I was at my first ordinary secondary school in the current tour yesterday. Wetherby High School reminded me so much of Brookfield School, where I taught for two lots of four years and which my on children attended. 1960s building with a lot of glass and hardwood. And the usual mix of students.
I talked to four Y9 classes. In a former existence as a secondary school teacher, I used to dread meeting Y9 when I went to a new school. They were always the least receptive towards new teachers. These students, however, were charming, if a little reluctant to ask me questions or answer mine. A few did, however, and both their answers to my questions and the questions they asked me were interesting and kept the flow going nicely. One student did suggest that using drugs might help you to find stories. I think I managed to put him right about that without putting him down. I was actually amazed that almost all of them without any prompting identified the Bible as a good source of stories if you’re stuck for an idea.
I read a little of “Nick’s Gallery” – Chapter Two where we meet Cynthia and Sophie for the first time. I was delighted that when I asked them questions about those two, they all had the same picture in their heads as I did.
There were the usual questions about earnings, inspiration and how I became an author.
A sign that it had gone well, David Frame, one of the teachers who had invited me in, said, was that they all clapped at the end without being prompted. He admired my honesty. That puzzled me a little. Why would anyone be anything other than honest. What I have noticed, though, on all of my visits, is that there is extreme intimacy between me and the students. The teachers seem a little left out, though I do try to bring them in. Maybe I’m just passing on my expereince with theorizing too much.
I was most impressed that a group of fifteen students turned up in the second half of lunch time. They asked questions. I gave them a choice about what I should read – excerpts form a book about someone who loses a friend, a love story or a story about a girl who fancies a boy. They chose the latter, though the choice was rather dominated by a group of giggly Y11 girls. They opted for the one about a girl who fancies a boy. So, I read a little of the opening chapter of “Scum Bag”. The uniform obsession there is about shirts being tucked in, as it was at the school that inspired me and is at Weatherby. The students seemed to apprecaite the story.
I felt good about this visit. I’d been a little nervous about facing secondary again, although for all sorts of good reason, I write more for this age group now than for the lower one. They students received me well. They also received my stories well.