Prove me wrong… please! Are the youth losing their imaginations?

A Challenge!

As an English teacher I do not attest to knowing “everything” – however after spending my entire easter break marking 120 essays in which students completely lack imagination I am officially at my wits end!

For the past 4 years after each episode of marking I have to make myself feel better about the question by”trying” it out for myself, just to prove, for me, that its not just the questions being given. I understand the the social situation is different for today’s youth – there are so many stories already in existence that originality is difficult to come by… but surely it should still spark some kind of imaginationary valve in the brain! I HOPE beyond hope that the education system is not completely squeezing our next generation of anything spontaneous.

Therefore I propose a small challenge. I will post one of the questions that was set for the year 9 end of year writing test. It is marked for composistion and effect, structure and organisation and sentence structure and punctuation. It is a 30 mark – 35 minute question. I am also going to have a go at this myself in the hope that it can be done…

Feel free to post your response and I will use the same criteria that the students were given.

THE QUESTION: Imagine you are an explorer who travels to faraway places. On your last trip things went wrong and you lost contact with the outside world. After two weeks you were found, and now a magazine wants you to write about your experiences.  Write the story of your experience from the point when things went wrong to when you were found. [30 marks, 35 minutes]

I look forward to any one who wishes to respond to this!

Alternative Reality.

Alert! Alert! A new species make

the endangered list

Oh the teacher’s are pissed!

 

Education lacks status.

Respect dissolved along with dignity,

All we care about is getting famous,

Flaunting inhibitions and frivolity.

 

School’s will join the museum masses;

A blast from the past, they’ll say,

Any attempt to avoid their classes.

Education is obsolete these days,

Education doesn’t pay.

It’s not part of the UK future

An archaic form of teenage torture.

We all follow Pink Floyd

2012.

Intellectually void?

Working Title: Emotionless Chapter One.

Any comments on how to improve the characterisation are more than welcome!

Chapter 1:

Alice

I had leant on the newspaper so long my forearms were stained black with the print. I rubbed them absentmindedly as I continued to stare at the article on my dining room table. My reaction to the story had more than slightly heighten my heart rate; the hairs on my arms were pointing skywards and I could feel the prickling heat in my cheeks.  Why? Why had I reacted so strongly to this article, despite the numerous stories that had hit front page news in the past year that were in the same vein?

Something is not right.

It was there in my mind playing over and over. It was the reason my body had reacted as if it had been thrown into an oven at 200 degrees. I felt claustrophobic; my breathing became shallow; beads of sweat gathered quickly along my upper lip. I licked them, freeing them from their dry skin casing. I knew that each of these bodily reactions meant I could only be feeling one thing: fear. The fear had been intensifying inside me ever since the news stories began. It wasn’t that these “new” children were anything to be afraid of, if anything they should be more afraid of us – in most cases since; in fact there had been evidence to support this theory.

No, what was steadily growing inside of me was not the fear of the actual children; it was the new phrasing that had begun to appear in the newspapers that referred to them as: “remote-children” and even one tabloid called them “lab kids.” There was only one direction this was heading; it was just a matter of how long it was going to take to reach the steps of Holliwell.

The kitchen clock ticked, filling the silence as I continued to stare at the article on the table. Well there wasn’t much I could do about it sat here was there? The world can’t wrong itself in a day, as my mother used to say. I sighed, avoiding the inevitable was my speciality apparently, and I think Lea was heading in the same direction.

Lea! That was the jump start back to reality that I needed. Focusing on the clock for the first time since picking up the paper I realised the time. 7.25am: school!

I jumped from my well-worn seated position and took the stairs two at a time; each foot fall echoing throughout the house: “you sound like a bleeding elephant,” a fleeting memory that never fails to leave me whenever I get to this part of the house. It’s funny how rooms can hold memories of those closest to you; it’s as if their essence is ingrained in the walls, her voice held in the fabric of the furniture. It is the only reason I moved back to the family home in Holliwell: I can’t leave her behind. The pain in the arse that she was does not negate the fact that my mother was the best role model I ever had, and if I set just half as good an example to Lea as my mother did to me, then I’ll be a happy woman!

