Death be not proud

Things happen every day, both extraordinary and horrendous, to regular human beings. Despite this, western society has a fascination with the comings and goings of anyone the spotlight has hit – regardless of whether they have bathed in it or simply been grazed by it. Tabloid magazines dominate the newsstands, seemingly covering every movement celebrities make.

 

I hate it.

 

I hate that the media focus on the exploits of famous people when the very same thing happens to ordinary people on a regular basis. People outside of the spotlight fall seriously ill, have marriage breakdowns, have babies and fall in love. And, it’s not just that we report on these things that aren’t newsworthy – mainstream media follow these developments at the expense of real news. We are ignorant to so much that is happening in our world.

 

Beyond that, I feel sorry for the families of celebrities. Nobody deserves their childhood tainted by constant exposure and pestering; no parent should see their child dragged through dirt. I have less sympathy for the celebs themselves who, generally, enter the profession with an understanding of the industry but their loved ones have no choice in the matter.

 

Where am I going with this?

 

I hate the fascination with famous people when ordinary lives are enriched and destroyed on a daily basis but… this year appears to have taken more celebrity lives than any other in memory.

 

And so, for a short while at least, I’m happy to indulge in fandom.

 

I’ve seen social media posts boasting, “for those hating on 2016 I imagine _______ was worse,” with the blank replaced by years decimated by plague or warfare but I can’t empathise with these. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic towards the people affected by these catastrophic events but the posts themselves are not written with any emotion, they are just sarcastic digs aimed at people lamenting the deaths of those they admire. Likewise, there is another post that says “RIP every ordinary person who died this year” that is devoid of feeling.

 

Here’s the thing, when a non-famous person dies it impacts the people who have known them. With celebrities and the amount of exposure they receive people feel as if they do know them to an extent and so, when they die, it is natural to be upset. Compound that with the sheer number of famous people who have died this year and it’s easy to see why people are grieving.

 

It is easy to label these people as TV/movie stars, musicians and writers but that diminishes their impact. These people were role models, humanitarians, activists and icons. Many of them – through their lyrics, their novels and the various characters they have played – have helped shape the people we have become.

 

I direct you now to Perth performance poet Scott-Patrick Mitchell who said:

#deepthoughts // every person listed here has taught our society & culture an aspect of humanity that we have, collectively, resonated with. mourn them, yes, but more importantly learn from their abilities, carry that in your heart and use their strengths to make yourself stronger. they were here for a reason. so are you.

