Interview: Jess Green

Jess Green. The woman behind ‘Dear Mr Gove’. In my opinion, a genius.

‘They say they don’t care. And why would they? I don’t blame them. Not when you lot in power got to their families three generations ago. Divided and conquered, belittled and humiliated, until no family on that street was left with work, or a pension, or one ounce of ‘get up and go’.’

‘Thank you for the bibles, Mr Gove, but I don’t think it’s God we need right now.’

Just two of the quotes from the poem that seemed to have grasped both students, teachers and education professionals alike. The video seemed to have appeared from nowhere. One day I just clicked on Facebook and it was everywhere. My friends were sharing it, without a comment, because frankly, one is not needed. It is so powerful on its own.

Before you criticise, like so many others, that ‘she isn’t even a teacher’, ‘how would she know?’. Jess Green does not need to be a teacher to comment on what so many others are thinking, to present the thoughts of anyone even remotely connected to education. At least she has the guts to do it, and I am so glad she has been listened to.

I managed to conduct a short interview with Jess, and I really hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

Can you explain exactly what you do?
I am a performance poet, I perform around the country at gigs, in theatres, at festivals in pubs etc. I also deliver poetry and creative writing workshops in schools, theatres, libraries and with the probation service.
What inspired you to write that poem about Gove, is there an interesting back story?
The poem is part of a whole show that I’m writing called Burning Books. The show is an hour long music and poetry show and is set in an inner city secondary school. I am performing with two musicians, Dave Morris and Will Savage. The Gove poem comes towards the end of the show and is from the point of view of a 60 year old teacher fighting for her pension on a picket line. The poem is based on my experiences of working in schools and from talking to teachers.
Are you surprised to see what great feedback you have had from the poem? Also, how do you deal with the not-so-nice comments?
I was totally blown away by the response the poem got, we absolutely didn’t expect it. We thought it might get around 1000 views because obviously it is a popular subject with teachers but I was over whelmed by the amount of emails, tweets and facebook messages I had from teachers who wanted to tell me about their experiences, students who could relate to the poem and other public sector workers.
Nasty comments were to be expected, it’s the nature of the internet. I’m actually quite surprised there haven’t been more. If you got upset by every nasty thing anyone ever said about you you’d go mad!
What is your view on education at this time?
Like many people I’ve seen how the amount of pressure on teachers is having an effect on teaching standards. More teachers than ever are suffering from stress and mental health problems, a huge number of newly qualified teachers don’t even make it through their first year, teachers who are sticking at it are worn down by the pressure to make sure all students are reaching often unrealistic targets, so much so that the quality of teaching is suffering because of the stress teachers are under. On top of this there’s always the finger of blame propelled by the right wing press which is firmly pointed at teachers for young people’s short comings.
For everybody who loved the poem as much as I did, where can we see you performing next?
I’m doing a gig at Hoxton Hall on 24th April, I’m in Exeter on 4th June, I’ll be at Latitude this year plus my regular night in Leicester, Find The Right Words. You can keep up to date with gigs on my website

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