Saturday, 1 September 2012

A digression: Butterscotch Angel Delight for the Soul

A short word about the title. In my childhood, my poorly food was Bovril, yes, Bovril, even now, the very thought of it makes my stomach churn.  However, our, 'Well done, you are all better again' reward food was Butterscotch Angel Delight.  Thus, I present you the binary opposites of good and bad in food form. For example: Gove = Bovril, Teachers = Butterscotch Angel Delight. 

There have been many blog posts recently giving much sound advice to new PGCE and NQT teachers. This is not that kind of post, well not really.

This is a a fuller version of an anecdote I tweeted to @kevbartle (much like a superhero, he has two identities on Twitter, the professional one is @CanonsOPP, the other is his more Puckish twitter identity) encouraged me to share the anecdote, which means he can share the blame too.

I was teaching my rather lovely, lively and a bit bonkers (you'd really have to meet them) Year 8 A Midsummer Night's Dream. We had indeed begun the process with the Shakespeare Insults work and, reader, they did not disappoint.

During one lesson we were watching the DVD of it, the one with Kevin Kline as Bottom and a pre-Batman Christian Bale as Demetrius.  It's not great, frankly; Calista Flockhart seriously grates as Helena, but it does the job well enough.  Watching the DVD takes a bit of pausing and Q&A as the plot is a little twisty and turny.

We had got as far as Act 2 Scene 2, where the lovers are in the woods and thanks to Puck's interference, great confusion ensues between the lovers.  There began a trickle of giggles around the classroom. I was confused, because it wasn't a line of dialogue that Shakespeare had really intended to provoke such a reaction.

"Miss," a girl near the front of the of the class says, "why does she [Helena] say 'Do not sperm me?' "

DVD is paused. I more or less have my composure.

On the board I write, 'Do not sperm me.' and, what Shakespeare actually wrote, 'Do not spurn me.' and, doing what all good teachers do, I clarify the misunderstanding, mostly straight faced, but barely.

As I am doing so one lad pipes up, "Oh no," he uttered in a resigned kind of way,  "it's turning into a PHSE lesson."

My composure crumples.

These off-piste 'Oh crap, I think I'm going to hit a tree' moments happen more often than you think.  Remember them after the lesson with the class that are like 'monkeys on steroids' (phrase swiped from @MissJLud); through the fog of exhaustion; when yet another decision by Govanasuarus-Rex makes you explode into a mushroom cloud of indignation; when a lesson you spent ages planning goes pear shaped in spectacular fashion; when you are writing your 42nd report and you are losing the will to live; when it's two weeks before Christmas and you look AND feel like the zombies in Shaun of the Dead, remember them. 

Teaching is hard work, you will want to do physical harm the people that comment on your 'short' working day and 'long' holidays. It is also full of the 'tales of the unexpected' that the likes of Jack Whitehall and the writers of Waterloo Road could not even dream up. Even by the end of your first half term, you will have anecdotes coming out of your ears, nose and other orifices, often they're too good to keep to yourself, so don't.

The more you teach, the more of these little scoops of Butterscotch Angel Delight you will get. A scoop of Butterscotch Angel Delight makes you remember why you do it and you'll be able to get up in the morning and it will give you the gumption to, 'Try again. Fail Again. Fail Better' (Samuel Beckett via @Learningspy's brilliant blog).

Thanks as ever to @Xris32 for proof-reading and editing duties: Do read his fabulous blog:


  1. Fab. Sorry not to get to look at it yesterday. You have Iesha, Bennie and Helene to thank for that. Slightly uncomfortable with the superhero reference (I''d need to design my spandex!!!) but beyond that this is fab. So very positive as always.

  2. Good god you have another alter ego I knew nothing of (soon to be followed). You can do some designing and colouring in of your spandex superhero outfit as a work avoidance tactic.