January 10
David Bowie, 69 Rock icon

January 14
Alan Rickman, 69 Actor

January 18
Glenn Frey, 67 Eagles rocker

January 23
Jimmy Bain, 68 Rainbow rock star

January 30
Frank Finlay, 89 Acting great

January 31
Terry Wogan, 77 TV & radio legend

February 3
Maurice White, 74 Earth Wind & Fire star

February 19
Harper Lee, 89 To Kill A Mockingbird author

February 28
Frank Kelly, 77 Father Ted star

February 28
George Kennedy, 91 Movie great

March 1
Tony Warren, 79 Coronation St creator

March 8
George Martin, 90 Beatles producer

March 11
Keith Emerson, 71 ELP rock legend

March 15
Sylvia Anderson, 88 Lady Penelope

March 16
Frank Sinatra Junior, 72 Sinatra’s singer son

March 17
Paul Daniels, 77 Comedy magician

March 24
Gary Shandling, Comedian

March 29
Patty Duke, 69 Child star

March 31
Ronnie Corbett, 85 Comedy legend

March 31
Denise Robertson, 83 TV agony aunt

April 6
Merle Haggard, 79 Country legend

April 12
David Gest, 62 TV personality

April 20
Victoria Wood, 62 Comedy genius

April 20
Joanie “Chyna” Laurer, 46 WWE wrestling legend

April 21
Lonnie Mack, 74 Blues guitar great

April 21
Prince, 57 Pop icon

April 21
Guy Hamilton, 93 Bond director

April 24
Billy Paul, 80 Chart star

May 17
Guy Clark, 74 Country legend

May 19
John Berry, 52 Beastie Boys star

May 19
Alan Young, 96 Mister Ed TV star

May 21
Nick Menza, 51 Megadeth drummer

May 24
Burt Kwouk, 85 Pink Panther star

May 31
Carla Lane, 87 Liver Birds writer

June 3
Muhammad Ali, 74 Boxing legend

June 14
Henry McCullough, 72 Wings guitarist

June 19
Anton Yelchin, 27 Star Trek’s Chekov

June 24
Bernie Worrall, 72 Funkadelic star

June 28
Scotty Moore, 84 Elvis’s guitarist

July 2
Caroline Aherne, 52 Comedy actress

July 16
Alan Vega, 78 Suicide punk pioneer

August 13
Kenny Baker, 81 Star Wars’ R2-D2

August 15
Dalian Atkinson, 48 Villa cup hero
Bobby Hutcherson. 75 Jazz musician

August 22
Toots Thielemans, 94 Jazz musician

August 29
Gene Wilder, 83 Comic genius

September 11
Alexis Arquette, 47 Transgender actress

September 17
Charmian Carr, 73 Sound of Music’s Liesl

September 25
Arnold Palmer, 87 Golfing legend

October 12
Thomas Mikal Ford, 52, Martin Sitcom

October 14
Jean Alexander, 90 Corrie’s Hilda Ogden

October 23
Pete Burns, 57 Dead or Alive chart star

October 24
Bobby Vee, 73 1960s teen idol

November 7
Leonard Cohen, 82 Iconic singer & writer

November 11
Robert Vaughn, 83 Veteran actor

November 13
Leon Russell, 74 US rock legend

November 24
Colonel Abrams, 67 80s chart star

November 25
Florence Henderson, 82 Brady Bunch star

November 26
Ron Glass, 71 US TV star

December 1
Andrew Sachs, 86 Fawlty Towers star

December 6
Peter Vaughan, 93 Game of Thrones star

December 7
Ian Cartwright, 52 Wolves midfielder

December 8
John Glenn, 95 First to orbit Earth

December 8
Greg Lake, 69 ELP legend

December 10
AA Gill, 62 Writer & critic

December 10
Ian McCaskill, 78 TV weatherman

December 12
Walter Swinburn, 55 Derby winning jockey

December 13
Alan Thicke

December 18
Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99 Actress

December 24
Rick Parfitt, 68
Richard Adams, author of Watership Down

December 25
George Michael, 53 Singer
Ricky Harris aka Taadow, 54 Comedian

December 26
Liz Smith, 95 Actress

December 27
Carrie Fisher, 60 Actress

 

Sadly, that list is now incomplete with at least two more celebrity deaths that have occurred since it was posted.

 

May they rest in peace.

5 movie references NOT to use during sexy time

Movies are an integral part of the fabric of society and the lines delivered by the stars often become part of our everyday dialogue.

I have heard many a person say “I’ll be back” in their best (which is probably also their worst) Arnie impression and how many of us have stood arms outstretched claiming to be “king of the world”?

But there are some situations where specific movie references are best avoided. Here’s 5+ examples you (men) don’t want to use in the bedroom:

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1. Say “hello” to my little friend.

 

Imagine this, you’ve wined and dined and now you’re hoping to get your leg over so you invite your prospective sexual partner in for some “coffee”. The lights are dimmed, the music is on and you drop your pants citing this classic Scarface line…

While it seems witty, it’s doubtful any man wants their partner thinking that their penis is “little”. Plus, the line brings out connotations of a coked-up gangster shooting all over the place… hardly romantic.

 

2. Here’s Johnny!

 

Again, the scene is set – there’s candles and flowers, dinner was home cooked and served with a glass (or three) of wine. You take her in to the bedroom, unzip your fly and quote this line from The Shining as you stick your penis through the gap like a head through a door that’s been hacked to pieces by a homicidal maniac.

Classy!

Sure, you might’ve been making a more harmless reference to the 1995 hit song of the same name, or Johnny Bravo or The Tonight Show but what’ll come to mind for most people is that all work and no play leads to stabbing not sex.

 

3. Free Willy

 

Ok, so this isn’t a quote per se but if you’re inclined to call out the title of this film while removing your underwear you’re an immature man-child with delusions of grandeur. No self-respecting adult calls their penis a willy and if you’re comparing your manhood to a whale you’re going to bitterly disappoint someone.

Plus, all I can think about is the clip from The Simpsons where the whale doesn’t make it over the rocks and ends up killing the child protagonist. More connotations you don’t need.

 

 

4. Grab your stick! Heat ’em up! Make ’em hard!

 

If you’re in a homosexual relationship, this Ghostbusters line might actually work. It probably won’t, but it makes more sense than in any heterosexual dalliance. For the most part, it just sounds like you’re wanking – and possibly doing so too often if you’re getting friction burns. Any mention of “heat” when talking about your “stick” is probably worth a trip to the doctor.

