An open letter to 11EX2. On results’ day 2014

Dear all,

Well, that’s that! The results are in and although I have left for pastures new, I wanted to share my thoughts with you on this momentous day.

I am incredibly proud of all of you! You should be positively glowing today as you reap the rewards of two years of (hard) work, tears and cheers. Your results: 8A*, 19A, 4B and 1 C are amongst the best I have ever seen. Especially from a set 2. 84% A*-A with a department measure of 68%. You performed well above the norm.

Enough of statistics (and TRAPPERS) though. We all remember my mantra that “monkeys can do maths” and that statistics are the most easily manipulated type of information on any page.

I’d like to focus on you and what I remember from our two years of IGCSE preparation. I treasure much of the work you created, especially the Little Miss books:

Little Missmiti

Little Miss Cowrafe

little miss photos

And the range of window art:

cocoa window
refugee window, complete

And Jodh’s composition and analysis of Refugee Blues:

photo response refugee

But beyond these tangible memorials, I recall a class which was too big and prone to divide itself into small groups and which was frighteningly silent. In Year 10. By Year 11, you had all developed such confidence in delivery and thought that the tables could fizz with discussion, even with Imran snoring gently to one side. Some of you worried about studying Shakespeare – it was too hard, you thought, yet the 12 A*-A grades would suggest otherwise. As you develop, remember that only focusing on work which you find “easy” will in no way develop you as thinkers. Challenge is at the heart of development and the better students learn that risk taking and challenge are two of the most vital steps towards achieving in life. Please hold onto this thought as you move into the VIth form – things get harder there and you need to be brave.

Finally, although I maintain that teaching you has made me a better teacher in many ways, don’t let anyone kid you: you sat the exams. You alone and the sense of pride is yours and is fully justified. Step forward: Hyder, Supreet, Abdul, Vishal, Karthiga, Nigara, Vanraj & Bhavneet and take the plaudits of the class for your A*s. Some of you may have been surprised and some relieved. Certainly there are a couple of names I didn’t expect to see in that list and I am really excited at the prospect of you developing these results in the lower VIth.

To all of you, then, Miti and Arti, (joined at the hip), Shambling Imran, Zakie – working so hard, Nakkers and Nikkers, Sujjj and Karthi, Ro-Ro, Varshikles, Super and Bhav (who maintained A* quality throughout the year) and to all the others, all 32 of you, Cheerio!

Take care and build on this foundation. You made an old man very happy today.

Best wishes for the future,

Jonathan Peel

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Paradise Lost ix: literary contexts and thinking points.

A powerpoint to engage with some of the literary contexts of the poem and to encourage class discussion and thought. I have also included a couple of web links, 1 to the York Morality play text dealing with the fall of man, and the other a quick definition page of Epic poetry. Both are mentioned in the powerpoint.

paradise contexts

THE FALL OF MAN York Cowpers Play


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Results’ day blues

For the last 9 years I have been a VIth form tutor and have approached A level results with a mixture of apprehension and excitement.  Interestingly, as my eldest son reached Year 13, I found the day to be a whole new experience.  I am not saying that the system is broken, but I do have deep concerns about the whole process of turning results into places at further education establishments.

I will try to explain.

