Saturday, April 30, 2016


Found myself at a Forum yesterday evening involving a group of teachers presenting papers on various aspects of teaching Shakespeare in the classroom. And 'various' indeed were the papers, ranging from a couple reflecting a reasonable degree of academic rigour to one or two that sounded suspiciously like sounding off a series of opinions on the Bard and classrooms in this nation for the sheer pleasure of venting. I enjoyed them all; even the least intellectually stimulating offered something of interest in terms of entering into the thought world of its presenters and trying to understand what led them to the expression of these opinions in this place at this time.

There were glimpses, also, of classrooms other than my own in schools seemingly, sometimes, very different from any I had taught in here. I mention this particularly in relation to the presentation of one young lady centring on the notion of power as a theme (in relation, in part, to The Tempest) which she appeared to use, in part at least, as a way of expressing her frustrations with regard to the limitations she felt placed upon her regarding what she was allowed to deal with in her classroom. Specifically she appeared to imply that the powers-that-be frowned upon dealing with any remotely controversial material in the classroom and simply to talk about protesting against or questioning those who wield power was unacceptable.

This was extraordinary to me. I've never come across any such 'policy', if that's what it is, expressed anywhere I've taught in this nation. But she was obviously sincere and expressing an indignation founded in some kind of real experience. Which leads me to this thought: I don't think it's possible to safely generalise about schools here and what they practise despite the apparent uniformity of approach. The local, actual experience of what you encounter in a school, on the ground, as it were, is precisely that: local, particular, distinct - sometimes dependent upon one or two key relationships with those in immediate 'power' over you. If you're lucky, as I have been, these folk are sane. If you're unlucky...

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