Beau Geste, on 29 January 2012 - 05:12 PM, said:
But they aren't the sort of learners I was referring to earlier when I had the temerity to suggest that "historical accuracy" was by no means the primary consideration that teachers must adhere to when teaching the subject.
In many city centre schools, ... the learning process bears very little resemblance to that which was no doubt experied by many members of this GW Forum. Here teachers really do earn their bread. They don't necessarily have students sitting in front of them who come from good, stable homes with parents who are convinced about the value of a goods education. Many, are the children of broken relationships. living in less than ideal conditions; kids whose parents are often living off benefits,; parents who sometimes have no conception of the value of a good education. To make matters worse too many don't even speak English and are often only interested in where they'll get their next fix.
My first teaching job was in a very tough inner city multi-cultural comprehensive school. Having been to a girls' grammar school myself and then to an old university in a beautiful city, it was a complete shock and retrospectively I'm not sure that I was the best sort of person for that job. I was certainly not trained for it. Where I would disagree with Harry's point is that I utterly believed that it was my responsibility to be as rigorous as possible, not because I thought that the students' homes were a complete desert of literature inhabited by drongos, but because I knew that some would never again get the opportunity to read and reflect, or write for pleasure, unless they actively sought it out as adults. I can honestly say that in that English faculty I never met anyone who believed in second-rate accuracy as a means of crowd control.
I know that Harry wasn't condemning all inner city parents. Despite received wisdom, many parents there were ambitious for their children. They saw education as a way out. I've also taught visiting gipsy teenagers and travelling fair teenagers. I can distinctly remember the fair mum telling me that she couldn't read or write, but she was determined that her daughters would be able to apply for whatever job or course they wanted; she'd saved a massive sum to pay their way through university, if that's what they chose. And therefore she was looking to me as their temporary English teacher to equip them, to widen their horizons and to expect their absolute best. She made them do school work when they were on the move.
I don't know anything about the calibre of trainee teachers Harry worked with. I think that if you love your subject, and you personally have high standards of academic rigour, being lax about accuracy doesn't come easily. It doesn't make life easier. Trust comes into it and young people tend not to trust teachers whom they suspect are fobbing them off. I've found that many young people rise to challenges if you create a safe environment where they can try without being afraid of getting it wrong - I used 'Beowulf' in the original with 12 year olds and Chaucer with 'A' level students many times, successfully.
I know it will horrify learned members of this forum to know that when teaching war poetry to absolute bottom set GCSE students, I incentivised them. I insisted that we read the poems, analysed them, reflected on them and wrote about them, using proper literary terms such as simile, metaphor and onomatopoeia. (And that they spelt them correctly, too!) And every so often, if they did what I asked of them, we had a break and watched 'Blackadder'. There. I've said it. 'Blackadder'. Some of these bottom set teenagers went on to get Bs for English Literature. In fact, the moderator picked out one boy's work as the most sensitive and informed piece on war poetry he had ever seen.
And it wasn't about the work of Edmund Blackadder, either.
I have to add (happily) that I haven't been a teacher for years, now and I can't comment on current practice.