Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Must Try Harder

So this week's theme is "Must try harder "...a stock phrase like " can do better " , these must have appeared on innumerable report cards over the centuries ! Personally I don't think it conveys any true academic merit  ( or otherwise ). When I was teaching I always tried to give some positive phrase, not always related to academic prowess, sometimes about the pupils character, demeanor or willingness. These are not always measured in results or ability . We had to fill in triplicate 'booklets' for each pupil, and therefore it would have been frightfully boring for the parents to read the 'stock phrases ' time after time. Besides which I taught practical subjects, where academic achievement would be wonderful but it was not always necessary.: for willingness, enthusiasm and enjoyment could easily outweigh a red tick ! The greatest result for a young pupil in my cookery class was to take home a successfully cooked dish and to lap up the accolade of parents. In 'textiles' it was to finish a much admired project, that might not be 'perfect', but was fit for purpose. Of course as a pupil strove towards GCSEs and onward , then my expectations would increase, and what might have passed muster in the past had to be that much better in order to gain a 'pass'.

For myself , as I told you last time, I changed schools at 16, and was told to choose one more O grade subject to cover the timetable. I had absolutely no idea what that was to be ! I chose 'art'. Now I can't draw or paint figures or still life....my attempts ( to this day ) resemble the results of a day at playgroup ! However I can adequately draw and draft designs for clothing. I can sit down at a sewing machine and " free embroider " a scene. I enjoy fabric printing, weaving etc. ......I failed O grade art, as it was too restrictive, involving drawing figures and painting still lifes. I was given no scope to be " creative ". It wouldn't have mattered if I had ' tried harder' ...because it just wasn't there ! It did not however mean that I was a failure, and I wasn't artistic. It only meant that I hadn't found my niche in the art world !

So it is for many students at school, for they often blossom into perfectly rounded human beings once they find what suits them and the phrase " Must try harder " means absolutely nothing, for it gives no indication of the benchmark on which it is based, gives no inspiration, is rather negative and frankly quite useless !

Today's poem was written whilst I was at this new school and will illustrate the lack of stimulation provided by the " gowned " English teacher and the surroundings ! Written circa 1966 .

Room 31 - Aberdeen Academy

This room is dull and dreary
It makes me brood,
It makes me weary.
Behind me I hear quiet voices,
They talk of boys
And of their choices.
The rain is hammering down,
Faces look up,
They all frown.
Ah ! I have seen a spider's web
Hanging on the lamp-
He's surely dead ?
Hey ! you teacher !
Sitting supreme,
Come do not dream !
Your pupils talk aloud,
Stop us sir !
Thus you vowed.
Silence once more is my friend,
Others have I none
In room thirty one !

Thank you for reading...Kath