The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I feel so positive about our results this year.

Tom races in, hair akimbo, full of sixteen year old social drama, asks me to step outside to ask for a lift home.
Bullies, miss, the six foot part time boxer tells me. I don't ask questions, set him to work on my filing, then drive the boy home.
Nah, miss, not home. My mates' house. I'm going out tonight.

You know you've a GCSE exam tomorrow, Tom? I leave it casual, to hang in the air with the unspoken trailing hint about revising.

Yeah yeahyeah, miss!

What is it in, mate?

Errrr. Of Mice and Men.

Correct. What else?

Ummmmmmmmm. Er. Um.
(&c. Standard get-me-out-of-this / take-pity-on-me / i'm-doing-my-best-to-make-this-sound-really-painful pause noises)

It's a book, Tom. Which book have you been studying all year?


There are no exams in Shakespeare. You did that a year ago for coursework.

You're kidding, miss!

Tell me you didn't sit and revise Shakespeare.
He's getting into role now, the good kid gone scatty, but even he can't maintain the front.
Nah, s'alright miss, I ain't revised it.

What then?

Cutting a long story short, I had to remind him of a thick orange covered book full of poems the whole year group have studied for two years solid.
Oh yeah, miss, the And-something, wunnit?

The Anthology. Who's in it? [... delete long painful pause from recollection of dialogue ...] What did Simon Armitage write? Hitcher?

Oh yeah yeahyeah.

Kid? About Batman and Robin?

Oh yeah! Yeah yeahyeah.
About as convincing as a fluffy dolly dress superimposed onto Tom's unconcerned frame.
What did Carol Ann Duffy write, then?

She wrote about that old biddy, yeah - you know, the one who bit off that guy's* --

-- okay, Tom, yes, I get the idea. No need to go further. And Salome and Anne Hathaway. She took silent female voices from historical details about the famous men they were involved with, and pretended to give them a voice. Got that?

Yeah. Yeahyeah.

Memorise it, Tom. She took real people, gave their womenfolk a voice. Pretended their stories got told.

Yeah. Right.

Say it.

Yeah. [...] Look, miss, my phone's going. Can I go outside and take this?
I feel so positive about our results this year.

* - Carol Ann Duffy's feminist retelling of Dickens: if you don't know what Havisham bites off, then I'm sure I'm not going to encourage the more perverse frequenters of google by telling you.