How do you survive teaching English when hammers replacing pens is just the beginning of a craziness that takes over from the happy and positive normality of a job started 30 years ago? Do you simply survive, strike out or accept defeat? Is hiding in a false ceiling a sensible protest, and will killing the Headmaster bring about dramatic change? Names are changed and a precise location concealed, but could such a school exist and have students and their teachers really behaved like this?
Through dramatic and sensitive snapshots, the history of 30 years' teaching in one school is revealed in candid, surreal and comic vignettes, all linked by one teacher's experience and a core of real students and teachers who made the job impossible or deeply rewarding. There is comedy in the horror, and passion in the despair. Above all there is honesty
'Writing With Hammers' is a serious, angry, often satirical and always heartfelt novel about teaching English for over 30 years. The book recalls and reveals students, teachers, school and government decision-making, and the full spectrum of ordinary to extraordinary experiences in the day-to-day rigours of the job. It is an episodic story taking a sardonic swipe at the real struggles to find success – which it does – but also power to survive within the daunting demands of this life-consuming occupation. Any teachers as well as students will find real and resonant echoes of their own educational experiences in its humour and honesty.
Mike Ferguson is an award-winning, published poet; is widely published in school textbooks, educational journals and online forums on the teaching of English and creative writing, and regularly blogs about writing and autobiographical storytelling. Retired from teaching, he taught English to 11-18 year old students for 30 years, 18 as Head of English.
This is a funny and surreal memoir of a teacher who charts the frustrations and joys of a life inside the classroom. Government
initiatives and his colleagues futile attempts to corral him into a more
corporate mentality are resisted with bewildered, incredulous and
increasingly desperate responses. The episodic narrative takes in the
impact on his family life (they often fail to recognise him), fairly
disturbing characters flit in and out as the beleaguered main character
tries to carve a way through a quagmire of statistical and bureaucratic
oppression. This is funny, sad, at times bitter and ironic but retains
at its heart a generous spirit and moving affection for young people,
the students, the individuals that the writer deals with every day.
Harry, with his interesting speech patterns, is at the heart of this
book and shows where the writer's sympathies lie, despite the attempts
of the system to ignore individual needs. You don't have to be a teacher
to enjoy this. It's quirky and lifts the lid on the way education,
indeed most of our lives, have been shifted into a corporate routine
despite our best intentions. Moving, funny, sad. Enjoy. I did.