We are valued.
But after an assembly every wednesday afternoon just before period five
drumming in what will happen if we fail the upcoming exams
every week since Jessica and Emily started discussing Charlie's Halloween piss-up
it's easy to see where the asterisk in those three words is.
And when I ask about our exams in the one hour out of fifty we get to learn about
the world outside our sixteen-year-old lives and what could cut it short or scrape it to the bone,
that new teacher fresh from university back into the classroom replies to me,
"Oh come on girl, you're only sixteen,
to get this kind of education means you're extremely lucky,
all you're taught you'll have to need in your life
if you don't want to be constantly burger-flipping at KFC,
regretting how you failed your GCSEs
watching how the ones out at interviews and open days succeed."
When the ones he means, through rose tinted lenses seen,
are skipping class with a pre-told pack of lies
preferring to roll a quick joint behind the bins.
And then he moved on. Some of the staff here
could be his mother.
Screw that, some could have been his grandmother.
Behind the wobbly desk representing them and us he draws the line.
As I make a list of all the people the highest in the profession should have known about
before he was even allowed to think about making a change
to what we learn in our time here.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Doctor Barnardo,
Benazir Bhutto and Edgar Allan Poe.
Even Dante Alighieri should bring a spark of recognition to your head,
Someone in another staff room edited a photo of Gove,
blending his smirking self-righteous face with that of Hitler, a rat,
and the illustration of Satan in The Divine Comedy.
Looking at me through the screen on my phone with dead eyes
with artificial fire in the pupil.
On the news in English we're supposed to be analysing,
it's period five with not one member of year eleven willing to take off their coat
and expose themselves to the cold of the old building.
We've known for a while that we've got six weeks left until our final exams.
And we can guess by the way Sir's shouting that we have one more chance,
as the marks on our fourth mock exam constantly tell us
we've completely balls-ed it up every step until here.
But we're at the point now where we just don't care.
Mock after mock exam treated even more like it's the real thing than actual real things,
when we make one mistake or lose focus for just one minute
we get reminded that it's our grades not hers, from our teacher,
whom we've been asking for weeks for just a bit of help as we don't understand
only to be shrugged off in favour of the school production,
then when we take the chance to ask for help again we get another shouting at.
"Why didn't you ask me earlier? We've got six weeks left!"
So we resort to staying behind for two hours,
blurring our vision through the pixels of the composition software
or constantly playing the piece we know off by heart but
we keep slipping up in the same position and
telling us to read the music doesn't help as we need to watch our fingers
but that's all we get. That's all
unless you count Miss bitching about Lacey again,
who can't attend after-school Music as she has to look after her sister
because her Mum's come down with glandular fever.
It doesn't help hearing Miss yell out "WELL SHE CAN FAIL THEN!" as she storms out
to get the box of twin-jacks so she can listen to our work
and change it completely.
Erasing all 'us' from it.
And why would we care? Some don't blame us.
We only know the truth about what's coming. Two more compulsory years when
some of us simply do not need them or can't take them. Then after that
either being shoved in a dead-end job, or another three years, costing triple what they did.
Right-wing Chloe thinks that's right. Keen to drum in how if we can't pay it off
in thirty years it will be erased
whilst she licks the soles of David Cameron promising
to marry first so her children with Gove
won't be inferior by being born from wedlock.
Well who can wait? Who can wait thirty years in a dead-end job, paying off
debts for studies that got us in the same job as if we hadn't bothered
and had spent a year backpacking in Peru
or looking after a rich family's kids somewhere in the Bible Belt.
It's after moments like that when I find that image on my phone,
grateful it's not a touchscreen as I scrape my nails down
resisting the urge to get a train and go out to London
to look around the Houses Of Parliament,
and find you, Mr Gove. Find you and tell you to look for yourself!
Look for yourself at the fucking progress!
If this were just this one day a fortnight I wouldn't care, but
it's day after day after day, an unending circle of pressures and dead results
that's widened when we stay behind every day to try making our grades better.
That's thirty children per class being dragged through Medieval curriculum
for over eight hours a day plus our own commitments we have to make
leaving no time at all for us to rest for a while and just be kids.
