Gig Set List – Proleptic Kinecy

Proleptic is a genuine word and quite profound in what it is defining; kinecy I’m convinced is a real word too – was convinced back in 1969 anyway – and when combined they weren’t as a musical group name even that plausible at the time of odd names but the ‘band’ and I soldiered on both in title and ambition. Alas, this set list which I found the other day is the only vestige of a memory from that one and only gig. The audience did love us though; thoroughly adored our concert. But they would.

concert copy

Examination

Not quite the
anthropomorphosis

from an answer,
the palpable check

stares back,
warns me to be less

disapproving
in how I perceive the

caveat, looking about
for points of display

of the knowing I have been
collecting over years.

But my gaze
holds more,

passing perusal
more assured than

that and the
ornaments of crap.

Penguin Modern Poets 5 – Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg

Originally posted November, 2011:

5

5 - Copy

Delighted to find and get this today in beautiful condition for a 1963 first edition [along with no. 4 Holbrook, Middleton, Wevill, also 1963 and near pristine], and this picture will be of a later edition because both of mine are priced on the cover at 2’6 – that’s two shillings and sixpence for you young ‘uns.

Here’s a sweet one from Ferlinghetti

Dove sta amore

Dove sta amore
Where lies love
Dove sta amore
Here lies love
The ring dove love
In lyrical delight
Hear love’s hillsong
Love’s true willsong
Love’s low plainsong
Too sweet painsong
In passages of night
Dove sta amore
Here lies love
The ring dove love
Dove sta amore
Here lies love

Deconstructing the SPaG

Appropriation of the Abbreviation

It is good to see that the NUT is to ballot on a primary test boycott: good as it is the right thing to do because these tests are so bad.

I have said before on this blog, the argument that these types of tests, but in particular the Key Stage 2 English grammar, punctuation and spelling papers, are bound to cause young pupils stress is convincing. This is linked to the obvious argument that they will cause this stress because they are far too hard – pitched at a level well beyond the grasp of most students at the target age.

I have also argued that in addition to these convincing points, we need to mount a pedagogical rationale for why these tests are inappropriate, and I intend to do more of that here and now. The comprehension/knowledge level demanded of the discrete secretarial questions that make up a complete paper is ridiculously ill-judged for the intended age range. However, as a ‘test’ of students’ writing competence, and by implication a key element of their required teaching of how to write, they are utterly meaningless.

I have provided arguments for and examples of how I teach writing throughout this blog and would urge anyone interested in seeing how this informs my rejection of the ‘test’ approach to seek these out. I want to focus on specific examples of test questions from the English GPaS Sample Booklet published in July 2015 [as teachers we have appropriated the abbreviation to the more familiar SPaG!]. These are a selection:

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.07.12

Frankly….I don’t give a damn. And I couldn’t [do you see what I did?] resist.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.08.04

Feeling my way into a more focused criticism, I want to mention I was struck by the irony of the required word, considering the nature of these ‘writing’ tests. In addition, the use of the adverb is a poor model of good writing.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.08.24

This is one of the first ‘train-spotting’ questions. This tests ‘knowledge’ that has no actual relevance to learning, especially learning about how to write.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.08.38

Why? The underlined section tells us information we need to know for the sentence to make sense. The question about identifying the grammatical construct is far less important to know then that fact. Why not ask why the hospital requires further information when a hospital doesn’t [if one feels the need to ask]? That, by the way, is a rhetorical question [1 mark]. The point is these tests need to be this definitive so that the mark scheme can appear to have a singular right answer. All others are ‘wrong’. Even if they make sense…..

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.08.47

I have commented on this here. Far better to play with how such sentences can work.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.08.59

Train-spotting. By the time students reach GCSE, and having been taught how to write on a diet of this kind of punctuation nose-picking, students sneeze semi-colons all over a page thinking this will earn them marks for ‘sophisticated’ writing. Like a sneeze, the placing of the semi-colons will be quite random.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.09.14

Have you noticed each of these questions is worth 1 mark? No differentiation, though they can be significantly varied in their demands. I of course reject the premise of their existence, but if you are going to offer them up as a sample/model, there must be some recognition of the broad range in demands. Clause recognition here.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.09.59

Frankly…..

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.10.42

Of all the roots in all the towns in all the world…….

