Tag Archives: teaching GCSE English Literature

School Technology: You Couldn’t Make It Up

So today the Year 10 poem was ‘At the Border, 1979′ – a poem by Choman Hardi. Ever the one for IT in lessons, I decided to play the BBC Bitesize video of the poet reading her poem. Bitesize have put up some effective images to accompany the reading.
Unfortunately, school equipment/broadband is not quite up to the same standard we are accustomed to at home and the video kept stopping to ‘buffer’ – sometimes in the middle of words …

The first lines should have read:
‘It is your last check-in point in this country!/
We grabbed a drink – “

With giggles after every buffering pause, it came out like this:

It is – (pause) – giggles
your – (pause) – giggles, smirk
last ch– more giggles, some open laughter
eck – proper laughter now
in poin – giggles, laughter, some sighing now
t in – giggles, giggles, giggles – (biggest pause so far)
this count – gasps, giggles, laughter, gasps, giggles, open laughter (really long pause)
ry ” – rolling around ! 
This entry was first posted on 18 February 2013.

Scary Moments on My Planet: aka ‘You Couldn’t Make it Up.’

Part 1.

So have introduced Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to Year 9 by watching ‘Shakespeare in Love’. At the end Gwyneth Paltrow is shipped off to Virginia by her horrible husband, Colin Firth.

Me: “Who do you think ‘Virginia’ was named after? Think famous ‘Virgin” … probably the most famous after Mary.”

Year 9: “Michael Jackson.”

Stunned, I have no immediate reply. ‘Mmmm, try again … “

Second Year 9: “The 40 year old … “

Part 2.

Finished reading ‘An Inspector Calls’ with Year 11 today. It’s a year group full of hot gossip and general Class A bitchiness: in other words, a group of perfectly normal and lovely teenagers. I have spent weeks pontificating about how everything we do affects everyone else; how we must consider the consequences of our interaction with others and be socially responsible. However, to throw some grade A/A* thinking into the mix I also offered them the following to ponder on:

What other people think of you is none of your business. 

What other people do to you is not your fault.

We concluded a lively discussion talking about how victims of abuse are made to feel ‘it is their fault’, and any therapy to repair the emotional damage usually involves convincing the victim that ‘it was not their fault’ – think ‘Good WIll Hunting’. Ergo, we concluded, when people are ‘good’ to you’ it is not your ‘fault’ either. They, it could be argued, are doing ‘good’ not because you deserve it  but because they are good people.

All pretty standard GCSE Literature.

But, and you just couldn’t make it up … just as this was being said The Head turned up to my classroom and with him marched in the new Bishop, two priests and four nuns !!!! It was like  – and here, Ladies and gentlemen, are a group of ‘good people’ I made earlier …. 

This entry was first posted  on January 15 2013.

Back to School.

‘You should write a book.’ I’ve heard this loads of times. The sub-title to my life is ‘You couldn’t make it up.’

It all started well. I had a lesson prepared for everyone (this is not always the case, you understand, so it is more worthy of note than you might like to think). Missed my cuppa at break but managed to grovel to both the finance lady and the photocopy woman, and went to the loo (also more worthy of note than it should be).

It was all getting a bit surreal when I remembered to check who was in assembly and the going continued ‘good to soft’ with Year 9 Shakespeare. ‘Romeo and Juiet’. Basic intro: show ‘Shakespeare in Love’. It’s a 15. It begins with a torture scene, moves on to Shakespeare explaining to an apothecary he has lost his touch, with the apothecary misunderstanding and thinking he is impotent. There are several rude but metaphorical references to erections: thankfully  these are largely (! )(giggle) unnoticed by the twenty-six 13 year olds in front me. They do notice Marlowe having sex with a prostitute and will notice tomorrow ‘Romeo’/Shakespeare half-naked in bed with Gwyneth Paltrow – without batting an eyelid. There will be no parental complaints about the nakedness in the Zephirelli version or the gratuitous violence in Baz Luhrman’s. This is Shakespeare: it’s culture.


‘Made In Dagenham’ is not culture. It was not written by Shakespeare. It is about ‘real life’: about one of the most important landmarks in the history of time, for women anyway. That’s about half of the entire population of the globe.

‘Made in Dagenham’ tells the story of the women at Ford’s Dagenham plant who went on strike for equal pay at the end of the 1960′s. 187 working class women brought Ford UK to a standstill and in 1971 equal pay for women became law, first in Britain and within a few short years, across most of the industrialised nations on the planet. The film is well-made. The acting is beautiful. The script is tight and the casting is inspirational: Sally Hawkins and Bob Hoskins are awesome and Miranda  Richardson is Barbara Castle to a tee. I know, I remember her on television as a child.

But it was not written by Shakespeare. Shakespeare used a variety of slang and swear words. Many of these have lost their impact and ‘bastard’, the main remaining offensive term used freely by the ‘Warwickshire shithouse’ (‘Shakespeare in Love’) just means illegitimate, doesn’t it? William Ivory is barely heard of. And has not earned parental approval of the use of ‘f’ word. No matter how naturally it is used, or how stupid any other word would have sounded in its place.

I’m not sure what it says about our house and my children, but I assure you I did not notice how many times this word was uttered in the comfort of my own tiny sitting room. But in my huge classroom in front of twenty-four teenagers it seemed to be screamed out every alternate second.  Why, oh why, were the characters shouting it sooo loudly ! and soooo clearly ? And sooooooo unnecessarily! By the third utterance it seemed to be in every sentence, every speech: ‘`F’ this, ‘F-ing that’ Oh My God !!! By the sixth (and final) pronouncement I was in meltdown.

Of course, I spluttered apologises, condemned ‘bad’ language and ‘swore’ I had not noticed the swearing when I saw it at home. This just added to the hilarity and probably emphasised it more than ever. The phones will probably be in ringing off the hooks tomorrow. What can I say? Back to school. Day 1.

This entry was first posted on January 7th 2013