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On the whole, poetry and its purpose is completely removed from view through discussion anything the average teenager thinks or cares about; it’s our job as educators therefore to make it something that can be personalised and ultimately accessed.
By introducing students to Checking Out Me History in this lesson it is possible to take away the intensity of studying poetry (the poem is intended to be delivered in an at least partially celebratory style and makes reference to well-known nursery rhymes) while also addressing deeper social issues, such as eurocentrism and potential gaps in the education system.
By the end of the lesson, students should have thought about the wider world and things they don’t know about; they should also have been given the freedom to consider both Agard’s and their own identity.
Finally, does Agard have a point? You may be surprised at how many students leap to the defence of the English education system, but at least they will have thought about what school is like for children born to a non-Western culture.
Students are constantly told that what happens in school is done with their very best interests at heart. While this is true the majority of the time, this lesson provides an alternative viewpoint – that, sometimes, education doesn’t provide you with what you need.
It also poses the question, exactly why do we learn what we do, when there is so much else out there?
Pupils should be taught to:
Emily Ireland is an English and criminology teacher at Philip Morant School in Colchester, Essex.
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