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.11.41

Why a dash? The simple connective ‘and’ makes a better sentence. Illustrating poor writing to ask a question seems a bad thing to do.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.11.52

Why why why why why why why why why? A better question would be to ask about the intentional syllabic rhythm of my question. But not at KS2.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.12.38

Train-spotting, and the train is heading for a long boring journey. Going nowhere.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.13.04

Obviously, why? And for 11 year olds? To achieve what?

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.13.16

I could work this out by extrapolation, understanding subordinate and co-ordinate as words, but as grammatical constructs I wouldn’t know these to spot and label.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.13.27

How much more purposeful and engaging would this kind of question be if students, probably in groups and making posters [stick that up your Tom Bennett], were tasked to explore and discuss and use and then comment on the variations of writing wanted, needed, desired, had, craved..…?

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.14.01

No. Or, again, as a class task with a purpose, ask how other words [or verbs…] would alter meanings in this sentence, and to what effect? For example, instead of screened, how about sheltered, dwarfed, fragranced [I know, but why not?!], shadowed, stifled, hid…..

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.14.16

Actually, Rachel wanted a piano, not a keyboard, so she was pissed off.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.14.41

You genuinely despair completely by this point.

Screenshot 2016-03-28 10.15.13

What and How an exclamation mark shouldn’t go there but here is fine!

Remember, all of the above represent a snapshot of the entirety of the daft questions asked in the test paper. I have been playful in my rejection at times, but satire and irony are elements of sophistication in writing; not the use of semi-colons.

It should be a comma.

 

Education Secretaries vs Teachers

I don’t have any data as evidence for what I am about to write here. I don’t even know where this will be heading. All I have are thoughts and feelings and opinions to fuel the meaning and message. And experience.

In my 30 years of teaching and the six years since, I have never known an Education Secretary to have an empathy with teachers and teaching. I’m not sure that any have had an empathy with what education is. I’m not going to explore nuances between empathy and understanding and other similar words that suggest a connect between their political roles and the occupation over which they presided – for me, all Education Secretaries were more or less bereft of any variation on the theme.

I’m sure that suggests a considerable arrogance on my part. So be it. But I never fully warmed to one, and positively despised most. Estelle Morris would be the only Secretary of State for Education who seemed to have some rapport with the teaching profession, in her active role then and since when she commentates on the current state of educational affairs.

I am prompted to write this today, not surprisingly, because of Nicky Morgan’s attendance yesterday as Education Secretary at the NASUWT Easter conference. I’m not going to bother to research actual quotes, nor any supporting nonsense taken from the recent White Paper: I will simply reflect on responses I had from hearing about her appearance, seeing quite a bit of this on various news coverage, and the thoughts and feelings and opinions I have been dealing with since.

One comment from one news report was the statement that Nicky Morgan had been ‘brave’ to attend the conference. That got me going, in my already annoyed response mode. I understand what was meant by the comment, but why is it ‘brave’ for an Education Secretary to have to speak to and defend what she represents in front of a significant representation of the profession over which she presides in considerable power?

There was one moment in Morgan’s speech to conference about the success of schools and, I think, how they would be even more successful when all are compelled to become academies which drew a chorus of disapproval. Not raucous by any means, but a clear resonance of disagreeing boos. Morgan smiled – that defensive smile which is a fleeting moment of embarrassed percipience, immediately demolished by an assurance born out of a total lack of empathy – and then stopped in her stride to chide teachers for their response. Her remonstrance was that they should celebrate their successes, missing entirely the point of their anger. And this is the point: she, like all those before her, has a total disconnect with the thoughts and feelings and opinions of teachers. Such a collective [and remarkably polite] disagreement ought to ring alarm bells in a politician, but no such mechanism exists inside an Education Secretary’s head.

It should be hard to be angry with and offended by Nicky Morgan as she appears quite harmless as a person, but it isn’t. She’s not odious like her predecessor Michael Gove, but I honestly feel she is simply stupid, and that grates – not as much, but in a different and still deeply disappointed way. You would think that after her shambolic appearance on the recent BBC Question Time [specifically over disability cuts announced in the budget] and more pertinently, the broad opposing backlash – including Tory councillors – to her announcement about the national academisation of schools, that she would not talk to teachers in such an arrogant, patronising way. But she did. And that is the problem: she is a politician, in this specific case, having no connection with the realities of teaching and yet an absolute ideological adherence to policies totally at odds with the thoughts, feelings and opinions of the majority in that profession.

But as I have said, this is nothing new. I also know I haven’t said anything new above. And whilst I have challenged similar disconnects from Education Secretaries and other government representatives over an entire teaching career to ultimately little avail, I can’t help myself. Better outside than swirling inside my head.