“Lea? Lea honey are you awake?” I knocked quietly on her bedroom door, the outside completely emblazoned with her latest craze: rodents. Tens of them in various positions with numerous backgrounds covered each inch of her once white door. It made me cringe whenever I thought too much about them, I thank god every day, since this new craze began, that she hasn’t asked for a pet mouse. At least not yet.

 I slowly edged open the door, the purple curtains still shut tight; only allowing a minimal amount of light to cascade over her immaculate room. I knew I was lucky to have such an organised little girl. How long it would last was anyone’s idea, but I keep my fingers crossed. Each toy, teddy or magazine had a specific place; whether on display on a simple shelf or in on an open bookcase, Lea had managed to retain that new gleam that so often fades once the item leaves the shop. I stepped further into the room, caught by the only item out of place, her multi coloured toy rabbit. A present, or should I say the only present, from her father lay tightly clasped in her delicate fingers. Each slender finger turned white by the intense grip she held to the teddy.

“Lea honey, whatever’s the matter?” Her deep brown eyes are wide like that of a deer caught in a car’s headlight. She stares fixedly at her wardrobe where her freshly pressed uniform hangs ready to be worn.

I make my way towards her bed where she cowers in the corner holding her now squished teddy firmly against her chest. As I sit on the bed I hear her softly mumble, “I’m sick, I can’t go.” I sigh deeply, this was only to be expected; I should have anticipated this.

“Come on now what did we discuss last night?”

“I can’t remember.” Her response isn’t sullen, far from it, her words seem to escape her mouth before she realises. As she recognises too late the words have been spoken, she buries her face deep in her strangled teddy.

“Lea, its ok to forget things, but what is not ok is missing your first day at school.” I brush her thick fringe out of her face and gently lift her chin up so that she is looking at me. I know she hates it, her eyes shift uncomfortably around my face trying to avoid my eyes.

“Why?”

“Because you need to meet new people, learn new things, have fun!” I exclaim. Come on Alice it’s not a bleeding sales pitch this is your daughter! I silently scold myself before continuing.

“What I mean is, school is where we learn about the world and what you want to become when you’re older so that you can get a great job and look after mummy.” I go for the joke approach.

“But you don’t need looking after.”

“Not know, but when I’m older I might do.”

“Why? Are you going to get ill?” I was heading for dangerous territory, I couldn’t frighten her even more; I changed tact.

“Of course not, I only want you to be happy and do well. Look I know how you feel; the first day is always scary even for adults.”

“Even for you?”

“Yes.”

“So you’re scared today too?”

“I am a little nervous about my first day definitely.” Wow, I pause. Until this very moment, speaking those words aloud to my four year old daughter, I hadn’t even given my new job a second thought. There were so many other things to consider before we even got to this day. The funeral, the move, transferring all accounts, leaving all our friends and family behind; the list was endless. But now that was the past, and today, today was the present. I honestly never thought we would get to this moment. I couldn’t see a way through the maze of stress and torment of the past few months. We did it. The thought had suddenly occurred to me.

“Mummy, are you ok?” Lea has pulled herself onto her knees and is inches from my face searching my eyes which not only moments before she chose to avoid. My jolt back to reality must have been recognised as she quickly retreated to her curled position behind her teddy.

“Yes honey I’m fine, sorry. Look Lea we both have to make a good impression today, today we get to start a fresh. You can be anyone you want to be.”

She frowned. “But I can’t be anyone else but me.” Her four year old mind had misunderstood my comment.

“I just meant you can be quiet or happy, or smiley or loud. You can choose how you want to act, as long as it doesn’t offend anyone else.” She seemed to consider that for a moment, the chance to start again. She understood.

“Can I be like I was before?”

“Of course you can Lea, you are prefect just the way you are.”

“The other children didn’t think so.” Again the emotionless tone caught me off guard. There was no sadness to her voice, just the fact.

“Well what do they know? They were just mean, nasty children who just weren’t as clever as you.”

