Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Lady of Shalott or The Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Jar

The Regular Reader (if I may be so bold as to presume that I have any) may or may not know that I teach English to girls aged between 12-18.  The Casual Reader definitely won't know. What both these Readers have in common is a Complete Lack of Caring about this fact.
And I don't blame you.
But it kind of might interest you to know that I Really Love My Job. I don't love it in a 'Hockey Sticks School Spirit' kind of way. And I don't go around oozing with Breathless Enthusiasm about it. In fact, I try & avoid talking about being a teacher at all  because everyone thinks they are an Expert on Teaching because they went to school.
When people ask me about teaching they naturally assume I'm going to say I hate it. Or I'm just hanging in there waiting for retirement. Or it's too boring. Or tiring. Or hard. My Best Friend Marge's 96 year old mum Aileen asked me last week if I taught alone. She thought perhaps I had someone else in the classroom as a backup . I could tell when I told her, Yes I do it all by myself ,that she was impressed. 
I guess the reason that most people are surprised when I say that I love my job is that many people don't like their job. Or if they do like it, they like to take the opportunity to have a bit of a whinge or should I say, whine about it. Or maybe they feel that they are Expected to say that they don't like it. 
Anyway, I always enjoy the reaction I get when I tell people. It's Almost, but Not quite, A Power Trip.
Apart from the fact that the girls I teach are pretty wonderful, I love The Text.

Right now, I'm doing traditional tales with Year 7 - aged 12. I'm finding it Slightly Creepy because I keep on choosing stories with Poor Sad Victim Women with Wicked Curses on Them or Nasty Ungrateful Old Whiners Who are Helped Out by Obliging Fairies Who Never Get Thanked. 
Like The Old Bat below. She's the Old Woman who lived in a Vinegar Jar. It's a tale that's been told in various ways, some involving a Wise Fish instead of a Fairy. But they all end the same way - after the Fairy kindly takes her out of the jar & makes her a Queen, the old bat complains that she really should be The Pope. You can guess how it ends, can't you?
The fairy has a gutload & sends her back to the Vinegar.
I'm Sooooo hoping that's not going to turn out to be Me. Or maybe it's me now & I just haven't realised it.

And then there's The Lady of Shalott. I decided to give my lovely little girls a Nasty Surprise by inflicting pages & pages of rhyming Lord Tennyson on them. No one could understand a word of it including me. We ended up drawing the whole thing with towers & moats & lilies & passersby & Knights & mirrors & looms. 
By the time I worked out what it was all about - this poor, sad, isolated but creative woman who had a wicked curse on her, looks at Darling Sir Lancelot & then dies in a boat, it was too late to stop. 
When  I googled The Lady of Shalott, the  image below popped up - the famous painting by Waterhouse. 
I had an immediate & uncomfortable flash of recognition. Could this be the same picture that I had hanging up in my bedroom twenty five years ago? 
Yes, it was. Am I her?
Oh Quelle Horreur! 
Is this how I'm going to end up?
The Perils of Being an English Teacher


Sheila said...

I count myself as one of your Regular Readers. :)

I love that you love your job! That's fantastic and I do envy you.

I don't know if this would appeal to you...Loreena McKennitt is a Canadian artist who is well-known for her amazing voice (she also plays the harp) and for putting classical texts to music...and she has a wonderful version of "The Lady of Shallot". Go here: and click on the little speaker thingy on the side beside the title of the song to listen.

Obviously, it's been abridged from the pages and pages, but I think she captures the essence of the poem very well.

Gwen said...

I am so glad I found your blog again, you can make me laugh like no other.

Reading between the lines, I could tell you loved your job, and besides, you are the kind of Feisty, Self Confident Woman who wouldn't stick a job she didn't love.

see you there! said...

It would be awful to be trapped in a job you hated. Glad you like yours.

Great painting of the Lady of Shalott, I like her tragic bohemian trapped in the weeds look.
Maybe I'll try it this spring. I could do with a new look.


Mervat said...

Love that the leggins are back!

And congrats on having a career that you *still* love. Not many people can say that, and unfortunately this is the case for me. Am doing something about it though...

Paola said...

Hi Della, I trained as a primary school teacher three years ago, after 18 years in Corporate Australia, and so far I love it.