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Cover Lesson dilemma

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by paintgirl, Apr 8, 2011.

  1. I haven't written on theTES forum for some time, but my experience today has prompted a"Last straw" thought process. I supply teach of choice as I am also a professional artist and need time to devote to my other career. I have been teaching full and part time for thiry five years, so not without experience. During that time I have watched standards in pupil's behaviour and respect deteriorate to what seems now, an all time low.

    Today first thing,I was pitched into a 100 minute year 10 drama lesson in a rough school. Needless to say most of the student's behaviour was off the wall (End of term etc). Imagine how I felt to have to listen to them rehearsing Mark Wheellers "Too much Punch and Judy", which is full of expletives and sexual inuendo. I am not a prude and realise that this play is on the Btec curriculum but why in heaven's sake is it??? How can we hope to raise standards in school when we enshrine and legitamise the "F" word and encourage the students to read such language out loud. The irony and subtetly in the play is largely lost on low ability students. I felt so uncomfortable with the bad behaviour; student verbal abuse; the lesson content and the lack of management support that I have vowed never to darken the doors of that establishment again. No amount of money is worth putting yourself through that!
    Does anyone have any thoughts on the appropriacy of this play for low ability young people?
  2. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    I'm really sorry you've had a rough day.... I have msged Mark Wheeler, and hope he responds to your question personally....:)
  3. It probably is suitable as the aim is to get students thinking about the sub-textual elements. The little b*ggers have the habit of subverting the aims of a text and the aims of the teacher. I think you were unfortunate to be covering this lesson so close to the end of term. You were probably placed in a no-win situation here.
  4. Hi there Paintgirl... Daisy has let me know about your post.

    Firstly I am sorry you were thrown into this situation... sounds horrendous.

    Sorry the play caused offence. I imagine they were "rehearsing" the opening section from what you have seen so you have been listening to a set up which is out of context... obviously not how this play was intended to be seen by an audience. The play itself is not full of sexual innuendo. That scene does have some and some swearing.

    You describe that the irony and subtlety will be lost on them. As long as they know the rest of the play then I seriously doubt it regardless of their ability. I would ask them what it's all about to establish that. I wasn't there so I can't. A look on the book cover might have reassured you about it's content. If you went on to read/see the rest of the play you will discover that there is not much that can be described as subtle about it. It is pretty transparently a propagandist moral crusade against drunk driving which in the opening scene is barely touched upon.

    The language was used and does cause problems. In our first production of it back in 1987 it was said that it distracted from the issues. I immediately removed all the bad language. The subsequent reviews focussed on the issues. I reviewed this in the early 2000's when the play was published by dbda and I felt that in my school it added to the crediblity to have the language as it was the language used by Judy herself in all butt hat opening section. I have no problem with teachers deciding to cut it. I also don't think it's anything too problematic for students these days and if anything adds to the realism. I am always sorry to hear these kind of reports of anxiety about it... but in this instance where it is one section taken out of context (as happened in a thread on Mumsnet recently) I am much less concerned.

    Legitimising the F word? I think it has it's place. Where I have included it... from memory not in that opening section... it is, I feel legitimate. The play deals with a very out of control teenager and then a situation where a girl kills her sister. "Oh dear" or equivalent wouldn't, for me, quite ring true.

    The ill-discipline of the class or their rehearsal efforts however I would be highly unlikely to condone. Difficult to judge tho.

    Mark Wheeller
  5. A truly weasel answer. You put in the F-word because it sells more.

    You won't ever have to deal with this though will you, lovey?
  6. i think what is so unfortunate her is that Paintgirl did not get the opportunity to read the whole of the play which as Mark states surrounds a very real issue that young people should be exposed to. The wonderful thing about Mark's work is he writes about issues that young people need to know about and by writing it in such a contemporary way that is 'in touch' with teenagers ensures that they are engaged in their lessons. It would be so boring and dull to keep churning out the same traditional, classical plays in schools and of course the language needs to be adapted to have an impact - thank goodness someone like Mark is still writing for young people. This really sounds like you had a bad experience with a difficult class and absolutely nothing to do with the play they were covering.
  7. frymeariver

    frymeariver New commenter

    An interesting thread. I looked up the play and found the following quote:
    power of Too Much Punch For Judy lies in it's truth, the comic
    bitter sweet way it drives home the message. It hits the audience hard
    because not only is what happened real, but <u>the words, taken from interviews
    of those involved, are real</u> as well."

    Sounds to me like the use of langauge that the OP might consider inappropriate is exactly what makes the play such a powerful vehicle through which to explore a difficult issue and harrowing events. Of course we could deal with these issues in a "Grange Hill" style and have real characters who speak in an unreal register which young people find laughable.
    Perhaps the real issue is not whether the text is inappropriate but rather whether the cover lesson was. I am sure that the teacher whose class were rehearsing the text has no problem with the language and helps the students to engage with the text and its language in a mature manner. Whether this should have been left for a supply colleague, who is I think not a drama specialist, is questionable.

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