“Will the children here be different then?”

“Yes.”

“You’re lying.” How did she always know? I had never been able to lie to Lea, she always seemed to work it out; like the time when I told her there were no mushrooms in her spaghetti and even before the plate was on the table in front of her, she looked at me and stated in a tone that I can only describe as disappointed: “Mummy why are you not telling me the real.”

“You mean the truth darling?”

“Yes why are you not telling me the truth?” I felt like I was the child, chastised by my own mother. I honestly had no answer for her, other than the truth.

“I wanted you to at least try mushrooms before you say you don’t like them.”

“But I already know that I don’t.”

“That was a while ago, you’re taste buds might have changed.”

“They haven’t.” She stated.

What come back could I have had to that? What do you say to a three year old to convince them that lying, sometimes, is a good idea? All I could come up with was, “sometimes adults have to tell lies to protect children, and it’s not a bad thing, just a little trick to help you be a good grown up.”

I have not the slightest inclination or belief that she accepted this as a reasonable enough answer: her slight frown and small murmur was all that I could gather from my rather old headed three year old daughter.

 

By the time the conversation is over and Lea is quite speedily putting on her new school uniform I happen to glance around at the clock. Shit, I mumble. Now I know if I don’t get a move on I’ll also be late!

 

What a fantastic first impression Alice, I scold myself, and on your very first day. “What an example!” This time my mouth feels the need to chime in with the chastisements.  I whip on my conservative, not too sexy, but need-to-look-good-in-front-of-a-bunch-of-teenagers skirt; a rather plain fitted blouse; a quick to and fro over the cardigan or the jacket. Argh decide, decide! Jacket! Run the toothbrush vaguely over my teeth. As I am pulling the brush hastily through my hair, Lea already has grabbed my car keys and is heading for the door. It’s a good job we are both heading to the same building!

 

“Let’s go mummy, you said five minutes ten minutes ago.”

“I know honey I’m sorry.” Clutching my hand bag, that would better suit a name that represented its sheer size to a closer degree, I throw it onto the passenger seat [Lea refuses to sit in the front].

“Ok, let’s get through the day.”

“Ready when you are.” Replies my four year old. There’s another brief moment in which I have to remind myself that she is only four, despite what her seemingly large vocabulary suggests.  OK day one.

 

21st Century Goddess

Apple. Athena 2012.

Boyfriend stealing slut!

I’d trade secrets with Medusa

But I wouldn’t want to delve

Into the life of a mutt!

Angelic in appearance;

her white entities

whoring themselves around.

Proud to prance

around all male personalities.

Attached each sense

Filled them up.

Pleased them from every facial orifice.

Sight, sound, save it

for someone who gives a toss.

His eyes once glued

to your body

find solace in your upgrade.

Benefits?

No mood swings!

The new model can talk the talk.

“Meeting at 9.30am

“Drinks with the lads at 8pm

“Meal with…”

Scratch that – irrelevant.

Who controls you now?

Jealous? Of what dear?

It’s only an inanimate fucking object!

Overworked

An oversoaked sponge – grotesque.

Expands to full enormity;

Suffocating,

Exhausted.

Insomnia bound.

 

I toss and turn,

Pull the heavy burden

side to side.

Sloshing one job to another.

Ear to ear.

Job JOB J-O-B!

Blocking the outside world,

No sound – just the buzz.

Consumed.

Lost.

 

I scream,

Dig my fingernails deep in my temples.

Tear the bloody elements

From my head.

Piece by piece;

Slowly …

Slowly

lightening the load.

 

Fingers entangled in

hair, brain, jobs!

Emptying – the pressure of the sponge.

Release.                          Blackness.

Clouds across my eyes. Sigh.

Final  ly…

Sleep.

Working title: Emotionless

My first attempt at writing a novel…. the working prologue….

