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 www.jessgreenpoet.com

Tomorrow I’m turning 18…

Turning 18 seems much more understated than it should.

When I was 16, for example, I imagined my 18th to be grand, with a huge house party and teenagers everywhere and freedom. Essentially, none of that is happening, and I’m having a quiet weekend retreat to the coast with my boyfriend. Seems way too sophisticated, doesn’t it?

So this got me thinking, are the youth of today growing up just too fast? I don’t feel like a child any more, or even a teenager, instead all that runs around my head is the amount of work I have to do, or how early I have to get up, and it’s certainly nothing like it is in the movies; I’m not worrying about the boy next door or dancing round my bedroom singing into my hairbrush. Some nights I’m so stressed that I don’t sleep, and then go into school looking like a zombie and being complained at by endless amounts of teachers.

I openly blame school and education for this.

There was a recent article about primary school children receiving too much homework, and I couldn’t agree more. Having three younger siblings myself, it becomes tiring when all they do is scream over some sums, or struggle through spellings. Some of the homework they get isn’t even relevant, for example the other day my brother spent 3 hours making a booklet about The Vikings, and there were more tears than smiles, nevertheless my mother ended up completing it for him. Surely this depressing start to education is just setting us up to be miserable teenagers who have no life left in them? Critics often wonder why children play so many video games, but maybe that’s because it’s one of the only escapes they can get from education, homework or adults telling them what to do.

It’s not just the primary school students that get too much homework, secondary school students get too much work in general. I am believer of hard work with a bit of play equals success, but schools and examining boards alike forget about the play aspect, and drill students with coursework, homework and then some telling off when they wonder why they’re unproductive. We’re unproductive because nothing we are made to do interests us.

The education system is a dictatorship, not a democracy, and it’s driving teenagers to the brink of extinction. By extinction, I mean no one is given the opportunity to be a teenager and have fun. We are all growing up too fast.

An open letter to UCAS

Dear UCAS,

I hope this finds you well, though I do appreciate that your common replying time to queries is 5 months too late, and that you’re probably too busy spamming a student with unnecessary e-mails to reply to a mere mortal like myself.

I have had a few issues on my mind recently to do with you, and the way you do things. I was kept up till 3am this morning, not by my thoughts, but by the unbearable ‘ping!’ on my phone every time you sent me an e-mail completely unrelated to my life. Such as 3 e-mails attempting to persuade me to fill out a survey about your services. One was quite enough, thank you. You’ll be pleased to know I’ve set up a whole new e-mail account just for you, oh aren’t you lucky?

Secondly, I want to know where the money that we pay to apply for Uni actually goes? Oh wait no, I’ve figured it out. It’s probably the free pens and other goodies you shove in student’s faces at the first opportunity. Seriously, I’m sorted for life. No more pens, please no more pens. I have a suggestion for you, Mr UCAS, perhaps you could focus on hiring better staff? Or better staff training? I’ll admit, it gets a bit boring when staff always reply to your queries with ‘You have to take this up with the University directly’. So boring that I retreat to trying to stick one of your free pens in my eye. Or, do you not what an even better use of the money would be? Hiring a website layout developer. As once a timid year 12, trying to navigate your website was like trying to butter a sandwich with a fork. Mmm, a sandwich. I am craving one of those rare things. Shame I’m too poor to afford one as a student, something that you definitely didn’t educate me about in your spamming sessions.

Basically, UCRAPS (is it OK if I call you that?), your services to me as a sixth-former have been so shockingly terrible, daunting and downright unbearable, have made me at points even consider moving to a foreign country where such a ‘mentoring’ website does not exist, where I am not constrained to a mere five choices to decide the rest of my future, and where I’ll hopefully get some free paper to add to my free pens.

Yours Sincerely,

A deflated and cheated Year 13,

Lauren Lea Cunningham

xoxo

 

 

 

How to survive being a teenager.

Step 1. Now, in their early teens it is notorious that everybody always turns a bit strange. Avoid this if possible, and also avoid any ‘phases’ attatched to it, including the gothic, emo, punk and barbie stages. If you do successfully avoid these stages, it is unlikely you will have any embarrassing year 7 Facebook photos that can be dragged up from the pit of darkness and that you can be eternally teased for. Such as this one:

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This one:

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Oh yep, and the classic ‘let’s lie in the middle of the road’ one:

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Step 2. Whilst we’re on the subject of Facebook, never ever write a status every 2 minutes such as this one:

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Again, it will come back to haunt you, you will regret it, and although you may have that burning question you want to ask the world – it can wait. And it should. Probably forever.

