, and stuff like that, and we would decide if it was an idea that he had – Leonardo, or didn’t have, Leonardon’t.  Then we would do some investigation into his life. It made for a fun lesson and the students were usually engaged.

In the second lesson, the plan was for the students to create inventions of their own that could help improve the modern world, and wrote them up into a codex similar to Leonardo, with sketches, and backwards writing just like he did. But first, we would review the content of the previous lesson. I asked for someone to explain what the renaissance was, several students were able to explain successfully. I then asked for some examples of art, architecture, and artefacts from the era, and many were able to give us some examples that they saw on the video in the lesson before. Then the big question, the one that shows they were paying attention….

So, can anyone name the Man who pretty much embodied the Renaissance? Our Renaissance Man.

To which Madison raised her hand. Now Madison (which for the purpose of this story isn’t her real name) never raised her hand. She was an excellent student, but was always quiet and shy. Noticing her hand up I jumped at the chance for this softly spoken, shy student, to contribute.  Surely she would feel so much better and gain confidence in speaking out with this opportunity. I had visions of this being a life-changing moment for this student, happening right now, in my classroom.

“Madison”, I said confidently. “Go ahead and tell us who we reckon is the man who defines the Renaissance”.

With a smile, and a loud, confident voice, Madison piped up: “Leonardo…….DiCaprio”. 


Part Two:

Welcome back. So another story from the annals, and it carries the title “Mashed Potatoes”, but it’s not really a story about mashed potatoes, but it has had an impact on my own family, so I think it’s a really important one to share on this 20th Episode, and One Year anniversary of the podcast.  

Now, if you were to come into my classroom before a class starts, you would usually hear music playing from my phone. I tend to put it on shuffle play and any one of 5000+ tracks might come on. It makes for interesting conversations with students asking what is playing, and “how old is that again?”  It’s important to education our young folks about real music.

Well, back in the nineties, this second-year teacher was about to have his challenging, but when he reflects on the personalities, his all-time favorite, class of year 9s.  It’s always ninth grade!! Anyway, it was after lunch when the students were about to come to class, and as this was in the days before WIFI, internet, smartphones, and stuff like that, we had old fashioned media in our classrooms: Televisions, Video Cassette Recorders, and Radio-Cassette Players.

It was not unusual for us to have the radio on as our kids came in at the beginning of class, and as this was the end of the lunch hour, it was playing as they straggled in. I used to have it tuned into a commercial station that played the latest music, remember this was the mid-nineties, grunge had just happened, and Brit Pop was just beginning. It was a great time for music, and I would probably argue that music has never been as good as it was then. Or maybe that’s just me looking at things through my prism of age.

Anyway, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit was playing on the radio, as the students were coming in. Some of them asked if I could turn it up, and as I was a bit of a Nirvana fan, I duly obliged. Then Gemma bounded in. Gemma (as we shall call her in this story) was gregarious bordering on boisterous and liked to make an entrance. She particularly enjoyed making an entrance if she was fashionably late for the beginning of class, as she was in this instance. So, as she came though the door, she heard what was playing, and her face lit up!

“Oh, it’s the mashed potato song – I love the mashed potato song”

“What?” Said I and about twenty of the class at the same time.

“It’s the mashed potato song. Listen to the chorus”

And as the chorus began, she started screaming along with the late, great, Kurt Cobain –

“Here they are now, Mashed Potatoes, I like eating, Mashed Potatoes, with some gravy, mashed potatoes, I like eating mashed potatoes… yeah”.

“You see” she said, “It’s the mashed potato song.”

And you know what? – I think she was convinced that these were the genuine lyrics.

So ever since then, Smells like Teen Spirit is forever the Mashed Potato Song. And we can thank Gemma for planting that earworm for ever more.

So that was Episode 20 of the Teachers Teatime Podcast.

This podcast is a proud member of Edjacent, a design collaborative made up of educators who dream of a better world for our students and their teachers. We create, write, talk, teach and learn about the things that matter most in education. To find out more, point your browser to That’s w w w dot e d j a c e n t dot o r g.

For me, it’s the stories of teachers, students, and school communities that matter. As such, this podcast is only possible with the help and support of its listeners. Please leave positive reviews wherever you are able. If you are an ITunes or Spotify subscriber, leaving a good review can really help our visibility.  Also, please don’t keep this podcast to yourself. Tell your friends to subscribe and listen too.  

One thing we all have in common is that we’ve been to school. So, if you would like to contribute to the pod in any way, if you have a story to share, long, short, tragic, or comic, if you have comments to make about the podcast, or just want to say “hi”, you can send an email to I love to read what you have to say.

Or if social media is your thing, you can follow me on Twitter @markdiacop and on Instagram at markdiacopoulos

You can find suggestions for topics, copies of the show notes, and you can download previous episodes of the podcast at

The podcast artwork was created by Phaedra.

Opening and closing music is by Bryan Boyko.

It’s been my pleasure to be your host today.

Thank you for listening.


This podcast is available in iTunes. Subscribe with this URL:

For other podcatchers, subscribe with this one:



Comments (0)

To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean or

No Comments

Copyright 2021 All rights reserved.

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Version: 20221013