Poem by teacher’s daughter attacking Gove is “internet sensation” - I respond in the same way

Janet Downs's picture
An "excoriating poem" attacking Education Secretary Michael Gove is “an internet sensation among teachers,” says the Independent*.

The poem inspired me to write my own response. The poem’s author, Jess Green, is a teacher’s daughter so she will know from bitter experience how having a teacher for a parent encroaches on family life.

If your parent’s a teacher
She’ll work late at night
She’ll work at the weekend
Without much respite.

If your parent’s a teacher
He’ll be occupied
With lesson preparation
And much else beside…

If your parent’s a teacher
She’ll often dissolve
Because her pupils have problems
Which she cannot solve

If your parent’s a teacher
You’ll soon learn to dread
The day Sats results come
Or a report from Ofsted

If your parent’s a teacher
You’ll hear every day
How your parent is lazy
Should work harder for pay

You’ll hear politicians
Say your parent’s done wrong
Because UK kids score less
Than those in Hong Kong

But, if your parent’s a teacher
Stand up and loudly say
My parent works damned hard
Day after day after day…

And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…

UPDATE 7 March 2014. The thread has been changed to make it clear I wrote the poem If Your Parent's a Teacher. You can see Jess Green's performance of her poem by following the Schools Improvement Net link below. I've also corrected two typos in my poem - I'd typed "you" when it should have been "your". Thanks, Henry, for pointing that out.

As an ex-teacher I knew that marking/preparation/report writing etc impinged on my role as a parent. So, for my children and all other teachers' children, here's an extra, darker, verse:

If your parent’s a teacher
You might think you’re cursed
Because your parent seems to
Put other kids first.

*See Schools Improvement Net here
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Michele -Lowe's picture
Sat, 05/04/2014 - 10:58

Love it!

FJM's picture
Sun, 06/04/2014 - 21:17

No mention of Gove.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 07/04/2014 - 08:07

FJM - sorry, I should have been clearer. My poem was in response to Jess Green's performance of her poem attacking Gove, his policies and their consequences which included teacher workload. Although Jess isn't a teacher, her mother is a head in Leicester. This is what inspired the poem.

Lauren's picture
Sun, 06/04/2014 - 22:38

FJM the above poem isn't the one attacking Gove, no idea why they've included that one. If you search "Jess Green letter to Gove" you can watch her perform it. Pretty powerful stuff, enjoy!

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 07/04/2014 - 08:10

Lauren and FJM: the link to Jess Green's performance of her poem is the School Performance Link at the bottom of the thread. I tried to link the Independent article but for some odd reason I couldn't embed the link.

Lauren's picture
Mon, 07/04/2014 - 12:37

Ah ok, apologies! Thanks

FJM's picture
Tue, 08/04/2014 - 11:24

Not impressed, but I am a bit old-fashioned and don't like f***ing and a**e in poetry.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 08/04/2014 - 13:22

FJM - Tony Harrison used swear words in his controversial poem "V" inspired by the graffiti on graves in the cemetery where his parents were buried. "Inspired" is perhaps the wrong word because Harrison's use of the words showed his rage at the desecration he saw.

And I used "arse" in my poem about the elocution lesson:

FJM's picture
Tue, 08/04/2014 - 11:30

Having now listened to the whole performance, there was too much hyperbole, I did not like the attacks on Gove as having a chip on his shoulder about not going to Eton, the asides about coke-snorting prostitutes (Osborne?), the references to scabs and so on. There is much I am concerned about regarding Gove, but this was a juvenile, insulting and abusive performance and I am sorry to see a child behave like this.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 08/04/2014 - 13:41

FJM - Jess is not a child - she's a 24 year-old poet. She's not a teacher either although she does run poetry workshops in schools (see here - perhaps your school could book her for a session).

She is, however, the daughter of a teacher which is what inspired me to write "If your parent's a teacher".

FJM's picture
Tue, 08/04/2014 - 15:19

I did wonder if she was perhaps too old to be a school girl. I think we can give the workshops a miss. When I consider modern poetry, I think of someone who picked items from the index of a book at random, then wrote them out as a poem and who received critical acclaim. I cannot remember who did this, but it exposed the nakedness of the Emperor. I don't think that her contribution has added much to the debate, notwithstanding her earthy vocabulary.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 08/04/2014 - 15:53

FJM - Jess's performance struck a chord with many teachers according to the Independent. Although I don't think Arthur Scargill is in the same heroic league as Rosa Parkes, Jess did stress the difficult of getting disenchanted children to concentrate; the long, long hours teachers work; performance-related pay (ie payment by results) denied to those who teach the difficult, the low-ability, and those unlikely to make the prescribed "progress".

Of course not all modern poetry is random words picked from an index just as poetry as a form isn't just doggerel or daffodils. I know I've recommended Tony Harrison's "Them and Uz" before but he's well worth listening to.

Or you could try this: Benjamin Zephaniah with some sixth-formers in a Spalding restaurant (you might recognise them).

FJM's picture
Wed, 09/04/2014 - 17:40

Her praise for Scargill was bizarre, and I also objected to her free use of the word 'scab' to describe those who didn't strike. As far as I recall, she also mentioned teachers working 18 hours a day, which I find very hard to believe. As I have mentioned before, Michael Gove should be tackled in a reasoned way, not with abuse, and he should not become an object of obsession. She should stick to poetry.

FJM's picture
Wed, 09/04/2014 - 17:45

Mr Z. is a local, and far superior to Jess whats-her-name. One of our Spalding girls has just won a national poetry competition and we have had visits from poets. I heard her recital the other day in assembly and she managed to avoid f**k & a**e, so she obviously needs to become more cutting-edge.

Janet Bailey's picture
Tue, 08/04/2014 - 21:48

This is fantastic and I fully support it, but please don't forget the un sung heroes, the teaching assistants who make school life accessible for thousands of our youngsters with special educational needs!

Brian's picture
Wed, 09/04/2014 - 21:31

FJM 5.45 (no reply button)

' ... superior to Jess whats her name'

Green. It's in Janet's article. Twice. Glad to have helped.

FJM's picture
Wed, 09/04/2014 - 21:42

Thanks, but I couldn't be bothered to check. I am sure she will sink back into obscurity.
Incidentally, how did great poets of the past manage without creative writing courses? Just think of what Shelley, for example, could have written: " My name is Ozymandias, king of kings, look on my f***ing works, ye might, and despair!"

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Wed, 09/04/2014 - 22:07

Janets post about TAs reminds me of my recent volte face when I began to see why teachers need unions and action.

The pastoral sector workers are the most exploited in the country ; consider the low wages of careworkers, teaching assistants and nursery staff. Presumably if teachers and nurses weren't protected by unions then they would be subjugated in exactly the same manner
e.g low pay,
no pay progression but increasing responsibility as you gain expertise
you have to leave a school to get promotion elsewhere.
No extra pay for doing hours of lesson cover

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