  1. The process begins at school.  Predicted grades are produced by a school based on AS results.  Even at this stage, the discrepancies between schools in applying the data is huge.  The various models available – ALPS, ALYS and so on, each provide slightly differing data and then there is the “league table factor” which means that many schools don’t want to seem too harsh in case their VIth form gets a reputation for not producing a sufficient quantity of University entrants each year.  At the school I have just left, the benchmark last year related to UMS achieved at AS.  If a student scored in excess of 50% of the UMS spread for a particular grade, we predicted 1 grade in excess of their AS result as their A2 level.  NO exceptions, and no notice taken of any potential resit.
  2. This means that there were some in the upper levels who saw their ABB (say) remain unchanged and I have little issue with this.  I have always urged realism over idealism when filling in a UCAS form and repeat a mantra that there is no point getting an offer from WarwImperiUrham if there is no realistic chance of achieving the outcome in the summer.  Besides, there might be the option of trading up if there is really unexpected success.  The issue is greater at the CDE end of the market however.
  3. The issue here is that few Universities allow course entry requirements that are this low.  This can been as a Good Thing in the sense that if University is meant to be the highest point of formal education, all students should be intellectually able to cope with the demands of an undergraduate course.  However the current trend seems to suggest that courses are being rated by the subject of study, rather than the possible quality of the establishment.  This means that the student who is predicted CDD has little chance of finding any courses at all which fall within this ambit, let alone finding 5 of them to populate the UCAS form.  Time and again I have railed against a student insisting on applying to courses wanting ABB from a CDE base.  “Don’t be silly”, I say. “they will probably refuse you and even if they accept you, you are not going to get those grades…”  “Ah”, the reply comes, “then I will get in through clearing!”
  4. And they do.  To courses often way in excess of their actual grades attained.  Universities being eager to fill places suddenly open up courses hitherto requiring Bs and As to students attaining Ds and Cs.  And I am very grateful, but confused.
  5. If a course is of sufficient quality or complexity that students require ABB in November, how can tutors countenance entrance to students attaining CDD in August?  Either the original entrance requirement has been inflated as the universities try to justify the now almost uniform 9000 tuition fee or this is simply a way to reduce applicants now that universities do not interview every applicant, as they did back in the dark ages.  However, how does a lower level student work this system?  All messages through the application process tell them that they are not good enough, not just for Oxford or Bristol, but also for Portsmouth or Keele.  Yet, in August, a well placed phone call on achievement of their prediction suddenly opens up courses to which they were unable to apply.  Are we setting them up to fail by this practice, or is there simply a sensible recalibration of what is actually required to study particular courses at particular universities?
  6.  This article shows a drop out rate in excess of 27,000 students in the first year of their study in 2013.  A mixture of a misguided (?) drive to get in excess of 50% of school leavers to enter further education is one reason for this – many simply were not suited to further academic study for a wide range of reasons, but it also begs the question whether the slightly bizarre arrangements relating to entry via clearing outlined above are a contributory factor.  It seems to me that the inflation of entry requirement seen anecdotally in the last few years (no doubt someone has the figures) and discussed in this article from 2010 partly as a response to perceptions of dumbed down A level results has resulted in a curious gap in the UCAS application process: At the top level there is relative parity between prediction and requirement for most Russell Group courses, but at the lower end students are finding very few courses to which they can apply in the first place, confident of attaining the grades required.  Simply raising the prediction is no answer to this, it is better to find a way to accurately reflect the needs of study, allied to the ability of the student.  With so few interviews taking place, there is little chance for a University to read behind the data and actually match a student to a course.
  7. This has concerned me for a while, but this year it came home.  My eldest has got a place of study, via clearing and I am thrilled and thoroughly confused by what was a tiresome process – offered a place through UCAS at his chosen university at BBB on CDD prediction.  Attained CDD – brilliant .  Anyone who knows the Ginger Ninja will know just what this means.  No interviews, he actually rang the university to ask if there was an error – “why did you offer a place on a course so much higher than my prediction?” he asked, and was told to be positive.  He was.  He missed the entry requirement and was rejected around 3.00pm on results day.  By 5.00 he had been accepted at a course which he had seen in the Autumn and ignored because of the ABB requirement. He had a 10 minute phone call and is now an excited pre-undergraduate.  I hope it will go smoothly, and believe him to be a good bet for success.  However I still do not begin to understand how he has got onto a course so much in excess of his results.  I am thrilled that he has, but it really does make little sense.  I hope against hope that he does not become another statistic for the wrong reasons

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A relationship poetry group for Year 9

This is something I want to run out next term. Obviously there are so many poems to chose from, once I started it was very hard to know where to stop, and this might continue to grow. We use a home-grown anthology in year 9 and generally try to have a clear focus. War, relationships, the future, growth… (now I want to compile a new one starting with Heaney’s Drowning Kittens…)

Still, I went for texts and writers I love. Hardy and Heaney, Shakespeare and Rosetti, Kay and Duffy…

year 9 relationships anthology

So why these poems?

The two Sonnets are crucial to opening up a discussion. Shakespeare powerfully arguing for the everlasting nature of true love and a poem full of the richest figurative writing imaginable and Rosetti, seeming to speak from the same position until the volta introduces the shift and the move to selfless, rather than selfish love. Both are featured in the Edexcel IGCSE anthology which students may encounter in Year 11, though by then the shifts and changes in policy regarding these exams may well mean that the whole syllabus has been radically altered. Not to worry. Great poems deserve to be read.
Also in the anthology is Alice Walker’s Once Upon a Time. The poem looks at the effect of the loss of a loved one – a parent in this case and I have paired it with Heaney’s Digging, in my mind. Walker seems aware of the harshness of her childhood but ultimately sees the positive far outweigh the negatives – beatings happened, but he taught me “how”. Similarly, Heaney vows to “follow” his father. The close relationship (is there a better assonance and balance in all poetry than “snug as a gun”?) is clear, despite the obvious differences between father and son. Again, I hope to find much to discuss and develop in this idea.
Duffy and Kay are paired with two poems about or inspired by childhood. In Duffy’s poem the daughter tries to imagine her way into her mother’s mind and tries to imagine the life her mother led. She seems entranced by her mother’s youthful good looks, although the sense of possession found in the title hardly suggests a willingness to let go. Kay’s poem is all about imagination and childhood. The fragility of a childhood dream – an imaginary friend – which is both tragic and uplifting – I enjoy the grandiose lies of the cat burglar and sense of dissatisfaction with her father’s role as a Union Convenor. I think Kay is a wonderful poet to teach and share with young people and would eagerly teach the Adoption Papers as a single text if time and syllabus allowed. Maybe another time.
Finally, Hardy. I simply adore Hardy and in the Emma poems, the treatment of loss and grief is unsurpassed. Here there is much scope for exploration of Hardy’s rather selfish conclusion as he views himself and his philosophies, but also for the treatment of the “woman”. How affectionate is this poem? Is he angry and confused? Expressing grief or wallowing in self pity?

I can’t wait to see how opinions differ. After all what is the point of teaching poetry if everyone meekly accepts a single interpretation?

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Frankenstein: introductory screencast

This is an introduction for AS students, based on the teaching outline I wrote earlier on this site…

I hope it is useful.


frankenstein intro  powerpoint to follow links.