Prologue

My teeth chatter incessantly as I glance heaven ward and then back down to my actuality. This is the first time in a while, I realise, that I can collect myself and consider the reality of my situation. In all the time I had been alive, there was not one moment I could not remember, could not glimpse a memory of being in such a frightening situation; one that I knew would most definitely be my ultimatum. I feel the torn palm clutched tightly in my right hand; blistered from the heat; torn from the vegetation; bleeding from angered weapons. I try stretching a smile over my worn face, what’s the point I think to myself? She has never understood that link between happiness and upward curving lips anyway. Every time I remind myself of the reason for being in this situation, with this girl, stuck in the middle of this impossible future; I recall the words of Miss Knight: her favourite speech. I know it word for word she spoke it so often. I think it was in the hope that despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary she could somehow guide the students onto the ‘right path.’ Don’t get me wrong she was not one of those forceful religious nuts who tried every trick in the book to get you to think their way. She was so honest when she spoke, she meant every word, and I know she truly, honestly believes that these small reminders will ignite in the children a forgotten ability. I hope we don’t disappoint her…

 

“Right class please allow me to begin with the most important lesson of the term, one never to be forgotten, yes it may have little to do with the functionality of “English” as, Elisha you will no doubt remind me as always at the end of my short reasoning. Nonetheless please allow me a moment of your time to attempt to convince you of its central importance not only to the enjoyment of this subject but to the fulfilling of your human existence.”

She always took a pause at that moment as if surveying her audience. How did we look to her, I wonder? Empty, ice caverns where a warm emotion filled heart should be? Especially the last few times I heard this speech I too cast a quick look at her captivated audience. They appeared to fulfil, visually, everything that Miss Knight had asked of her students; they sat to attention and watched her, waiting for her to speak; no fidgeting, no students passing indecipherable notes, on ripped out pieces of lined paper, across the classroom like in the numerous school based films I had stashed away in my lock up. It was only when I began to look closer at their faces; their pale, unblinking, taught faces that I felt a twinge of sadness and anger. The irony always gave way to a chuckle that Miss Knight reacted to with shock then immediate distaste. She knew right away when she met me, it didn’t stop her reacting back though. Instinct you see, built in human reactor. The rest of the class had no idea concerning the short exchange between Miss Knight and I, they just kept on staring at her, waiting for instructions.

“The human race –she began with force- is arguably built on a single key, motivating trait: emotion. The ability to comprehend each other’s feelings and apprehensions is the reason that humans have been able to advance and live so long in, on the whole, forms of harmony.

“I already know what you’re thinking; we are also the only mammal to purposefully injure and destroy our own kind. And you would be correct; yet there is one of those awful catch 22 scenarios where one can argue that: love, happiness and miracles of life cannot exist without the destructible presence of “evil” in all its forms. As Shakespeare himself recognised: The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.”

She had forgotten again, I could tell by the sea of confused faces, but Miss Knight couldn’t help slipping into what she thinks are clear illustrative examples, proof even, that emotion is important. All she had managed, with using this quote, was to elicit a few small frowns and a series of students scribbling down the line to research later in the library.

“Let’s have a look at a few human scenarios, try and figure out how the person is feeling:”

At this point there would be the audible sound of zips from bags as students pulled out their pens and readied themselves for the test. I, on the other hand, was well aware that despite all Miss Knight’s efforts the outcome would be just the same. Still, I suppose she felt she had to try. Otherwise perhaps she felt, what was her point of being here?

“Ok class case number one:

“Adele lays curled up on the ground, arms wrapped tightly around her stomach, her eyes scrunched shut and her forehead hot and sticky to the touch. Her partner arrives home from work and sees Adele lay like this on their living room floor. What is she feeling and what should her partner do?”

Silence. Not a single pen hits the paper. She knows it is not due to their defiance.

They just simply do not know the answer. Now if she would have said: Adele has in-avertedly come into contact with pathogens that have led to a swelling of the lymph nodes in her throat and underarms; they would have understood the situation clearly. I watch her face freeze, eyebrows slightly raised, in hope I guess. I just can’t leave her hanging there plus she has become accustomed to me being the sole student to answer her. I raise my hand. The answer pours out of me, like water from a tap, an integral part of my being: “Immediately puts his hand to her forehead, feels the heat and knows: ring the doctor, she is ill.” She smiles, only slightly, a thank you I guess, but she has given up the speech for the day.

