Complaints About School English

English at school is something that constantly frustrates me. I don’t know exactly if it’s the way it’s taught, or if it’s the fact that I just don’t enjoy it, or both, but I DON’T HAVE FUN.

As you might have guessed, I love to read and write and everything else wordy! They’re some of my absolute favourite things and I don’t know where I’d be without them. But this definitely doesn’t translate into a love for GCSE English as some people might think…

My major issue with my current class is that I don’t particularly enjoy the text we’re studying. (Spies by Michael Frayn.) Obviously this is different for everyone exam board but I just DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY WE ARE STUDYING IT. It’s deathly boring and the writing style is…really weird? I kind of like the things going on with memory and perspective but apart from that I’m just meh.

I genuinely wish that we could study something more inspiring — I understand that it has to be complex enough to study or whatever, but there are SO MANY great books out there! Heck, there are some far better “typical classic/literary/GCSE English-y” books. This one is just a complete bore.

I’m not sure if I’d enjoy analysing texts more if it were a text I enjoyed. Perhaps I just don’t really enjoy analysis! (Which obviously is fine.) But I do quite like reading analysis things about books I enjoy. Like, sometimes I actively go and read academic-y articles because they’re interesting. Can our English lessons please just…be more like Witch, Please. (I KNOW. I know I talk about it a lot. BUT I LOVE IT.)

I really wish that there was more scope to be creative in English. I understand that later things sort of separate out into literature and language but it frustrates me that we haven’t really done much free creative writing work since, like, year 7. (Oh my god, I WISH I could go back and redo that poetry book assignment. THAT WOULD BE AMAZING.)

I’m not all the way through the course yet, but it is a bit frustrating to not really enjoy something that I think I should like. Although I’m sorry but – the rules on comma splicing are SO HARSH. Even the set text would only get a Band 6 haha. Sorry, Michael Frayn. There’s a bit of a grey area that so many authors cross but our exam board is like NOPE.

I think we spend quite a lot of time listening to the teacher analyse without actually getting the tools for analysis – and I do love my teacher, but still. I also think it’d be really fun to look at more popular culture or modern stuff, because they are cool too. But I feel like that’s not very likely to happen, alas. It’s all just about improving the grades.

Having said all this: I definitely could have a better mindset! Writing this post did actually give me a bit of enthusiasm for being more positive about English. Part of it is also that I have a set idea in my mind and I just switch off during lessons when I decide it’s not fun. I’ve actually been enjoying it a bit more recently now that I’ve been actively trying to engage, so, who knows. PERHAPS THIS COMPLAINING WILL HAVE RESULTED IN SOMETHING.

what’s your (least) favourite subject at school? do you enjoy studying english? any feelings about comma splicing?

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13 thoughts on “Complaints About School English

  1. Luckily we didn’t do much analysis in class, probably because we actually had to learn the language, haha, but all we did was basically what the teacher felt like doing, which was half the time have discussions about current events. I don’t really remember much more from my English class besides those discussions, Shakespeare and Beowulf. I have no idea what comma splicing is..?
    Basically the same we did in our society class, which was discussing the worst tv show ever that the teacher hated but still talked about every. single. class.
    The class I hated most was probably German, because the teacher was so annoying, she acted like she was our mom and we were her kids, I dropped that subject the moment I could.

    • Ah I guess it’s be different for different people! Like for us English is just literary analysis and language rather than learning, so. *rolls up sleeves* Comma splicing is basically when you have two sentences but you connect them with a comma instead of a full stop or other punctuation mark! (We have done so much on them, argh.) Haha that sounds a bit dull but we never discuss anything like that, so. I think that teachers DEFINITELY make a difference for my own enjoyment of a subject.

  2. Arghh I feel you! I really didn’t enjoy English literature at GCSE – we did the plays A View from the Bridge and Death of a Salesmen and the novel Of Mice and Men. I just wasn’t interested in them because they were so old and not relevant to current times and we’re American literature, and I really wanted to study British literature because we have so many great literary heroes who we should celebrate. Somehow I’ve managed to go through the whole of my education without studying Shakespeare which is like ??? There are so many young, talented authors and playwrights out there, and having them as set texts for GCSE would be a great way to help to promote young talent and preserve British literature, and more relevant to current times so would engage teens more. Interesting post Eve, and I hope you find your enthusiasm for English soon!

    • Wow, no Shakespeare at all is ??? very weird. We’ve done one every year so far, though I don’t know if we’re doing it for GCSE. Doing Shakespeare means I get to watch stuff and say it’s revision though ayy. Yeah, I think a lot of the set texts are ‘classics’ but that seems to mean like….old which is a bit annoying haha. There’s so much great modern stuff we could be looking at! *sighs*

  3. Ugh I agree! We started before Easter doing English Literature properly, analysing all the poems from the anthology and it’s so….ugh. we’ve only done a few and I want it to be over. But I do prefer analysing poems way more than books, we haven’t started that yet!

  4. **Future English teacher slides in** Okay, I’m from and in America, though I’m planning on doing some student teaching abroad in England! I definitely think personal enjoyment of a text or at least the ideas in it make it more interesting and motivating to analyze.,, and 20th-21st century lit can do that! What you said about listening to the teacher analyze it rather than on your own is something I’ve been reading about (as a thing Not To Do) because it really does try to act like there’s just ONE answer when there really isn’t. (And also prescriptive grammar is silly and it’s more important to learn how to use punctuation for communication … but alas, that’s a stupid exam thing.) As for creativity, some professors of mine (in college, granted) have creative projects either as an option or the whole assignment where you write something inspired by a work and then explain your choices. I think I’ll definitely keep that idea in mind as I go into teaching 🙂

    Would you say the UK is very exam-focused? I did the IB program which was modeled on European-style exams and there were a lot of options (well, for the teachers) about texts and it was mostly free-response, but I’ve definitely think there’s more room to explore and grow when you’re not just worrying about catering to the graders…

    • Ah, that’s so cool! That’s super interesting — I think my teacher definitely gives us more room to interpret than my last teacher, but it can still be a bit boring just to write down stuff. There are many interpretations out there!
      Yep, that’s what I think — I try and have mostly ‘correct’ and readable grammar but it seems VERY strict. Ooh, that sounds very fun!
      Mm, I think GCSE English is pretty on the final grade, although we do have to submit some coursework. But it is very much to try and cater to their mark scheme. (I guess everyone in the country has to do it so they have to standardise it somehow?)

  5. Mm GCSE Literature wasn’t too bad for me, but we did Of Mice and Men and An Inspector Calls (along with a poetry anthology) which are all quite well known…stick with it! A level is more fun, as the texts tend to be more mature (Atonement). I get what you mean about less creative writing though, at GCSE there’s literally none and it gets so dry and dull…

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