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Filed under AQA LitB 4, coursework, Frankenstein, OCR A level, teacher training

An introduction to Much Ado

Ready for Edexcel IGCSE Much Ado in Year 10, I have written a new introduction. A screencast is also linked to help with home learning or flipping….

introduction to MAAN 2014  screencast.

powerpoint: introduction to MAAN 2014

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Teaching Frankenstein at AS

One of the joys of a new job is the opportunity to spend the summer preparing new texts to deliver in new syllabii. This is my outline for Frankenstein at AS, for OCR. I am indebted to my predecessor who left a super SOW and have added my own ideas along the way. It will undoubtedly change as time passes and I will endeavour to update the powerpoint in due course.

frankenstein teaching

I hope it is useful.

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Paradise Lost ix, ll 679 ff Satan’s seduction

A short powerpoint to breakdown Satan’s seduction into manageable and useful sections. For use with the synopsis and sound files already blogged.

satan’s seduction ppt

Also, an OCR teaching pack which might be useful:


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Filed under Milton, OCR A level

PARADISE LOST book ix. A synopsis.

Section 1 1-99

The book opens with an invocation to Milton’s muse in the style of all great epics from Homer to Dante. He begs for help as he needs to turn his tale to tragedy and away from the domestic bliss which has dominated the central books of Paradise Lost. The language is powerful and pits “foul distrust and breach disloyal” against “Anger and just rebuke”. The latter will be be seen in Book 10. Book 9 deals with the Fall of Man.

Milton’s form here deliberately recalls the writings of Homer and Virgil and focuses on Achilles – the wrathful and short-lived hero of the Iliad, and Turnus, the honourable and equally short-lived antagonist of Book XII of the Aeneid. He claims a lack of energy for writing of wars and all the accoutrements of battle and asks for help with what is a veery English epic – one that needs its writer to be protected from cold climate or damp weather.

He introduces the narrative by turning the setting of the tale to nightfall and allowing Satan to dominate in his natural habitat. Satan is described as ”fearless” though his actions and further description might give lie to this. He is returning “bent on man’s destruction” and has no care for his own safety, yet he is cautious of day and obviously fears the angelic guard placed around Eden. Milton describes the 7 days spent chasing the night around the Earth before his return in a manner which recalls the 7 day creation phase of God’s earth. He searches the whole earth before alighting on a specific geographical location for Eden, possibly giving Milton a chance to show off his knowledge of the known globe in a time of great expansion of such knowledge. He decides to hide and chooses the serpent as a fitting vessel for this purpose. It is suggested that the serpent is already sufficiently “wily” that the presence of Satan will make little alteration to its outward appearance.

Section 2 100-191

The focus here might be on the character of Satan based on his words and actions. As the passage opens he is seeking to justify his action and focuses first on the Earth. He is convincing himself, and the reader, that he is in no way settling for second b best. T h e opening lines, complex syntax possibly suggesting the somewhat tortuous logic, make his case: as the second t o be created, after heaven, earth must b e an improvement. He will use a similar argument when flattering Eve. He sees earth as mimicking God, being at the centre of many other heavens all bearing light to benefit the Earth. To this end, he extrapolates, is placed Man at the centre of all, bearing Reason in addition to the other qualities mentioned. At this stage he seems content to recognise the beauties of Earth, but from.l 114 a new side emerges as he shows his bitterness and jealousy for all that is Good. In short, this is the Satan who acts as a precursor of ma.y Gothic villains, from Heathcliffe to The Creature. His jealousy will.lead to hatred and thence to destruction of all that is Good. As he says: “all good to me becomes / Bane. The poison is stressed by the enjambement and placed as a line opener. He is clear that he does not choose on Earth, rather to make “others such as I” and is fully aware of the possible consequences. Satan speaks in long and sinuous sentences and Milton uses alliteration from time to time to add “voice” and to highlight the pleasure which he gets from his planning. Look at ll131_134 and note the repetitive W forms which lead the ready easily to the sudden shift to guttural attack as he perceives his coming Glory. In this passage Satan’s arrogance begins to show. His overweening ambition is to destroy God’s creation quickly and then to ruin his creation- “A creature formed of Earth” and who has been given “our spoils”. As his passion rises, seen in the increase of alliteration and assonance, he breaks off to ejaculate in passion “O indignity” as heperceives angels subservient to mankind. It is as though his wounded pride and ambition meet at this point to justify his action.

This moment introduces his fears. Despite his bravado he dreads the vigilance of the angels and Milton can arrange a metaphor for his evil in his attempts to evade detection. The imagery is of obscuring mist and serpent-like twists a nd turns. Evil never moves clearly or in straight lines! His disgust at needing to mid with the “bestial slime” is evident, as he sinks to slowest level yet. His rhetorical question on line 168/9 stands out and challenges the reader, especially given the historical context of the composition. He ends by a clear statement that he is aware of the propensity of revenge to harm the revenge, but he cares not: “spite then with spite is best repaid” is as clear a credo as any he has offered.
Milton ends the section with a description of his tortuous journey- twists and darkness being the key elements before Satan settles within the serpent to await dawn. His dawn- the dawn of destruction.

