This week will be my last in teaching. After 30 years on the chalkface
(now an interactive whiteboard face), I'm taking voluntary redundancy. Not, as one scurrilous boy rumoured 'being sacked for writing naughty scenes in that book 'The Fugitive Three'!
After almost a decade teaching at Radyr Comp., I shall definitely miss the good humour, energy and creativity of many pupils. I won't miss the negatives, like rude behaviour and arrogance however. Above all, I feel that creativity (and especially the writing of poetry) has been increasingly marginalised over the years. Pupils do not need to write a single poem for GCSE or 'A' levels. I used to teach 'A' level Lang. & Lit. where they could submit a whole collection of verse: that too, has been cut. Most pupils of all abilities can express themselves imaginatively through poetry. Not so with stories, which require the grammatical strictures and too often borrow plots from recent movies.
Nothing has given me more pleasure than to help the so-called 'less able' to create. In fact, it is often the more recalcitrant pupils who relish poetry and its raw emotions ( not to mention that it can be very short ). I recall one boy who wrote a poem in half an hour in the library about life on the streets. I entered it for the then Miners' Eisteddfod in Porthcawl and he won. When his name was read out in Assembly, it was greeted with stunned silence, followed by bewildered applause.
I've based many stories and poems around my teaching experiences, often embellishing events quite considerably. The story 'Scott Guru' from my book 'Child of Dust' is based on a boy at Radyr who, quite remarkably, came out with the same word as a nonsense one from a song by one of my musical heroes Robert Wyatt. The crazy teacher in that fiction isn't me (I hope!). One poem I wrote about a mad pupil in Merthyr was called 'Flasher' and based on a true incident where a boy chased younger girls with a cucumber attached to his 'plonker'. The offender came looking for me, but I managed to fob him off with some excuse about it being all made up.
Perhaps because I'm leaving, I've recently been writing more about Radyr: a poem about a fox racing down the drive towards the entrance and a boy who ate his planner (in reality, he didn't scoff the lot). The one I've chosen is on a theme I have covered before, in a poem called 'Down Town Writer':
He gave me his mobile
and said 'Listen sir!'
It was time of the Mock Exams
and he wasn't taking many.
He was one of the hoodies
back of the Sports Hall
after school every day fags
late for every lesson stinking
like the old pub smell.
He said - 'See if you can tell
who this is, sir!'
I listened to the rap
the angry, beating hip-hop
the gangster accent
and occasional Kaairdiff twang.
He mouthed every word, every rhyme.
'It's Leon. Him and his mate in his room!'
As the lines shot and stabbed
street-talk of gangs from Ely, Pentrebane,
as if it was ghettos of LA.
Leon, who'd missed every exam,
suspended for swearing at staff,
once squared up to me
and now flinging that poetry :
words he'd sometimes scrawled in his book
between the angry graffiti.