 

 

5. Open the pod bay doors

 

So you’ve read the first few points on this list and recognised that their all in reference to your Mills and Boon style “throbbing member” and you’ve thought to yourself that maybe film quotes only work when you’re talking about a vagina. Wrong! They don’t work there either.

This 2001 line is a prime example. Likewise, upon penetration, don’t think it’s a great idea to get all Ace Ventura and say it fits “like a glove”.

Sure, maybe lines from porn movies might work. The ones with a scripted plot. They still make them, right? But your Hollywood blockbuster isn’t going to give you the goods.

No woman is going to be turned on by being informed she “can’t handle the truth” and no man should call his cock “the truth” anyway.

 

If there’s other film quotes you think shouldn’t be used in sexy time scenarios, let me know in the comments.

 

And, if this blog post proves popular, tune in for the follow-up where I refer to TV shows to tell you it’s not a good idea to walk up to women in nightclubs with your penis out asking “have you met Ted?” and so on…

When the master becomes the… spectator

A lot of teaching is about control. Or at least it seems so.

First of all you have to control student behaviours. Gone are the days where you can expect students to respect you or do as you’ve asked simply because you occupy an authoritarian position, today’s teachers are taught and re-taught behaviour management strategies throughout their degrees and their career.

Then there is the expectation that we are controllers of content, keepers of knowledge. This stereotype is one born out of traditional practice and perpetuated through years of ‘chalk and talk’.

There are a number of teaching strategies that are currently popular that involve giving up some of this control, an exercise which frightens some teachers both old and new/experienced and inexperienced. These methods include flipped learning, SOLE and PBL among others.

I’m about to walk this path. Again.

A few years back I was a lot more proactive in this space. A colleague and I pushed each other to continually provide students with authentic learning experiences. We ran TEDx events, we had students create film trailers that were commented on by professional film-makers, we published student creative writing, we collaborated with other schools, we entered students in competitions, we had students perform poetry to each other and also in a public forum; we went beyond the four walls of our classroom and the learning experiences were richer for it.

Unfortunately, the school climate changed and we lost our mojo.

So why am I back trying it again? Mostly it’s because I’m going on long service leave and will only have my students for two weeks. In trying to come up with something ‘cool’ that could be completed in this short time-frame I remembered the work of Bianca Hewes, who I used to follow closely on Twitter when I was more engaged in this space.

One of her blog posts was about a class coming together to collaboratively write a novella and I was considering following this line of thinking, scouring NaNoWriMo resources and the Write-a-book-in-a-day website, but we’ve already done creative writing recently and I didn’t want to drag the students through something. What I wanted, was for them to take control of their own learning.

So, I came up with this – https://goo.gl/SIH1sV

I’m not certain how it’s going to go.

The hardest part will not be behaviour management. I have a few strategies and tactics up my sleeve to monitor student progress. I’ll use exit tickets, planning and reflection documents, inside-outside circles, value lines, and other methods to measure their success. This will ensure their accountability. Beyond that, I’ll use the usual CMS strategies to keep the kids in check.

The hardest part will not be relinquishing my position as the custodian of knowledge. I don’t pretend to know everything anyway.

The hardest part will be keeping myself in check. Each time I’ve done something like this in the past I’ve gone a little stir crazy. It’s the same with supervising exams and tests. I will be there, providing duty of care, but for the most part I will just be holding myself back and trying not to intervene (or annoy).

Wish me luck.

 

 

The Think Behind the Ink: Part 3

The last time I wrote a “The Think Behind the Ink” piece I said it was probably going to be my last tattoo. It’s lucky I used the word ‘probably’ because I’ve gone and got another one.

 

This is almost definitely the last. Although, in saying that, I can’t help think of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon.

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I would have to come up with something highly significant in order to get inked again though so this is probably it.

 

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This is me; I’m a monkey.

 

Before I was born my mum always wanted a pet monkey and when I came into the world all (cherubic and) hairy, everyone joked that she got her wish. Add to that the fact that I was born in the year of the monkey and that I have always been an avid climber of random crap everywhere and you can see why I associate myself with that animal. ‘Monkey’ is also one of the nicknames we use for my son so we’re keeping the simian thing in the family.