The character has all the arrogance of the early books here, but little of the winning charm. He is consumed with envy and hatred of the good which now drives him. His heuristic desire to topple God is evident, but it is driven by such obvious malignity that it does not seem heroic. However, rather as was the case with villains such as Iago, it is hard not to admire the honesty sheer chutzpah of this most villainous of villains. His language excites and his diction thrills.

Section 3 ll193-384

After the darkness and secrecy of the preceding section, Eden awakes in radiant beauty and calm. The language is filled with religious imagery of altars and thanksgiving before the “human pair” e.merge and in a synaesthetic merging of sound and smell,offer their thanks for the new day. Milton introduces their dialogue with subtlety and humour, running on the “growing work”, and their is no sense of what lies ahead.

The first dialogue displays the characters of Adam and Eve. He seems solid and unimaginative, though kind at heart, but she is harder to read and, as the key player in what is to follow, much more interesting to look at more closely. Eve opens the drama and Milton makes her straightforward and sensible. This is important as whatever faults she is later found to have, she should not mimic Satan’s mode of address. She greets Adam as an equal and states her request- a plea for limited independence. Even here though, Milton places words into her mouth which smack of the temptation to come: “wanton”, luxurious” and “wild” all carry connotations of female sexual licence. She also speaks with language derived from flower-lore: moodiness denote faithful marriage, as does ivy, but she will work with rises, symbols of transient passion. All is foreshadowed in this first speech, but there is a sense that Eve is oblivious of all she suggests.

After Adam has replied and reinforced both God’s command and the lowly place of woman in society, he continues by addressing Reason, which will become one of Satan’s prime images and also his fear for Eve. He is not unaware of the threat of Satan. He urges care and recognises Satan’s envy of their bliss as a prime threat. He concludes by stressing the balance of their relationship and stating that man should protect woman or “with her the worst endure(s)”.

The result is the start of the development of independent Eve. Her next speech is short and passionate, opening with the hyperbole of “offspring of heaven and earth, and all earth’s Lord.” She has Bern told to keep her place and it seems to rankle her spirit. She too heard the warning and is offended that Adam should believe that she might be tempted. Although the dramatic irony of what follows is clear to all, her passion wins the sympathy of the reader as she vents her feelings of dismay. Milton allows Adam to reply with “healing words”, and in doing so brings this marital squabble to life, whilst establishing Adam as something of an appeaser, rather than a man of action. His address to her as “daughter of God and Man..” is a clear attempt to apologise whilst also , incidentally, emphasising her position as the only female on Earth and the mother of mankind. His I ritual excuse is weak: it is not that she would be tempted, but rather, that the temptation itself, even when resisted, would in some way bring dishonest onto her. Of more weight us his suggestion that they are stronger together and better able to resist what he recognises is a powerful and subtle enemy. He is once again shown as “domestic” and strongly supportive of matrimony, and a little mortified, though no less determined, Eve continues her assault.

Her argument gathers strength from Adam’s fears: what type of freedom will they ever have if they are unable to separate? How can they ever be happy if they are so afraid of harm? She is confident of withstanding Satan and feels that the pair will win honour by withstanding him. This is the first real evidence of an Eve who is partly driven by ambition, as we will see later in the book. Her final point suggests that God would not have created beings who are only safe in pairs. She seems quick witted in her responses to Adam and also seems able to frame her philosophy with accuracy and passion.

At this point Adam explains the concept of freewill and thus the danger that lurks within all men. God has left humans with free will to choose their paths through life. If one is deceived, then free will allows for humans to err and therefore to fall. Free will is dictated by Reason, and it is this that is fallible- reason can be tricked. He warns her against seeking temptation and explains that Satan can deceive all, not just her. However, just as he seems to be having the last word on the matter, he relents. He tells her to “go”- an abrupt imperative- and feels that if she stays under compulsion she is “absent more”. This argument seems once again domestic, as though Adam is responding in a rather touchy feely manner, rather than as the Lord of Earth.

Eve leaves, aware of the warning, but confident that Satan will not seek her trial. After all, she reasons, she is the weaker and he has little to gain from that!

Section 4 ll385-493

The section opens with a deeply touching description of the parting of the couple. Their deep love is clear, particularly that of Adam for Eve as they leave. The irony of Eve’s promise to return by noon is clear. The opening g line repeats with alliterative h patterns the image of the two letting slip their hands:” from her husband’s hand her hand / soft she withdrew”. The repetition focuses on the joined hands and the beautifully placed adverb emphasises the love that is shared. Adam’s behaviour is well known to anyone who has ever seen a loved one off on journey- he wishes Eve well, “desiring more her stay”. Simple, beautiful and powerful. In lines 385ff Milton uses the first of many similes which mark out this section of the narrative. In this first he equates Eve with a sequence of Classical nymphs and dryads, each seduced, and stresses their innocence at the time of their fall.

Before describing Satan’s approach, Milton interrupts his own narrative to address Eve directly in “apostrophe”. The rhetoric is heightened here as he describes the “event perverse” without making his syntax clear: whether he refers to the separation or the planned return or the seduction is not clear. Somehow, he seems to use the phrase to encapsulate all three. She is deceived, failing and hapless. The last word probably meaning “luckless” . It seems clear that the narrative has reached her tragic moment.