When Morgan was castigating teachers about their ‘successes’ reaction it reminded me of how in my early days of having to deal with increasingly ludicrous government interference in curriculum matters, teachers always did their best to make daft ideas work. I obviously talk as an English teacher dealing with dictates on the English curriculum. Perhaps some brief history is useful here.

When I say ‘early days’ I mean in the early to mid 1990s, but as I said, I’m not going to undertake any detailed research here: this is from memory, seared into my whole teaching being from profound experience, but not documented by chronological, informed external details. When I started as a teacher in 1980, I joined a great secondary school with great students and a great Head of English in a great part of Devon. There’s no need to detail this further. My first few years were all about getting the job done to the best of my ability – a practical reality. I was full of my own English teaching ideology – quite a bit being about literary theory [!] – but I wasn’t adversely affected by government interference/legislation.

I think this was a time of relative freedom anyway, in terms of teaching, but regardless of how true this was, I had the day-to-day to occupy my attention and efforts. I think the first significant Government intervention affecting me was the Clegg [?] Report and action on teacher’s pay, which included an increase!

The first significant external impact on my teaching was actually through an HMI report Bullock Revisited in 1982 [I did cheat for that date]. Without entering into the ever-expanding universe of nostalgic reverie here, one of the main observations in this was about the positive impact on teaching and learning through oracy [speaking and listening]. In a nutshell, this was such an exciting and empowering revelation and I became actively involved in following its ideology in practice as well as dissemination to fellow professionals – at a time when we indulged in this kind of dynamic sharing.

To be honest, I don’t recall much that is similar around this time, apart from my continued excitement and engagement as an English teacher, both in my positive school environment and in a positive local authority advisory environment. Therefore, the next significant external impact was the Cox Report on English [1989, just cheated again]. Whilst this in some respects became the first negative interference in terms of legislating for changes with which I disagreed, many of us in the job at the time recognised the common sense of its overall focus and attempts to provide outlines and structures for the teaching of English nationally.

Which brings me back to those ‘successes’ made by teachers. It was through English teachers, for example, taking certain if ill-conceived elements from Cox – and from subsequent related suggestions and dictates – and by sheer hard work shaping these into positive outcomes that they then and ever since have made a ‘success’ out of the nonsense over which successive Education Secretaries have presided and in many cases made their ideological warfare on teachers and state education.

Of course the most insidious of this warfare was exemplified by the SATs introduced in 1991 at Key Stage 1. Perhaps predictable as an educational need but more-so a political necessity [having to demonstrate control], the implementation of national testing was never as even remotely useful as it might have been because it was predicated then on a complete and cynical lack of trust in teacher assessment, and therefore precluded serious teacher involvement in design and implementation. When Key Stage 3 SATs were introduced by Labout in 1998 [yes, I have…] that was the death-knell of a positive teaching environment for me [not my school, but on a wider level], and the inevitable target culture that followed nailed the proverbial shut.

So when Morgan remonstrates teachers for not celebrating their success in making teaching work, the irony thunders for professional with my history of experience, and those even new to the job. And when Morgan preaches about how academisation will offer teachers ‘autonomy’ that too thunders like a shit-storm because we all know that continuing SATs in primary schools and GCSEs at secondary level – all government controlled [think of the current SPaG debacle; and Gove’s personal manipulation of some GCSEs] – are the singular driving force of what gets done in the classroom: as far from being autonomous as one can get.

And I haven’t even mentioned Inspections….

So I have arrived at where I wasn’t entirely sure I would be and at best I have unraveled the swirling in my head onto the page in what I hope is some cogent and sensible effort to explain the thoughts and feelings and opinions of someone who did teach for 30 years, and never respected a single Education Secretary – in the ideological way I would have adored.

Snowflake Students

Snowflake students should feel once soft crystals
fall like shards, writing this razorword in all their
poems to slice out empathy and the urge to have a
knowing touch with language. Snowflake students need
to speak with hail and ice, rub sleet in their tone of
voice so we hear them spit out the things in blood.
When playing outside, looking for the flight of birds,
snowflake students must search out the hawk before
the fieldfare, hear the killer screech as a clarion call
much louder than winter’s song, forget about the
return of a chorus in Spring. Reading classic novels,
snowflake students will understand that human misery
is just history and not a lesson for learning, not a
tale to right wrongs or find humanity in pretty words.