 

Springing from this is a phoenix. The mythological fire-bird is a common symbol of renewal and rebirth. What I’ve done (more accurately, what I asked Emily to do) in the design of this one is make it look like the bird/fire is made out of ink. What I’m getting at is that, through my writing, I create and recreate myself on a regular basis. I’ve reinvented myself in real life too (but I think I’ve told that story already).

 

Until next time…

Teachers With Teeth

I was a teenage dirtbag and people have often suggested that I must be a brilliant teacher because there’s nothing the students can do that I haven’t seen or done before. If you add to that the fact that EVERY teacher I ever had said that I had the brains to be so much more then what you have is a recipe for… something.

If I knew cookery better then I’d offer a more precise metaphor but picture something that is potentially perfect but easy to mess up, prone to disastrous results. I want to say soufflé but I’m not sure if that’s right.

Anyway… what I’m really trying to get at is that I’ve walked the walk of a disengaged, disruptive teenager before and I can still talk the talk quite fluently. I match their criticism with witticism, their talk down with talk back. They bring the sass? Myeh, I’m a Sasquatch.

I don’t know what it is but students seem to respond to that as though they respect a bit of attitude. Maybe it’s just that they like teachers who show a bit of personality and humour.

There are 2 problems here.

  1. These retorts need to be immediate to be effective, thinking time decreases their effect and, so, you’re not always censoring yourself as much as you normally would. When shooting your mouth in this manner it’s possible that you’re firing live bullets.
  2. Mental health issues, depression and teen suicide are too real to ignore in today’s day and age.

I know I’ve overstepped the line before. I am truly apologetic for the words that have come out of my mouth in times where I haven’t considered their impact and I wish I could take some of those hurtful things back. But I can’t. So, I’m doing the next best thing – I’m trying to create a more supportive, positive vibe in my classrooms.

It’s not easy. This sort of thing doesn’t come naturally to me. But I’m trying. One of the things I’ve tried to encourage is the students complimenting each other. That way, when my feedback or comments are negativity geared they can pump each other up.

That’s why, when I read this poem recently, it was everything I felt but never expressed. It was as though someone was telling my life through verse and had gotten my gender wrong.

That’s why I asked them if I could share it here. It wasn’t titled where I read it so I’m going to call it “Miss Roast”. It’s by fellow WA based teacher/poet, Elise Kelly.

 

They call me Miss Roast at school

It is a title of respect that crowns my head, put there by adolescent fingers

Shouted in open school halls like a student catcall or a grudging fanfare

Every day in class I read my students a Shakespearean insult

Though they can not sift through the Bard’s English, the cloaked insult is a language they understand

And breathe it like oxygen

There is no higher art form to them than invectives injected like venom into another’s tender skin

They roast their friends and foes over the same fire and feast on the spitting crackle, hoping they will not be burned in turn

Their favourite sport is the back-and-forth banter, the tennis-match rally of roasting and boasting

And although there is room for wit, they have no time for it

Their words are crude and cruel and so naive in their poison

But they call me Miss Roast because I can speak with their forked tongue

Relief teachers get a lot of shit, and I have learned to clapback and smackdown their jibes

I have clothed myself with comebacks and stood armed with retorts like they were a shield

But I fear they have become bullets that plant guns in their half-grown hands

They call me Miss Roast, because I can leave a student who gives me lip lying in the dust after the lick of my whip-like tongue

Hold my own against the sass of asshole dropkicks

But I wonder if I should be proud of the title

Rap for them comes only in battle form

Poetry to them is uncool until it is in a slam

My words are most worth their respect when I make them weapons, and I did not mean for this to happen

Why do I teach them an insult a day when I could teach them to be kind

Fill their ears with the music of Shakespeare’s sonnets of love

Teach them the ancient art of compliments where no one is the opponent, and victory comes from raising each other up instead of breaking each other down

They call me Miss Roast

A stamp of youthful approval for the fire in my breath, leaving the ground scorched

But I would rather be the warm sun helping these little buds to bloom

I’ve got the music in me

My year 12 General class have a really naff task to complete that has great potential. Basically, they have to demonstrate how 5 songs connect to their life/experiences. Currently it is neither an autobiographical task nor a song analysis one but it could be great as both. Oh well, there’s always next year.

 

Anyway, as is often the case, I’ve created an example they can follow. Here it is:

 

cover

Cover design.
 
