Away! the moor is dark beneath the moon, Rapid clouds have drunk the last pale beam of even: Away! the gathering winds will call the darkness soon, From Remorse April, 1814 Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792-1822
Day 18: No More Mr C: The End: My time as a mature student: 2007
The time has come!
I’ve finally had enough and wrote a letter to the college about Mr C. It wasn’t something I took lightly, but it was the right thing to do. Not just for myself, but for those who follow after me.
For those of you who have been following my progress will understand why I did it. The English classes were not of a high standard. I spoke to Mr A and told him I was disgusted by them and explained my dissatisfaction in how the classes were taught, and about the test we were to be taking on the 16th May.
When I arrived at the class there was only two of us left. Ms 40’s, myself and the classroom assistant, the woman who was brought in to help Motorbike Dave, only he no longer attended.
“I’ve signed you up to take the test on the 16th, Paula,” Mr C said once we realised no one else was coming.
“I won’t be taking it,” I said.
“Why not?” Ms 40’s gasped.
“What!” Mr C said, taken back.
“I’ve learnt nothing from these classes. And passing the test on your computer means nothing either. If I still don’t understand what I’ve learnt.”
I now understand why he didn’t bother teaching us grammar etc because the questions on the computer were multiple choice answers. After reading a paragraph and the question you select your choice of answers from four possibilities.
I did the pre-test run three times selecting different answers each time, and passed with flying color three times. What is the point of that when I still didn’t know my tenses from my clauses or my adverbials from my passive voice?
The classroom assistant said, “It seems to me that you’re looking for perfection in your writing.”
Dear Reader, What’s wrong with wanting perfection rather than going at it half-heartedly?
I shall explain what happened next.
I sent in my letter and received one back from the college inviting me to a meeting. When my husband and I arrived there were two people waiting for us, a gentleman and Ann. (re: teacher handing out discs.)
The man did most of the talking saying they took my letter seriously and wanted give me a chance to explain why I wouldn’t take the test. I explained as best I could, that I was upset by what had happened, and had hoped to gain clarity about English grammar from the lessons but instead I was none the wiser. All my frustrations bubbled over and I broke down and cried. I said it was like being back at school and walking way without really understanding anything. The gentleman said “How did I feel about taking the course again, with another teacher.”
I said I was delighted to have the opportunity.
So I joined again. This time the teacher was a young woman. She seemed more organised and used the board when explaining anything. I did notice she copied most things from a book. If you asked her a question, she also looked things up in the book, and then read out the answers to us.
A couple of lessons in, The teacher spent a good portion of the time telling us what a terrible time she was having teaching her young daytime students because they were rude and aggressive, throwing furniture around and swearing at her.
Dear reader, I might come across as being unsympathetic towards her, but I didn’t see what that had to do with us. We were a class of twelve all willing and wanting to learn from her.
On another occasion she turned up without her glasses and one of the students lent her a spare pair they were carrying. I wondered quite what would have happened if she hadn’t been loan a spare pair.
One evening when the rest of the class left for a smoke break, I asked the teacher if she could look at a piece of my writing. She showed an interest in my work. I explained that I wanted to understand about tenses and how did I know when I could change a tense, or what tense I needed to write in.
She asked me what it was I was writing. I explained I was writing a novel and marked a paragraph on a page from the opening chapter of my WIP. She said she would look at it, but not now. I had to accept that as she set the sheet to one side.
The following week was half term so no lesson. You can imagine my surprise when I received a letter asking me to attend a meeting, which I did. As I stood outside the classroom the caretaker told me there wasn’t any evening classes as it was half term. I said I was aware but I was there for an assessment to see how I was getting on in my evening class.
Ann arrived. I chatted happily with her, but she didn’t engage with me as she unlocked the door. She held a plastic folder and I could see a photocopy of my nonfiction article which had recently been published in a magazine. She set the folder down and pulled out a sheet. It was the opening chapter from my novel.
There was a growing tension in the room, and I felt uncomfortable.
What came next, hit me hard. For a moment, I couldn’t speak. Not that she was going to allow me too. She pointed at the page and ranted on about how if I had been at full-time student at the college I would’ve had detention for handing in such disgusting language, and for expecting one of her teachers to read such work.
I tried to explain that I had marked a paragraph for the teacher to read, and that it didn’t contain any bad language. I said, I was writing for an adult audience and that I had only asked the teacher to check my tenses.
She wasn’t listening, and continued, saying people like me disgusted her because I thought I could get what I wanted by just bursting into tears. She stood, gathered up her folder and told me not to bother coming back because I wasn’t welcome at her college.
Here’s the page from my novel Ravenscar: Please be aware it contains strong language.
“So Martha Thompson, what else can you tell me? Apart from the fact you’re more like a ghost than a witch, because you seem to be haunting me.”
Alex came back into the room; his lean, naked body glistened as he rubbed his fair hair dry in a towel.
“What were you saying? With the water running, I couldn’t hear.”
“Her name’s Martha.”
“The woman, I keep dreaming about. Alex, you don’t listen to me, do you?”
“Please, Esther I don’t have time for your silly dreams. That’s all they are silly dreams. So what are you doing today, catching up on your sleep? Or better still, you could be out and about looking for a new job, which would be much appreciated by me.”
On hearing the postman, Alex slipped on his shorts and disappeared downstairs calling back as he went.
“I hope I’ll hear some good news about the business deal, Amanda and I have been working on.”
Esther sat up and jumped out of bed. “My God, what did that woman say about our blood, our forefathers?” She stood before her long, dressing mirror studying herself, “She doesn’t look like me.” Holding back her shoulder-length brown hair, she studied her green eyes in the glass.
“Who doesn’t look like you?” Alex said as he came back carrying the post.
Esther tilted her head first one way then the other, studying her features. “Martha doesn’t look like me.”
“Oh shit, shit, shit…,”Alex exclaimed, shaking the letter he held.
Yes, Dear Reader, The word shit upset the young teacher and Ann. Maybe, Alex should have said, “Oh Crap!” But I don’t think that would’ve made any difference.
Anyway, I got kicked out of college. It broke my heart, but not my spirit. I wanted printed on the back of all my books ‘Contains strong language, not suitable for college teachers.’
My darling husband kindly paid for me to have a private teacher come to our home. We could only afford one lesson, but Russell felt it might help me to see where my weaknesses were, and if need be I could have a few more lessons as and when we could afford them.
When the private teacher arrived, I explained everything that had happened at the college. She said she wasn’t at all surprised as the college had a bad reputation. A lot of her students had studied there, and failed their exams which was why they needed her help to re-sit them. She read some of my work and gave me a few pointers with my punctuation. Overall she felt I wrote naturally, and I had a good comprehension of English grammar. Once my confidence grew my writing would improve, but if I really felt I needed extra lessons she might be able to fit me in, but she was very busy.
In 2020 the college became nothing more than a pile of rubble, and in the near future it will become housing. The house of learning has now amalgamated with a college in a nearby city. I just hope the teachers there know how to bring out the best in our young people.
And what happened to Mr C. I’ve no idea. I guess he’s still writing his novel.
And as for me. The saying, What doesn’t break you makes you grow stronger is true. Don’t give up on your dream.