Satan approaches within the serpent, bent on destruction and secrecy. He has indeed sought her on her own and now finds her working. The flower-lore shows us that she is working with feminine fidelity mind, but is bereft of male support- thus her work is irredeemably weakened. Notice that he wishes his”hap” might find the “hapless” Eve. She is surrounded with symbols of transient love and luxurious colour- this will only end in one way… a storm is coming.

As Satan approaches, Milton uses a 20 line epic simile comparing his sensations to those of someone experiencing fresh air after incarceration, but more importantly, to one who spies a virginal countryside passing and who determines to exercise his droite du seigneur over her. His excitement at seeing Eve, behind to undo him. She is described in purest terms- heavenly, angelic- and ironically her “rapine sweet” serves to dilute his evil. So.pure is she that she steals away his malice and leaves him “stupidly good”. For a moment. He recalls his purpose and plans his approach “gratulating”. He is utterly err lyon self obsessed and his inward purpose is clear.
When he speaks, his language is serpentine and tangled. He comments again that he is driven by a pleasure found in destruction and then that he fears Adam both for his intellect and his physical strength and immortality. He is weakened and resents it. That Adam is perceived as being intellectual might surprise, based on what we have read. Eve seems much quicker witted, but she is so ambitious and eager for change. This will be her undoing. Her willingness to undermine the status quo has been noted already. Milton is happy to let the reader decide the degree of culpability she should carry.

Section 5 ll494-631

This section begins with the treatment of Satan’s progress toward Eve. It has already been noted that he travelled through a phallic dorset in the previous section before spotting Eve, now his movement and appearance are closely described. The descriptors used to describe his erect figure are telling: “tower, burnished, verdant gold, spires, crested aloft, turret crest, sleek, enamelled…” no wonder Eve falls for his charms! He has stated that he fears Adam based on Adam’s overt masculinity, but here is his response- strong, glorious and utterly tempting. A brief simile of Classical snakes accompanies him and we notice that reference is also made to his folds rising like a “surging maze” and once again see reference to the fact that evil will never be clearly seen. He even travels “obliquely” and ‘side-long”. Another short simile likens him to a boat being skilfully sailed and there is further reference to temptation in the use of “wanton” to describe his body, also called a “wreath” which presumably foreshadows death. The final clue to his modus operandi comes in the description of him “fining” and “licking the ground”. Satan knows that the key to Eve’s heart is to flatter her sense of ambition and thwarted equality.

HIs “glozing” is based on this. He welcomes her with high adoration, calling her “sovereign mistress” and going on to suggest that she is the “fairest resemblance” of God, the maker, and that she should be widely recognised and worshipped. However, trapped in Eden, this will never happen. She should be a “goddess among Gods”. The fact that she is not, is clearly implied to be deeply unfair.

Eve’s brief response is focused not so much on the message as the messenger. She is intrigued and demands explanation which Satan is only to happy to give. He states that though he once was like all other animals, thinking only of food and sex – Milton places “or sex” on a new line following enjambement to intensify the potential of the phrase and its implications to shock, he chanced upon a tree bearing fragrant apples. The sense are invoked here to help to increase the vividness of the vision. Satan describes himself winding about the trunk in a parody of the flower-lore from earlier in the passage – this is no woodbine suggesting female fidelity! Once sated (another sexual term) he describes a growing sense of Reason and the emergence of a voice before he started to think about the world around him. His story here suggests a chance encounter with Eve whom he flatters once again by rating her as having a “divine semblance”. His language in this passage has lost its sinuous complexity. His message needs to be given with clarity if Eve is to understand it. The syntax is straightforward and the vocabulary direct, suited to his “gentle dumb expression”. Although Milton refers to him regularly as “sly” or “guileful”, Eve is utterly absorbed by his tale.

She asks where the tree is, and Satan, flattering still (Empress) tells her to follow him beyond a bed of myrtles, symbolising faithful marriage. The message is clear, she is about to transgress. In a half-line designed to emphasise the sheer gravity of the moment, Eve gives herself in Satan’s power “Lead then”. She has been flattered and has had her latent curiosity entranced.

Section 6 ll631-838

Satan leads the way and so complete is his trickery that he makes the “intricate seem straight” before being described as swamp gas, leading travellers from the true path at night. The images relating to darkness, obfuscation and sin are clear to read. Milton describes Eve here as “our credulous mother”, using the first person to increase the link between the reader and Eve and also showing certain disdain – “credulous” is not a kind word. There is a suggestion of being too easily won over here. He also enjoys a pun on “root of all our woe” referring to the tree itself and the fall which is about to occur. When Eve gives a brief refusal, even making a pun on “fruitless” as she sees the tree, Satan is ready. Seizing upon Eve’s defence to Reason, he outlogics her in this passage. He calls upon all the training of the orators of old and pretends to be moved by the perceived injustice of the prohibition. He pulls himself up to his full height (of phallic significance here) and blasts Eve with the power of his sophistry.

There are six sections to his argument:

1. 684-92: eating the fruit will not kill
2. 692-702: God will be impressed by your courage and is too just to kill you
3. 703-9: the fruit has been forbidden to prevent mankind from becoming Gods
4. 710-17: the fruit will work in proportion to the powers already present in the eater
5. 718-25: the tree is more powerful than God
6. 725-30: It can not be an offence to eat the fruit.