Because this CD task is somewhat autobiographical, I decided to blend photos of me doing two things I love: teaching and footy. My ‘band name’ is something I’ve used as a moniker in video games and is based off the band Run DMC (who feature on one of the tracks). While the album’s title, RONception, is based off the film Inception and plays on the idea of the image (the Ron inside a Ron), the font style and colour is reminiscent of the 1980s which represents my childhood. 
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Track listing
 
1. It’s Tricky – Run DMC
Key lyric:
“One thing I know is that life is short
So listen up homeboy, give this a thought
The next time someone’s teaching why don’t you get taught?
It’s like that (what?) and that’s the way it is.”
 
The third line of this verse is something that I’ve considered getting put onto a hoodie. Mostly, this is because I’m a teacher and I’ve had to deal with the frustration of students not listening or not retaining information. The rest of the song serves as a reminder that life is hard and we need to do as much as possible to create opportunities for success and to maintain our mental health. 
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2. Re-Arranged – Limp Bizkit
Key lyric:
“Life is overwhelming
Heavy is the head that wears the crown

I’d love to be the one to disappoint you when I don’t fall down.”
 
When I was in year 10 I told my course counsellor that I wanted to be an English teacher and she laughed at me. Since then, I’ve had similar experiences where people have belittled me and underestimated my abilities. I’ve used this as motivation and have taken great pleasure in proving people wrong. Furthermore, Limp Bizkit was one of the bands I loved when I was in my late teens/early twenties. This is a great time of angst and aggression which is fits the style and tone of Limp Bizkit’s work.
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3. Swear Jar – Illy
Key lyric:
“Now ladies and gentleman I know I’m not perfect, hell
I’m probably guilty of this shit myself
But I’ve tried, oh I try not to put myself above nobody”
 
I come from a family that has struggled with many issues and this has made me humble to the extent that I’ve always struggled with the notion that some people are incredibly arrogant. I can list dozens of people who are better poets/teachers/fathers/friends than me. That said, I do rile people up on purpose so I can see how some people might assume that I think I’m their better but I honestly don’t believe I am superior to anyone. While I admit to being racist and sexist in my adolescence, I am an advocate for human rights now that I’ve matured. 
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4. It’s Only Rock and Roll – The Rolling Stones
Key lyric:
“If I could stick my pen in my heart
And spill it all over the stage
Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya
Would you think the boy is strange?”
 
Mick Jagger has said that the inspiration for this song comes from critics and journalists commenting that the Rolling Stones’ new tracks and albums were not as good as their old ones. He exaggerates the lengths the band must go to in order to appease people in the industry. Aside from feelings of inadequacy that I’ve experienced in my life, I also resonate with these lyrics and their imagery. I often write poems expressing my emotions (“stick my pen in my heart”) but I’ve got a growing rejection list from publishers. 
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5. Lean on Me – Bill Withers
Key lyric: 
“You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on.”
 
This song is hugely significant for me. My best friend quoted these lyrics as part of his Best Man speech at my wedding and it brought me to tears. I never had a lot of emotional support growing up so this was a very touching moment. Since then I’ve become quite empathetic. I’m generally good at reading other people’s emotions and am actually the person most people at work come to when they need a hug.
back-cover
 
 

Harry Potter teaching kids in the forest

This year I started attending a poetry group. We meet once a month and generally discuss a form that we’ve played around with in the last few weeks. This month the form was prose poetry, a bizarre hybrid of two contrasting writing styles that means you avoid typical poetic structures in favour of paragraphs but keep the figurative language associated with poetry.

 

Here’s what I managed to put together. First, one on Harry Potter:

Then one day she asked me, “Is Harry Potter real?”

So I got down on my knees, felt my muscles resist every movement, and looked her in the eyes. “Yes,” I said, and she knew instantly that I was telling the truth. I never meant that some youthful young man, bespectacled and scarred, ever existed in a way that is exactly like the book, simply that everywhere you look there are people just like those on the page. Bullies exist, teachers can be compassionate and cruel, and magic… Magic is real. I’ve never seen the breeze but I can tell you how it feels to have the cool wind kiss your face on a balmy Spring day. I can’t tell you how love looks but my body reacts to every act of adoration it experiences. God has never spoken to me but there are too many wonders in this world for there not to be intelligent design. Magic, therefore, must be real.

We stared at each other a little longer, soaking in the silence between us, the patterns of her eyes mirrored perfectly in mine.