Still her ‘case examples’ changed every term, I try and recall a few more now as my body slides a little on the warm mud beneath us:

Case:

“Richard has just proposed to his girlfriend. She smiles and seems speechless, but tears slip from the corner of each eye and slide quietly down her cheeks to the floor. Is she upset?”

Case:

“Two young boys face each other in the playground. One has clenched his fists, teeth grinding behind thin lips pulled back, his eyebrows drawn so tight it causes mini ripples to align across his forehead. His face is so red the whites of his eyes glare and glow towards his opponent. How is he feeling?”

 A small murmur from my previously silent companion jolts me back to reality. Her face flush from the long exposure to the elements; her delicate lips, tinged blue in the corners, direct themselves towards my face so as to make even the smallest of sounds undetectable to our assailants. Just as she whispers the words softly into my ear: “I can hear, they’re coming,” I hear the voice we have been running to avoid ever since this whole journey began.

Jack[ie] of all trades….master of…one??

ImageAlong with my many other creative “wants” this has now become another. When I was trying to find something profound and witty to add to my first blog I had the sad realisation that, like many others, I am a Jack[ie] of [quite a few] trades but master of not very many.

Now I know I could start getting all analytical about the fact I am a left hander and therefore, according to which ever flavour of the science month, means I am technically more “inventive” in nature… but let me be honest, most of it is based on: improving the spice of life; having a somewhat driven upbringing and a frustrating lack of ability to turn off from work.

As a teacher, and before you say it; yes 13 weeks holiday is a benefit [also a necessity], and no the day does not end at 3pm when the students does; I am so used to having a permenant, ever growing jobs list that when it comes to having a “break” or switching off I end up being … bored! A complaint that paradoxically I shouldn’t have as I spend most of the school term moaning about wanting and needing a break. The academic year simply becomes a large metaphorical stop watch forvever counting down to the six weeks of bordom that will ensue though I shouldn’t be allowed to complain about.

Cue…. creative mode.

Now I’ve tried my fair share of crafts. Hobbycraft has sporaically got to know me over a period of years: knitting, cross stitch, painting, card design, lolly making, baking. The list is endless.

Now in my mid twenties I am trying to hone in on my niche somewhat unsuccessfully in some cases.

Baking is something I really enjoy, cooking in general I got some practice at due to the sharing of house duties when I lived at home. Yet, after the barrage of food cooking programmes; namely The Great British Bake Off and Masterchef, I was officially hooked. All of a sudden I have been brought more cook books than I know what to do with. [Thank heaven for the sturdy shelf!] The problem I found with baking was that people were enjoying it too much. What? I hear you say. “and you’re complaining?” Yes, but let me explain. To cheer everyone up on a monday morning I decided to put together a English department Come Bake with me. Every monday someone would bake for the department…It went well at the beginning, however what I found along with everything else was as it dwindled I was the one being told to bake all the time. Suddenly something I enjoyed had become a chore that as being taken advantage of?

Despite this I still bake, but instead of whole sale sharing I simply feed up by boyfriend. He enjoys it.

So with baking taking a back sit, as it were, I have decided to take up something that I started becoming interested in a few years ago: making clothes. Before you say anything, I don’t mean the hippy – stick flowers and jewels on a Top shop top – I mean with a sewing machine a pattern and material. I still own the one top I managed to make [with my mum’s help] a few years ago.

my mother seems to be the creative inspiration for this, her creative ability astounds me! It is perhaps the one thing we have in common, as it cannot be horses [which her and my sister own two] so next best thing. Any way, the sewing kit is purchased as is the bible sewing “how to guide,” all I need now is the ideal sewing machine, and a good pattern. Without being defeatest, I need to acomplish early or I am likely to lose interest quickly!

I did find a fantastic fabric shop, so hard to find these days too – in Manchester! http://www.abakhan.co.uk/

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