Thursday, June 13, 2024

Blogspot: The Secret Teacher” Michelle Pfeiffer and Macbeth

Michelle Pfeiffer

This is the first blog entry by The Secret Teacher. An occasional series, reflecting life in Thurrock.


MY memory’s not good, but I can recall my first lesson vividly. In fact, it still gives me nightmares. As I nervously entered my classroom, situated at the outer echelons of the building, far away from the Senior Leadership Team, I encountered a bottom set GCSE class. The topic was Macbeth and it was clear they were desperate to create a comedy. Their main attraction was a bespectacled 15 year old clambering on desks, pretending to be a monkey. Panicking, sweat broke out as my timid voice desperately tried to control the situation. Over some weeks I won them round, and I rather fancied myself as Michelle Pfeiffer from Dangerous Minds – only not nearly as glamorous. Eventually they produced some amazing work, with the Monkey playing Macbeth perfectly.

Almost twenty years later and I couldn’t imagine this scenario now. Many technical advances have improved teaching; overhead projectors with individually produced acetates now replaced by power-points. Dodgy attempts at drawings are no longer a feature of lessons as google images saves the day. While youtube documentaries and clips are a life saver for explanations and revision.

Yet, lots has changed and it saddens me. The camaraderie of sipping a cup of tea with work colleagues over lunch is relegated to special occasions. Despite working into the early hours, our lunch time is devoted to preparing lessons, helping students revise, phoning parents, discussing inappropriate behaviour and marking work. For some, respect has declined, many students arguing back, speaking and acting inappropriately towards staff and each other.

The syllabus changes, Ofsted criteria evolves and expectations rise. Yet I still teach. I teach for the majority of students who aspire, who work hard, who have a thirst for knowledge and a desire to improve. I teach for results day in August when smiles spread across the faces of those who have achieved their college place or earned their apprenticeship. I teach in the hope that we have a lasting influence on those who have stepped into our classroom.


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