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Writing of the Week - what a tangled web we weave

With life slowly 'getting back to normal' - despite entrenched rainy weather, the fiasco of a government organising a total rail shutdown, and the importance of us persisting with Covid caution - it's reassuring that our kids are back in schoolrooms where professional educators have their best interests at heart. This story from Meg Mooney on the value of learning about history, and English language and literature, in our ever increasing interconnected world ...

The newly arrived Year 7 teacher, Jessica Jones, gave a challenging look towards her Level 1 English students.

‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive,’ she recited, hoping to spark some responses.

Her strong northern English accent resounded around the classroom. The students’ fresh young faces stared up at her in bewilderment, as if she’d spoken to them in some strange dialect.

Jessica had only been in Australia for six months after completing her studies in English Classics at Birmingham University. One cold winter’s night partying with friends in a wine bar near her home, she met Scott, an Australian guy, who was working on an oil rig in the North Sea. The attraction was like an electrical charge, and she’d followed Scott around the world ever since, which he found intoxicating and extremely flattering to his male ego.

When he told her was returning to Western Australia to the seaside town where he grew up, Jessica quickly packed her bags, bade farewell to England and was soon on her way to a new life on the other side of the world.

She found her new home strange but beautiful after the greyness and cold of England. She loved the light and the endless days of sunshine, the relaxed informal way of the people. East Grove High was one of two high schools in the coastal town, where most of the population was involved in the mining industry, which channelled wealth into the region.

‘So does anyone have any suggestion as to what these words might mean?’

‘Excuse me, Miss, but that sounds really old-fashioned!’

‘Well, yes, as a matter of fact it is quite old. From the 1800s, in fact. Written by the Scottish poet, Sir Walter Scott. Has anyone heard of him?

Again, a sea of blank faces met her gaze.

‘The words might be old fashioned as you so rightly pointed out, Oliver, but their meaning is still relevant today. So would anyone like to have a go?’

‘Is it like telling lies, Miss?’ a small voice called out from the back of the room. ‘My mum says that if you tell lies to people, then one day you’ll be found out and get yourself into heaps of trouble.’

The students giggled, exchanging looks in unspoken ways that only other Year 7 students would understand.

‘That’s a great answer, Bridget, and you’re correct. Now, next week we’re going to look at one of Shakespeare’s plays.

Looks of mental angst spread around the room.

‘But Shakespeare’s boring, Miss,’ someone piped up.

Jessica had the feeling this was going to be a real challenge but nothing she couldn’t handle. Her aim was to open up these young minds to a world they’d never encountered but exactly how she’d achieve that she wasn’t quite sure about yet.

But she felt positive she would find a way to convey the power and beauty of words in the English language.

Copyright: story Meg Mooney; photos Wix.

This SSOA blog is provided to regularly display the work of talented emerging writers.

‘Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive,’ is taken from Sir Walter Scot's epic poem, 'Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field' published in 1808. (Wiki)



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