Instead, we have to run on our treadmills through reformed and fact-based
lists of data and monarchs of the fourteenth century being drilled into our heads
that we have to constantly re-drill and re-drill ourselves.
And some of us are bright-eyed. Bright-eyed, pepper-hot kids that anyone,
even the crabby physics teacher who can't see good in anyone,
can tell could do great things without any worry whatsoever.
But the ones needing Monster Ripper to give them a start,
sleeping or on Snapchat at the back of the class,
would ignore if Wrecking Ball did Miss sing and the Charleston did Miss dance.
You can't help but see that trying to get a kid like that
to find a comparison of women's rights before the birth of flappers exciting
would tax a half-naked Harry Styles reciting out dates,
surrounded by fireworks and a laser show projecting an image
glowing bright of Franklin D Roosevelt into the sky above.
The school could use its funding to get Five Seconds Of Summer in,
and pay for the battles of the first world war by year
tattooed across their arse cheeks
and it still wouldn't make any of the students more interested
or make it any easier for the teachers to teach it.
will you keep the doors of that profession closed
against those qualified no further than year nine,
reading one paragraph to grasp the butchery of Haig during the Somme in the trenches and
watching Schindler's List to get our very first taste of the horror levels of the Holocaust.
But nothing more substantial in any form.
As they couldn't afford to take that gondola ride of self-discovery in Venice
and instead put themselves back in the classroom
directly in front of us thinking "How hard can it be?"
Well when we're expected to learn how to get a job from these people
fresh out of university and clueless of real-world jobs that we want to do
is it any wonder why we feel trodden on
and bullshitted until we can take it no more?
But we are valued.
At least a set few are. But those who can turn coloured graphite and paper
into sorrow, joy, love, anger, jealousy, any emotion and action there is,
alongside those who can create reasons for those emotions, people to feel those
relatable, connectable things and do those penned-out actions,
and those that can turn horsehair and a few steel strings or ivory and mallets into
the feeling of swans, heartbeats and a reason to feel like you're worth something,
but maybe can't grasp the Cosine rule
or what Steinbeck made the colour red into
are just cast aside.
Cowards unable to handle the determination and knowledge needed
for structuring out an argument and completing essays on books rarely read,
hiding away behind their little sketchbooks, scene plans and guitars,
content with soft subjects filling timetables and their head.
who's absolutely born with pens in her head
scratching out words to make a tree dance off the paper
and a forever to appear when the only way out involves a body bag,
desperate to get a few credit points on Ma Vie A Une Jeune.
Pronounciation has never been her strong point,
and she's struggled before to hear the difference between L'Ecosse and Le Corse.
If she was given just a little more help finding how to get into publishing
instead of the witch cackling as she's told she can't always be what she wants to be,
letting her invisible flying monkey carry Hayley away, leaving her ruby slippers
of romance between two people who normally couldn't fall for each other
laying in the dirt next to Melissa's West End straw stuffing, the mane of Jasper
and the guitar strings he plucks, and the weakened and paint-stained tin arms of Caitlin
and the world on canvas you want to step into.
So many of us are left by the wayside as what we can do and what we love
are deemed to be weak and we're bullied into avoiding it. It is
not a weak subject, Mr Gove, it is a different one.
I'd bet my life you wouldn't enjoy a world without those like us
who create these songs, novels, artworks and performances for people like you.
I know you failed Latin, Mr Gove. I know you have your worries
about the language of old being screwed up and thrown in the trash
like the bit of paper with Home Economics on it.
But take year eleven forced into French out of fear of your Ebacc,
who speak six languages collectively out of them all
and try watching them attempt to get to grips with
the forms of 'aller' in two hours
when it should really be four but mocks got in the way.
Try watching full-course RE for two hours a week
when you know that English and Maths support are for lower level students
and Gifted And Talented are at their Inspiration Thought lessons
being told about getting into Cambridge or Oxford,
and all that are left are shoved into here,
knowing they're nothing more but average. The students
which fit into statistics
nice and easily, but feel
like that's it.
We are trying.
If you had an incriminating photo
with coke up your nose and
a prostitute straddling your lap
we may believe you don't deserve
your lack of sympathy.
We're taught to see things from other sides.
Like trying to see things from yours.
Now see things from our side.
The side of the students that you say you care about.
The side of people like us.
We are valued.