 

And another on teaching:

What I teach in my classrooms, what I want to teach in my classrooms and what I’m told I should teach in my classrooms are three vastly different things connected only by the word ‘teach’. Even then, teaching in a high school context often feels less like reality and more like a figure of speech. I can lecture and preach until I’m blue in the face but modern teens don’t learn from chalk and talk, so it’s all a waste. Books and worksheets, no. Group work, too risky. Technology, unreliable. And the kids themselves? The kids are raised on apathy, spoon fed “she’ll be right” from a young age. They’re sung “we don’t need no education” and have taken it as sage advice. Pen? Lost it. Book? Don’t have one. Bag? Left it at home. I’m up shit creek without a paddle and they’re just going with the flow. But still I struggle against the stream; hoping that one day they’ll tire of indifference and mediocrity, that one day they’ll dare to dream.

 

Then, when I was flicking through one of my journals I came across this one:

These woods swallow you whole, gobble you up. Once you are inside the thicket all hope is lost; you find yourself further in when all you wanted was out. Seemingly endless, each line of trees begets another, like Russian dolls of forestry. Here the trees don’t fall – they lunge, and the sound of your screams are muffled by the hum of nature in all its glory. Crows flit and fight through the branches, each one of them full of voice. Foxes ferret through the bramble foraging for food. In these woods there is a palimpsest of noise as animals join the chorus. Silence is not welcome here.

 

All of these are first drafts. If you’ve got any feedback I welcome it with open arms.

🙂

Othello – the untold story

My year 10s are tasked with transforming an act or scene from Othello into another text type and, as I was explaining the assignment to them today, I mentioned that you could play around with genre as well as form. So, in preparation for tomorrow’s lesson I thought I’d provide a brief example of what they are expected to do – it’s rushed and imperfect but it’ll do.

Here it is, a twisted take on Act 5, Scene 2 re-imagined as part hard boiled detective story, part satire:

_________________________________________________________________

 

She was dead. That much was obvious. In fact, those present at the scene of the crime swear that she came back to life briefly just to say “A guiltless death I die” before passing away again. That raised a few eyebrows but what mattered most to Emilia Watson was finding the guilty party before they could kill again.

Certain that the immediate surroundings were bound to contain clues, Emilia searched the bedroom. The bed itself was draped in silken sheets generally reserved for weddings and other special occasions. Tangled in the linen was the victim herself, a wad of fabric stuffed into her mouth. The exact cause of death was unknown; there was no bloodshed so it wasn’t a stabbing, and the foul stench associated with common poisons was nowhere to be smelled.

‘Perhaps,’ thought Emilia, ‘I should have had some training before opening up my own detective agency.’

Not one to give up at the slightest sign of trouble, she continued her search. Not far from the bed Emilia found a dark skinned man hunched in a ball on the floor.

‘Strange. Why didn’t I notice him before?’ She pondered this as she inspected his appearance.

She followed the tears from his eyes, down his cheeks and onto his neck. Nothing unusual there, that’s the direction tears normally take. Further down she noticed scratch marks on his arms – that was unusual. Most strange, however, were the words spewing from his mouth. Emilia knelt down to listen closely.

“O, she was foul! Whose breath, indeed, these hands have newly stopp’d: I know this act shows horrible and grim.”

The man was clearly upset but, as Emilia didn’t speak Shakespearean, nothing he said made sense. As he continued to mumble away, the only words she understood were handkerchief and whore which she doubted were useful in helping her crack this case. No, this man would only sidetrack her from the task at hand.

Emilia continued to search the room but the interior decorator was clearly a minimalist. Fortunately, the lack of clues was offset by the arrival of her husband and some other men. For the most part, Emilia decided that most of these men weren’t worthy of her attention (although one was a bit of a spunk). That said, the smile on her husband’s face was a bit disconcerting.

“Iago,” she questioned. “Why do you smirk?”

“Smirk? I do not smirk.”

“You do, and you are.”

“Perhaps I am just happy to see you,” he replied.

“Unlikely,” she retorted but checked his crotch anyway. Indeed, he was not happy to see her. As she eyed him off further she noticed characteristics she hadn’t paid attention to before; among these were his elongated chin, pencil moustache and penchant for black clothing.

“Why do you look at me so, woman?”

“I’m starting to think you are not what you are.”

“Are you saying, then, I am the villain?”

Iago seemed quite shocked at this accusation but Emilia was certain he was up to no good. It was then she found her biggest clue:

“What is that bag you are holding, husband? Why is it marked with a large dollar sign?”

