Seamus Heaney

22nd November 2002 at 00:00
Finally, I'd be at the cutting edge, rather than the boring hag who made them write about Seamus Heaney.

I've said this before, but beware those lovely chats you have in the staffroom during the summer term. You know, when you've just been released from your exam teaching, and your timetable doesn't seem quite so crowded. Damaging things can happen; you agree to take on tasks that seem amazingly possible when you've lost two classes and September is but a dream.

I distinctly remember one of these chats last summer, which ended up with me confessing that I'd always wanted to be a media teacher. I'd just written a scheme of work about cartoons which was going down a bundle with my Year 7s, probably because it meant that they got to watch videos non-stop all lesson - although I'd managed to convince myself that it was my brilliant teaching. I remember thinking out loud how good it would be to teach kids about something they were actually interested in. I conveniently forgot my last run-in with a horror story scheme of work, which had ended up with me rashly promising to let them watch a horror film of their choice. This turned out to be some freaky thing called I Know How to Make You Scream, or something like that. They ended up hooting with laughter the whole way through while I cowered under the desk and did not sleep for a week.

At that moment, teaching media seemed like a good idea. Little did I realise that my head of department, always on the look out for my professional development, took my idle musings seriously. When I received my timetable, I opened it to find four periods of A-level media staring at me. At first I was thrilled. One thing that all media teachers are is trendy. The kids love them. At my last school, media was the apex of cool. I used to press my nose up to the glass of their multimedia suite, and stare in wonder at all the boys who wouldn't write a Macbeth essay for me if their lives depended on it, getting all excited about their media production projects and begging the teacher to let them stay after school. Finally, I'd be at the cutting edge, rather than the boring hag who made them write about Seamus Heaney.

It was only when I arrived home this summer and opened the syllabus that Irealised I knew nothing about web design, MP3, digital cameras or mise en sc ne. (French? I thought this was media, for God's sake.) My husband gleefully reminded me that I was the only person left on the planet who had never seen The Wicker Man, and it would be a bit difficult to get through two years of media study relying solely on an in-depth knowledge of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Friends. And I'd definitely have to stop shopping at Laura Ashley. Curses. Let it not be said that I am a professional who is unwilling to embrace change.

Having finally worked out what mise en sc ne was, I walked into my media class determined to let them see that their teacher would not let them down in the trendiness stakes. Far from it. I could discuss panning shots with the best of them, even if I didn't know what a panning shot was. It was obviously closely related to cooking programmes. "Yes, that's an over-the-shoulder, low-angle shot, used mostly in late 20th-century examples of EastEnders," I intoned wisely. Not wanting to use the expression "blind leading the blind" too freely, I've been signed up for an extensive series of Inset sessions, where I'm hoping to receive an injection of cool.

Gemma Warren is an assistant special needs co-ordinator at a London secondary school. Email:

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