Satan confuses Eve’s reason with all the rhetorical flourishes he can muster. This speech will be examined more closely later, but I want to draw attention to a range of elements. He uses direct lies and logical fallacies (702) to win over Eve, whilst also diminishing her belief in God as omnipotent. Milton chooses to use references to gods rather than to God throughout the speech as Satan plays down the importance of the Deity. Indeed, by establishing God as envious of mankind and worried of the threat to his position should the fruit be eaten, he further feeds Eve’s ambition and takes the reader back into the world of Books 1&2 and to the scenes explaining the fall from Heaven and the subsequent rallying of the lesser devils. As he finishes Milton notes that his words “replete with guile” find “too easy” entry to Eve’s heart. She is hooked and Milton seems to be putting some blame onto Eve. She has been won very easily. Note that in Lines 483ff Milton has made Satan fear Adam’s intellectual ability. Eve, for all her delightful passion and ability to think quickly when faced by as open a soul as Adam has proven no match for the evil and the deceiving.

On L 354 Adam has warned against “Evil seeming Good” and now his concerns are proved justified. Eve is led by her “appetite”, the word carrying sexual overtones and being often used in a derogatory manner against women, and is tempted by the tree itself which “solicited her longing eye” just as a suitor might entrap an unwary girl. eve begins by addressing the tree itself, but moves swiftly on to an internal debate about God’s motives and her position as she seeks to justify her forthcoming transgression. She clearly believes Satan’s story about the gaining of a voice, and adds a point of her own:

1. God calls the tree the Tree of Knowledge
2. Knowledge of Good AND Evil is a good thing (the one helps to recognise the other)
3. Therefore the prohibition is senseless and caries no weight since God is forbidding the humans to be good and wise

Furthermore, she deduces that since the snake has not dies by eating, then the punishment of death must apply solely to mortals. She holds the snake up as an ironic paragon of virtue, wisdom and friendliness to mankind and is driven by her lust for “wisdom” to ignore the threat of death. Milton shows the precise moment of the fall by the single iambic units at the end of line 781 “she plucked, she ate:”
As she does so Earth is convulsed in pain, akin to birthing pains as she prepares to allow death to enter the world. Milton gives power to the moment into the half line before a caesura: “that all was lost” After the pause allowed by the full-stop, the snake slinks away, his job complete and leaves Eve to eat. She is clearly described as eating in sexual terms – “Greedily she engorged without restraint”, indeed she seems drunk on her excess as she addresses the tree for a second time.

She addresses the tree in worship and promises to serve it above all others. God is forgotten in this paean to knowledge, indeed he appears as “the forbidder” as Eve’s powers of self deception lead her to ever greater hyperbole. She is clear that Experience shall be her guide and that the pair have lost out by not being prepared to follow this path. He rethought then turn to Adam in a passage crucial for those considering Eve’s character as presented by Milton. She has to consider what, if anything, to share with her husband. She sees benefit in keeping silent and raising herself, and all womankind to a position not just of equality but even occasional superiority over men. Her question “for inferior who is free?” seems to hit at the social question prevalent in 17/18thC England as well as her predicament. She also shows a jealousy that should she die as a result of eating, she would lose Adam to living his life out with “another Eve”. This seems to be her driving motive, although she does turn it round to suggest that she could face death only if Adam were with her. She give obeisance to the tree and departs to find her husband.

Section 7 LL 839-915

Adam has been waiting for Eve and has cut her a garland. The image is clear – flowers and innocent growth cut down in their prime to mask a garland – or a wreath. In his innocence, Adam is utterly unaware of what is about to befall him.

Eve meets Adam near the tree and milton suggests that her face has developed some of the same rhetorical tricks associated with Satan as she seeks to encourage Adam to share the Fall. Her speech is “bland’ and her “countenance blithe” but she is given away by “distemper” suggestive a blushing and sexual heat. In her speech, the words “I / Have also tasted” are discreetly hidden away amongst justification and narrative retelling of the powers of the Tree. What is evident is her excitement for her new state, based on “growing up to godhead”. She says that she wants to be joined with Adam in all things and begs him to eat. He is astonished and drops the garland – “down” placed as a line opener connotes the descent to Hell much more than a simple dropping of the flowers. The roses now are “faded” – love is transient and is now dying is the suggestion. For the first time he gives her greeting of a similar level to that of Satan, but moves swiftly to regret, emphasised by the knelling D alliteration of “Defaced, deflowered, and now to death devote?” He sees at once that she has been deceived, but is equally quick to declare his intention of dying with her and never to stand her loss even if given another Eve. “flesh of flesh/ Bone of my bone thou art.”

Section 8 LL916-989

Adam shows some admiration for his “adventurous” wife and his comments echo those that Satan suggested would come from God.

1. 925 6 No one can undo the eating, not even God
2. 927-36 You might not die since the serpent might have altered the fruit by eating it first and he has not died, he has actually improved his position, as might they
3. 938 -951 God is unlikely to wish to destroy all tha the has created and holds dear, especially if the “Adversary” is given an opportunity to gloat and to develop his influence as a result.

