QotW: 23 July 2018 (#50)

For a perfectionist, it’s an opportunity: time to produce something better than ‘good enough’ …

BH here comes the sun
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes …

It seems like years since it’s been here. [a]

So many people seem to resent our summer holiday.  They bemoan having to take responsibility for their own offspring (my favourite pet peeve); whine about the cost of holidays; whinge about the number of tourists clogging their area (without appreciating how their local economy depends on that tourist pound, or how often they are the problem in other parts of the country).

But I say, “It’s alright”.

After thirty-nine classroom weeks, several additional admin weeks known to the outside world as ‘holidays’, we stagger across the finish line, and then feel guilty because we so often believe, somehow, that we ought to be doing something work-related.  Welcome to ‘teacher guilt‘, my friend.  It’s a thing.  And so are mental health issues for teachers over the six week period: the rest of the year really is that intense.

My personal teacher guilt begins with about two weeks to go.  My summer is full of grand plans for the perfectionist stuff I want to achieve, which I simply cannot get done in term-time.  I never seem to allow myself the opportunity to just take the summer off – and I NEED this time away.  This year’s grand plans include:

  • a 48-lesson scheme of work to teach Julius Caesar next year;
  • updating my KS5 module handbook; and
  • a LOT of research on Marlowe, to refine my teaching of Edward II, and spoonfeed the students some of the things they are not prepared to research for themselves

All this plus, of course, reading, maintaining my blog and eating into the Pony Tail Shakespeare readthrough.  Something will have to give (probably the JC scheme), with various other real life obligations – visiting, etc – and hence I return to work feeling unhappy with the work I have got done over the summer – ridiculous, isn’t it?

So, to the stuff I am reading partly because I enjoy it but also because it is useful for September …

If last week’s QotW touched on what OCR A Level students would recognise as:

AO3:  demonstrate understanding of the significance and influence of the context in which literary texts are written and received

then this week’s move from that towards:

AO1:  articulate informed, personal and creative responses to literary texts, using associated concepts and terminology, and coherent, accurate, written expression.

It is that triumvirate, ‘informed, personal and creative‘ which foxes so many new A Level students – the requirement that they come up with their own ideas, not regurgitate mine.

The subject is ALL about the dialogue AE Dyson describes below – the first paragraph is the AO3 stuff – perhaps the ‘informed‘ bit, and the second invites us to be ‘personal and creative‘ in our relationship with a literary text.  The readier you can accept the slightly oxymoronic liberation given by these strictures, the better your marks will be, and – more importantly – the more joy you will get out of the study of literature:

There are certain facts we need to know if we are to understand properly. Who were the author’s original readers, and what assumptions did he share with them? Was he committed to a particular historical situation, or to a set of beliefs? We need historians as well as critics to help us with this. But there are also more purely literary factors to take account of: the work’s structure and rhetoric; its symbols and archetypes; its tone, genre and texture; its use of language; the words on the page.

[…] For the life of a book is not, after all, merely ‘personal’; it is more like a tripartite dialogue, between a writer living ‘then’, a reader living ‘now’, and whatever forces of survival and honour link the two. [b]



[a] The Beatles, ‘Here Comes The Sun’ (George Harrison, 1969)

[b] AE Dyson, ‘Series Introduction’, in Shakespeare: Julius Caesar (Case Studies series), ed. Peter Ure, (Macmillan Press:  London, 1969)


Author: Boar's Head, Eastcheap

Hyperactive English Teacher and Tutor; Shakespeare-obsessed 'Villainous abominable misleader of youth'; 'old white-bearded Satan'; Friend of the Orangutan

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