Iago neared. “It is Roderigo’s fortune. I have acquired it from him.”

“Really? Well then, if we are now rich I don’t need to work anymore.” And, with that, Emilia threw her empty notepad aside and strolled from the room dragging her husband behind her. “Come,” she said. “We have shopping to do.”

“What about the murder you were trying to solve?”

“Oh, I’ve got no idea who did it. I’m as confused about it now as I was when I started.”

Iago smiled.

‘Shocking’ classroom behaviour

I’ve got this theory that if you make one lesson stand out (like, really stand out) then the content associated with that lesson will be more memorable and thus more beneficial to the students and their future exam success.

 

Two years ago I ran a revision session using games typically associated with kids’ parties, such as pass-the-parcel. Last year I did something similar but with more ‘mature’ games – while studying Nick Enright’s Blackrock we played spin-the-bottle and beer pong (but with study questions NOT alcohol).

 

Today… the students walked into the classroom to see craft materials laid out for them and their teacher in a lab coat. Why? Well it all stemmed from this:

 

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That’s the opening of chapter 2 in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In that section of the novel a group of students are being walked through the facilities where they grow and train the future citizens of the world state. Rather than provide my students with real flowers (and picture books), I gave them the resources to make their own.

 

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I figured we could make flash cards in the shape of roses, telling the class that many students praise the use of flash cards in helping them learn content for other subjects.

 

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As for the picture books, I thought they’d be good ‘study guides’. I told the students that memorable passages or important lines could be paired with images of their construction and that this may help them remember them in the exam. It sounds legit… right?

 

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Anyway, IN THE NOVEL, the beautiful display of flowers and bright, glossy pages is essentially a trap designed to encourage children away from an interest in nature and knowledge. Just as the children begin to enjoy these treats a loud siren blares and they receive a mild electric shock.

 

So… I pre-prepared a water pistol and hid it in the drawer closest to the television. I then set an alarm on my iPad and connected it to the tv with the volume as loud as it would go. Just as the students began to enjoy their craft lesson, a loud siren blared. I apologised for the ‘accident’ and went to turn it off, retrieving the water pistol as I did. After spraying everyone with a jet of water from my gun, we had a giggle and then got back to work.

 

THAT’s what I call a lesson they won’t forget in a hurry.

 

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* I should also point out that I’ve also had some poorly planned, terribly managed lessons of late too – but that’s something for another post.

My first attempt at a list poem

5 reasons I don’t want to go to school/work

 
1. It’s raining outside and all I want to do is hide in bed, wrapped up in the warmth of my blankets.

 

2. It’s beautiful outside and all I want to do is feel the sun’s kiss on my skin.

 

3. I’ve planned a perfect lesson but you haven’t brought a pen, the Internet is down and…

I kind of lied.

There are no perfect lessons.

The very notion that I have any idea what I’m doing

when the system changes every few years

when I’m preparing students for a future we can’t predict

when my class consists of kids so different from each other

when initiatives and curriculum are best of enemies

when I’m dealing with people

is ludicrous.

 

4. I’m human. My fatigued mind is buried in my tired body; my heavy heart distracted by issues outside of class.

 

5. I’ve lost faith.

The fingers of blame point clearly in my direction,

not necessarily individually

but collectively teachers carry a lot of guilt.

Results from standardised tests fail to impress the powers that be,

society sees only what it wants to see,

and parents pass on their responsibilities.

The papers report another teacher has been bashed

and I haven’t experienced anything that rash but I’ve felt the brunt of disrespect.

 

5 reasons I want to go to school/work

 

1. To write relief, a lesson that someone else will deliver, requires effort I just don’t have.

Besides, the students misbehave when I’m away

and there’s a chance the teacher will ignore what I wrote

which simply results in more work for me when I return.

 

2. I’ve got mouths to feed and bills to pay.

 

3. I like the people I work with.

They’re cute and quirky,

smart and strong,

not afraid to do something wrong to get the right result

and, most importantly, they tolerate me and my eccentricities.

 

4. I’m mental.

Honestly, what person in their right mind

would choose to spend their time with thirty teenagers?

 

5. I have faith – in me, in my colleagues and my students.

I’m a person working with people

and I hope my humanity, my humility and my humour

provide an example worth replicating.

If all the world’s indeed a stage,

then I’m the one running rehearsals

and I see first-hand what the media doesn’t show;

it gives me hope.