As he repeats his affirmation to stay with Eve, her relief is evident in the cry of gratitude to Love which opens her speech on Line 961. She seems momentarily to recognise her deed as a “crime” but moves away swiftly to confirm his actions. Denying her inner thoughts at L 827ff she claims that she would never ask him to share her guilt if death was going to be the result. She seems to be deceiving him here, in the manner of Satan and it is one of the signs for the reader that this eve is not the same innocent and audacious girl that started the book. Milton is able to show Experience gained in this way.

Section 9: LL990- end

There is little doubt that Milton wants the Fall of Man to be seen as stemming directly from Eve. In Lines 998-9 it is clear that Adam is fully aware of what he is doing but is “overcome with female charm”. This could be seen as indicative of man’s weakness when faced by woman’s sexual advances, but certainly at the time of writing links much ,ore closely to the power of the seductress, be it Delilah or the Sirens. The Earth again suffers the birth pangs of Original Sin, but Adam and eve take no notice; they “fancy” that they feel “Divinity”, but fall prey to lust immediately – he is “carnal”, she “lascivious” and a new seduction ensues.

Adam claims that he only now recognises her beauty, the Fall has created an awareness of sexual attraction, and leads her away to make love, with none of the chaste passion shown in book 4. Instead the language is that of sexual heat and licence – “ he forbore not glance or toy of amorous intent” suggests as wide a range of sexual pleasure as on eight wish to imagine. The flowers surrounding the bowers are short lived or even signifiers of death – asphodel lilies and hyacinths. Their post-coital rest gives no release, however. Post lapidarian Adam and Eve are wracked with guilt and an new awareness of shame. They are restless and given to bad dreams before awaking and dealing their nakedness. They sit in guilty silence until Adam blames Eve: “O eve, in evil hour thou didst give ear/ To that false worm…” and thus equates Eve’s name with the concept of Evil itself. Despite the fact that he ate of free will an din knowledge of the act, he seems unwilling to accept any share. He bemoans the fact that he will never be able to look on God again without being blinded and longs to live on in hiding, protected from any spying eye. He suggests that the pair cover their shame and leaves are found to tie around their waists. Milton digresses here to show a link to the recently discovered tribesman of the Amazon or of America who although unaware of the customs of the “civilised” world found it necessary to hide their genitals from view. It is clear that all descendants of Adam have inherited his sin.

The pair now are left in the final lines of the book to a life of bickering and squabble. Gone is the harmony of the opening of book 9, replaced by an angry and sullen mood, shown clearly by 1123ff. Milton claims that “Appetite” has replaced “Reason” and suggesting Adam to be “Distempered” when he speaks. This is a significant shift from the measured voice he has used earlier in the book. He blames Eve for her wanderlust and she is sparked to challenge him, suggesting that all might have happened had he been present or had Satan approached him alone. Indeed, she reminds him, he had agreed to let her go in the first place and begs to know why he had not “forbidden” the act. This question is key to an interpretation of the Fall. To have forbidden her, Adam would have been entrapping her and with no freedom there is no happiness, but had he done so, the Fall may not have happened. Wa sAdam weak and himself prey to feminine wiles when he agreed to he departure in line 372? Or is Eve simply trying to pass off the blame. After all, her ambition to be equal and to attain Divinity is what allowed Satan to prosper so quickly and so easily. Certainly Adam is clear: he did all he could. His warnings could not have been clearer and Eve was the one who, led by a wish to find “matter of glorious trial”, has allowed Satan to triumph. He ends with a warning to all men: If you indulge women’s wishes, they will not allow any restraint and then seek to blame others for their transgressions. The book ends on this high chauvinism and the pair are left alone in painful argument.

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Moving on: thoughts as I leave for pastures new.

As I approach the end of my job,I want to reflect on 10 years in a relationship and my feelings as I move on to pastures New.

What an odd sensation.  But then the whole adventure has been a little strange in some ways.  Anyone who read my “who I am, what I do” blog knows the back story: opera singer becomes English teacher to have a job which both utilises my brain ( the multiplier effect) and which does not mean 8 months a year away from my wife and children.

Thus it was that in 2004 I arrived at the front door of a well known Grammar School in Slough.

Below you will find my top moments and thoughts-a quick a single pedagogical Desert Island Disks.
Teachers are incredibly thin skinned.
There was little rhyme and reason to the recruitment process.
I will never forget.
Leadership blues.
Changes. ( with apologies to Mr Bowie for the plagiarism).
Just leave me alone.
I can do this.

We teachers are a funny bunch. Every day we spend hours facing groups of potentially critics and revolutionaries.  We show evidence of calm and serenity in this arena all day long.  However, stand up to talk at a staff inset and all changes.  We are nervous in a way that does not usually show and find perceived criticism very hard to bear.  Thus when I arrived with a mindset honed in the opera house that said “make a mistake? Make it a big and confident one and then laugh about it”, it took a while to realise that this approach did not work in schools.  A passing comment about a dire colour scheme in a PowerPoint or a suggestion that a certain resource might not be quite as effective as was believed, was greeted with a remarkable amount of hostility. Clearly things were going to be a bit different in my new world. Ten years on, I know one reason- Ofsted and the associated assessment regime in school.  No wonder there are few smiles in some schools.  In my old job, performance was transitory (unless recorded) and although reviews appeared in national and international press, our careers depended on our ability to perform and win over an audience.  We knew that such opinion is subjective and understood that a single poor review is no reason to end a career.  How different the pressure on a teacher.  Despite lip service, Ofsted still seem to favour certain teaching styles and many lethargic managements still require adherence to this idea.  Teachers know that poor performances when observed are career threatening and in many schools are still insignificant pressure to respond to the ill informed or dogmatic demands of their management.

