Thursday, 27 March 2014

Dastardly dictations

Reading Ithaca reminded my husband of the first time he went to Britain to study English. He was about fifteen and in the first lesson the teacher dictated a poem called Cargoes by John Masefield. He failed miserably, which is understandable.Perhaps the teacher thought they were a bunch of cocky so- and-sos who needed to be taken down a peg or two. It seemed quite a different approach from mine to teaching. My motto has always been to make sure everyone leaves my lessons having learnt something new and feeling good about themselves.Now I come to think about it though I did once use a similar technique. On my first teaching practise I had a class of unruly seven year olds , they wouldn't listen to a word I said and the class was constantly in uproar. I struggled to give them a spelling test, they just carried on laughing and fooling around. "Right now everybody I want you to spell earthquake",I tried to make myself heard. Thirty pairs of eyes stared at me in total dismay ."We can't spell earthquake , " the leader of the pack informed me ."Well that's what I'm here for , so that you can", I beamed warmly. Silence reigned , you could hear a pin drop . Order was restored and I was the boss.

John Masefield was the poet laureate that succeeded Robert Bridges. After a tragic start in life his aunt sent him off to sea at age 13 because she thought he spent too much time reading. Ironically he had more time than ever to read while at sea and one of his best loved poems is Sea Fever


I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying,

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over
Cargoes, not the easiest test with which to start an English lesson


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