Thursday, 6 March 2014

blowing in the wind


I've just thrown my red pen down in disgust. I feel like breaking it in two just like at the start of Branded. Perhaps that's what I should do next Year 8 English lesson - call the child out and break there/their/they're pen into pieces. Then throw them out of the class, never to darken the classroom again.

What do you do when you're branded?

No matter how many times I try to get pupils to check their work and correct with a green pen (alright, quiet at the back - a green ink pen) which, believe me or not, they are required to do (I'm not a Gove* supporter so don't blame me), they just won't do it.

"Sir, I've finished, what do I do now?""Have you checked your work thoroughly?""Yeah, yeah, of course.""Are you sure? Definitely?""Yeah.""Have you . . ""Yeah.""Okay, have you swapped it with another student and checked each others?""Yeah, yeah, of course."

So how come I end up reading ill-edited, poorly written stories told in dialogue with no indication of who is actually speaking . . . ? Well, truth be told, it's because nobody cares any more. Perhaps they never did. They're just not hungry enough for it.

Recently, I have read books published - usually by independent publishers - and magazines that are sold throughout the English-speaking world (around five quid a head) that contain the most poorly edited script that I despair. I am fully aware that blogging and writing on screens for many of us (me especially) is not conducive to the best grammar - we always need to check our work. But, surely there should continue to be standards. As an English teacher who messes about with guitars, I am aware that there are many kids that are guitar players that are studying English.Surely, it is an important, and easy, point of order to continue the need for good communication? Kids that are switched off from education but play guitar (for instance) may read such magazines? So, if they were spelt correctly etc, etc, surely by basic osmosis, they'd start to read/spell/communicate properly? It seems to have worked the other way - over the twenty years of teaching I've gone from being a pretty good speller into being someone who has to read and re-check everything thoroughly in an almost OCD way before - and after - publishing even simple pieces of writing such as this.

So, here we are: I am now at the grand old age of 58 and beginning to think that the world has moved on so much into some sort of inarticulate, illiterate place that has no need of me that I really need to be moving on.

Retirement beckons. I am now five years younger than my father when he shuffled off this mortal coil. The fact that I never had to go and fight for my country or that I had a fairly good crack at being educated and have had a far more comfortable ride than my parents ever did is neither here nor there. With the constant underlying context of poor (and, by god do I mean poor) management and lack of parental, public and media support I really feel that it is time to think about "quality of life".

For the first time in my life, I now look at older people who retire, leave it all behind and think, "Lucky bastards . . ."

Deep breaths. Pass us that bottle, will you?

*okay, I can't support any of them!



Mike C. said...

It is disheartening, isn't it? Most years I interview for jobs here, and the downward slide in the quality of written applications is getting quite silly, and doesn't amuse me any more. It's got to the stage where a well-written, correctly spelled, and to-the-point application will guarantee a place on the shortlist.

I've read some interesting (if slightly Govean) articles that blame the "all shall have prizes" culture at primary school for raising several generations with an unrealistic idea of the correlation between effort and achievement.

Get a quote on your pension before jumping, though -- it's never as much as you'd hope... I'm reining in my expensive habits -- books, mainly -- in anticipation of a sudden, major drop in income later this year!


Dave Leeke said...

Yes, wise words there, Mike. Thanks for that.

In a few days time we have to hand a rather large cheque over to the bank and from that moment onwards we own our house.

Mrs Dave is already picking up on reining in our expenses and moaned at me publicly for buying a bacon roll at school: "that's my pension fund you're eating!"

As I've actually only been a professional for about 20 years, the pension will be disappointing no matter what.I am fully aware that that will still be better than many other people's.

Quality of life is still paramount.

Mike C. said...

Never accept the moans of those without a pension... You know the sort of thing: "Where's MY final salary pension, then?" Life is all about choices, people, choices!!

Ask the ones who have had jobs what proportion of their income they were paying into a pension scheme -- what, NOTHING? For HOW LONG?? And you were earning how much?

They usually turn out to be the ones who didn't join the union, either...


Brendini said...

I was in correspondence with a second-hand book seller some time ago who felt that we were entering a post-literate age and I fervently agree with him. My dealings with him were actually for British comics of the 1960s. The use of language in comics at that time would defeat a modern readership. And we are not dealing with archaic vernacular here, just normal English.

Dave Leeke said...


Wise words, of course, Mike. I have quoted your first paragraph - full acknowledgement - to some Year 8 students yesterday to try to help myself explain why actually being able to write well will keep you ahead of the pack! I'm sure you won't mind.

As for the pension - it seems to be the sole conversation content recently.But a friend today said that he was wrong to convince himself to just do one more year when his head and heart were saying no! Get out now.


I remember being about 9 or 10 living in Haycroft Road and every Saturday morning the paper boy (?!) delivered the comics - Lion, Wham, The Daily Express. I would rush down to get them and sit up in bed reading them avidly. You are so right in what you say - kids really can't access the language we did. Try The Eagle! Or one of your favourites - The Trigon Empire. Can you imagine?

Still, in their defence I did see a child reading "His Last Bow" last week. There is always hope.

Have you seen "The Book Thief" yet?


Brendini said...

No, but when I do I'll give the sticky-fingered bastard a damned good larruping!