My first head teacher was quite a case. She ruled in the manner of Elizabeth 1st and gathered a coterie of close confidants around her.  As a trainee I appealed to her because of my background- Classics and opera- and so it was that one morning about three weeks into my teaching life, she glided past me in the staffroom and muttered something about a job.  Too surprised to respond, I grunted and moved on.  A few days later I passed her in a corridor and raised the subject: “I do not joke” was the response.  Later as a close friend struggled under quite appalling pressures and a grievance procedure I saw that this was certainly true.  She was in control: interviews by phone were common as were bizarre questions -“are you an alcoholic?” Is one example.  I do wonder though whether the recent fetishistic in-box tasks, role plays and student panels really do produce better results.

Without children there would be no teachers.  We all have our favourites but also recall those who have impacted our lives and made us better people. Looking back there is a girl who.I helped through GCSE resits in yr 12. She seemed committed but had a dreadful attendance record. She had energy, but no stability.  She cared for a baby sibling almost full-time and received irate phone calls during afternoon lessons from an irate mother demanding to know where she was and why she wasn’t at home to help out.  She passed and was in touch recently- a lovely and successful young lady.  Most of all though was the boy who lived.  When I first met him in yr8 I was told he would not live beyond 16. He was wheelchair bound and suffering from a degenerative condition which would inexorably take over his body.  But never his mind.  I never saw him downcast and loved the way that his peers engaged with him and encouraged him.  He was not left out in any way and staff were often asked to spend lunch in the gym overseeing the most spectacular games of basketball ever conceived.  I was his form tutor in year 12 and helped him with the UCAS process. I am thrilled that he is about to begin his Masters degree.  We bump into each other on and I think he is the single most impressive human being I have encountered since I began this life, if not ever.  Aren’t teachers lucky?

Leadership has been something that I have given much thought.  I am about to take on my first HOD role and am obviously concerned to get it right.  However I know that I will make mistakes and hope that my honesty and integrity still lead my response.  Leadership seems to need to balance what has to be done with what should be done.  For me, the latter seems the more important.  A moral compass and a sense of integrity should not be sacrificed for political expediency.  Too often it is.  I know one wonderful SLT member who has gone out on a limb rather than flinch from what is right- it has not won her the same friends as those who nod meekly and accept each element of policy as though their lives depended on it.  At what point did we abdicate our responsibility for creating an excellent education system?  The system is currently damaged.  Ofsted seem to be vanishing up their own fundament in the search for a method of stigmatising the poor, based on dogma and entrenched philosophies whilst leaders seem to be lagging behind the staff when trying to drive change and embrace the potential freedoms of a world without levels and in which the changes at KS5 could be embraced as a challenge.  There are exceptions, naturally, and I follow many staggeringly impressive figures on Twitter, but being realistic, these voices which drive open and exciting discussion in the Twitter-verse are a tiny minority of school leaders in the country, many of whom are still cowed by the league table culture and a fear of what Ofsted might say.  Based on my limited 10 year experience, I urge leaders to remember: 

1 You were a classroom teacher once- rediscover that excitement
2 Don’t build walls between yourself and the other staff
3 Share your vision and enthuse
4 Credit what is happening, don’t just criticise what is not
5 Be a Multiplier and empower your staff to use their intellect to benefit the school
6 Look for evidence before accepting the latest pseudo-scientific breakthrough
7 Remember to be human both for staff and students alike
8 Think of yourself as the stem of the glass supporting the bowl. The support is the fragile bit – be careful and gentle and honest.

5.  Embrace change! With no change life is deadly.  I try to find new books to use in class and always look for pedagogical developments: some works, some does not, but even with the latter, I find that the seeds sown often develop into something interesting at a later stage.  My change of job is exciting.  I know that I don’t really want to have to go back to stage one of the “getting to know you” game, but it will be worth it and the change excites me greatly.  Look forward, not backwards.

6.   This one comes  back to assessment. Many are the cries to be left alone to teach and, to a degree I support this.  Confrontational observation with a checklist of required behaviours has been systematically rubbished this year in a series of writings by bloggers such as David Didau and Tom Bennett, often collated by another figure “Old Andrew” ( who blogged anonymously for years to avoid hostility stemming from his trenchant views).  Only today the Civitas report by Robert Peal has surely sounded the death knell.  No. In September there will be hundreds of us required to jump through hoops to achieve a weird sort of acceptance of our competence.  Leave me alone, and give me the power and space to develop my own pedagogy.  Institute triads to support and develop colleagues and ensure that all access the incredible wealth of real CPD opportunities found in the cloud and regularly given publicity on Twitter.  At the same time, telling companies purporting to sell courses guaranteed to show the “outstanding” lesson to crawl back under their stones.  Use the money saved to send 10 Staff members to #TLAB15, one of the best days money can buy.

7.  I can and I bloody well will!

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