Monday, 4 October 2010

Homework Sucks!

My neck was aching, my eyes were stinging, my shoulders were stiff and I still had an assignment on grammar to write. I’d already read a tome on ‘issues in effective learning’ which introduced me to some new playmates, namely Piaget and Vygotsky and their respective theories on cognitive constructivism and social constructivism, although if I’m honest, I don’t feel very respectful to them at the moment, given that they’d just ruined my weekend. Who’d have thought there was a theory to teaching and not only one but several? And there was I, naively assuming that once I’d gathered a few poems together, got the gist of them, made sure that I covered the objectives in the National Curriculum that I would be able to stand there, chalk, or its technically advanced alternative in hand and wax lyrical.
Hubby walked into my study and rubbed my shoulders. “How are you getting on love?” I looked at my watch; it was 10.10 on a Sunday night. The youngest girls had gone to bed hours before. I’d barely kissed them.
“Tired”, I said in a little voice, grasping the big hands that massaged my shoulders.
“I’ve taped X-Factor for you.”
“Thanks”. He looked over my shoulder at the few words that I’d written on my laptop.
“Subordinate?”, he queried, “I wouldn’t worry about your pupils being subordinate Alice love. Good grief no. Start as you mean to go on. Don’t take any nonsense. Insubordination is taken very seriously in the navy you know. Very seriously indeed. In fact…”
I had to stop him in his tracks before he got on his vertiginously high horse.
“I’m not talking about insubordination in the classroom, although God knows, someone should. Your average Comprehensive classroom is light years away from standing to attention with ‘yes sir, no sir’. These days we are all ‘learners’, sharing and exploring together”. He looked at me pityingly suggesting that one day, disillusioned by my caring, sharing ways, I’d have kids on report and in detention before you could say, “My dog ate my homework miss”.
“So who’s subordinate then?”
“Not who but what. Subordinate clauses are grammatical”. I replied.
“What are they?” A week ago I probably couldn’t have told him, so I was proud to hear myself utter,
“A sentence is broken up into clauses, the main clause and the subordinate clause. The latter doesn’t make sense by itself”. His gormless expression made him look, well, gormless.
“For instance”, I explained, “ ‘He was very loyal to the Royal Navy – main clause?’” Hubby nodded. I continued, “ ‘so that I always felt second fiddle to Nelson, subordinate clause”.
“Oh I see”. I don’t think he did. He is still going to Trafalgar night on my birthday. He kissed the top of my head and went to make me a cup of tea. I returned to my assignment. It was very trying. My experience of grammar, being a school girl in the 70s and early 80s centred on three key terms: adjectives, nouns and verbs. All that was expected of me was to write the most interesting sentence incorporating those terms. So that for instance, ‘The Cat Sat on the Mat’ was transmogrified into ‘Regally reclining on a Persian rug, lay a feline of such majestic attitude that he seemed to rule the household who regularly attended to his every whim, which often included fresh, line caught tuna and filtered, ice-cold, spring water.’ I worried not a jot about clauses and modal auxiliary verbs. What worries me is that few teenagers still won’t worry about them and yet I have to teach them.
Two hours later I inserted my final full stop and went to bed to read a précis of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Hubby was snoring gently as was the cat at the end of the bed. My eyes felt as though they had grit in them and yet as I extinguished the bedside light, my mind raced. I tossed. I turned. I pulled the duvet cover hither and yon.
“Bloody hell, keep still”, came a very sleepy but grumpy retort from under the duvet. I doubted very much that it had been the cat. So, getting up again, I dragged a dressing gown around me and walked onto the landing. A chink of light glinted from my son’s room. I opened his door. He was sitting at his computer writing.
“What on earth are you writing at one in the morning?”
“My politics essay”. I wanted to put his pyjamas on and snuggle him up in his bed with his teddy but those days are long gone. He’s eighteen next month.
“Darling, it’s so late. Please go to bed”. I was a bright one to talk. I crept down the stairs, threw a throw over me and picked up the Sky+ controls. In seconds Simon Cowell et al were in my sitting room.
Almost instantaneously I forgot brain aching words like pedagogy, hegemony and paradigm and lapsed into the accessible vernacular of pop culture. It was lush and I was asleep in minutes.

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