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Repeating Old Material in English Lessons

September 26, 2012

Do not solely pursue the books of your father.

Lin Xiangru advises keeping up with the times – Zhou Dynasty (1100-221 BC)

I read Mr. Xiangru’s words and it set me off on a stream of thoughts.

Several years ago I was lecturing in GCSE English in a further education college in Stoke On Trent, England. I was nicely settled in and coasting along – nothing too challenging.

I was ‘invited’ (compulsory meeting in my holiday time!) to attend a departmental meeting shortly before the end of the summer break. I was informed that I had been given a couple of ‘Access to Higher Education’ classes for the forthcoming academic year. These classes consisted of adults, returning to education, looking for a one year entry course to university.

‘No problem’, thought I – until I looked at the course reading list. There I saw, not specified texts but a section dealing with novels and plays published in the very recent past. ‘Ah ah’, thought I. That rules out: ‘Jane Eyre’, ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, all texts that I had recently worked with and had copious lecture notes, handouts, etc. on. That left me with the uphill task of preparing new material in just one week. So much for ‘coasting along’ – and the remainder of my summer break!

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Katherina contemplates her empty plate in The Taming of the Shrew (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I head-scratched, searched my book shelves and talked to colleagues. Soon I plenty of possible texts but very little time to prepare. However, ‘necessity being the mother of invention’, I burnt the midnight oil and was ready to go from the first lesson.

I decided upon Roddy Doyle’s Booker prize winner ‘Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha’ and Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’ and ‘Shirley Valentine’. Strictly speaking, these were slightly out of the time-frame but because the subject matter was so applicable to the subject audience, I was able to argue their case for inclusion on the course – and what hits they chose to be with the adults!

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Cover of PADDY CLARKE HA HA HA

Staying ‘one step ahead’ for that academic year, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to grips with the new material. It is so easy in English to simply keep teaching the Classics year after year.  There was a great sense of achievement in ‘keeping up with the times’.

So much so, in fact, that I even started to use the college intranet instead of placing pieces of paper in pigeon holes – how about that for keeping up with the times? Now then, home English tuition session tonight, where have I put that copy of The Shrew !

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