Step 3. Try not to scare old people.

Step 4. Actually socialise, don’t turn into the majority of other teenagers and only have friends inside of school. Don’t sit on your laptop for 3845378 hours a day, in the dark, in your bed, till 2am.

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This is only acceptable when you’re doing A-Levels.

Step 5. Ignore what the government say about you, because firstly it literally seems like they make it all up, and secondly, if you listened to everything they said about you, you’d probably have a mental breakdown.

Step 6. Never, ever wear hoodies, it creates a bad image, bro.

Step 7. Don’t dare to be different, people will think you’re weird, and it’ll turn into something out of Mean Girls. Follow the crowd, be a sheep, baa.

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SEQUEL: HOW TO SURVIVE SIXTH-FORM.

I’m starting to panic – What do I do next?!

I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t be going to University at the end of this year, if at all, and instead deferring my place to see what I can achieve in the world of journalism as a young person.

But, I’m starting to panic.

Everywhere I’ve looked I can’t seem to find any sort of full-time journalist opportunity for Sixth Form/College leavers. Every scheme I look at is either for accountancy/business/some other thing that I’m totally not interested in.

So this post is basically asking for help! If any of you know of any young journalist/media schemes going around that I could potentially apply for to start in 2014 please do let me know, I want to utilise my talent and not leave it sitting on the shelf.

Thanks!

From One Procrastinator to Another – My Top 3 Motivational Tips!

I have a confession. I am a major procrastinator.

Now and again (everyday) I say that I will tackle the pile of coursework papers that are quickly beginning to take over the whole of my room (and life), but somehow I accidentally stumble onto addictive sites such as YouTube and Tumblr, and they whisper softly into my ear that watching videos of how to bath a hedgehog and cats running into walls is obviously productive and totally worth my time.

I regret letting this happen every.single.time. 

It leaves me in a lost state at 2am in the morning, staring blankly at my ceiling, knowing that the ‘to-do’ pile is only going to get bigger the next day.

But don’t fear, those who also happen to suffer!

Below are my top tips for motivating yourself when all you want to do is float off away from any kind of productive thinking, and I promise they’re not cliché or obvious, unlike so many ‘motivational tips’ seem to be these days:

1) Create a motivational quotes book. When you have a spare 5 minutes grab any old notebook you can find and nominate it as your ‘Motivation Book’ that you will turn to whenever you feel the urge to drift from an important task. You can lay it out anyway you like, make it colourful, simplistic, just whatever appeals to you, and then jam-pack it full of your favourite quotes, or quotes you happen to see around that you like. Not only can it help you to stay on track, it is also a really nice keepsake to have for later life. Just make sure you don’t procrastinate making the book… that kind of defies the whole point.

2) Make a priority list every day. This is essentially an chronologically ordered ‘to-do’ list. I would advise placing this in direct view of your work-space, so that you can see the progress you are making through your tasks. Once you have completed a task, cross it off the list in any way you like, for example, a simple highlight would do, but if you’re feeling particularly annoyed at the task then you could cut it up into shreds, burn it, fold it as many times as possible, just don’t hurt anybody, I don’t want to be held responsible.

3) Try to avoid using YouTube for music. The problem I find with using YouTube as my source for music whilst working is that I spend about 2483735753 hours trying to find a decent song to listen to, when the song usually only lasts for 3 minutes, meaning that I have to go through the process alllll over again very soon after choosing. This is really unproductive. Instead, make a different working playlist every week and stick to it. If you don’t want to listen to any of the songs on your playlist, don’t search the whole of your iTunes making a new one, simply just don’t listen to any music. It really isn’t necessary, and if you’re a student like me, all of the exams you’re studying for are in complete silence anyway, so get some practice at working in silence while you can.

That’s all for today, but if people genuinely find this helpful please do let me know and I’ll try to extend the list!

I’m still looking for young people to help me with an exciting project, so if you’re interested please contact me on any social networking site or e-mail laurenleacunningham@gmail.com

Thanks for reading!