Elizabeth’s life-writing prompt is letting us off lightly this week, with a seasonal memory.
The Ballad of an English lesson
Twenty lovely children
open faces, happy smiles,
their mischief all well-hidden
but children have their wiles
and so we start to teach a song,
a silly song for girls and boys.
MacDonald’s farm, it won’t be long
before there’s lots of noise.
First the boys all start to quack
and then some more go ‘oink,’
while girls in pink at the back
say ‘no. We think it’s pigs that stink’
We want to be sheep, as little lambs
make such a lovely sound.’
And straightaway, ad nauseam,
Baas echo all around.
Before you know it the class is more
like a zoo than MacDonald’s farm,
with a shout and a squeal and a roar
everywhere. ‘Stop!’ Teacher raises her arm.
‘No, no, quietly, my dears
It will all end in tears.
Just one at a time, if you please.’
This was written last December, when we were teaching children in a French primary school a few English songs for their Christmas concert. We taught them Away in a Manger – bending the rules, as French schools are strictly secular; and finished with The Twelve Days of Christmas.
For our last visit, just before the start of the Christmas holidays, we were ushered in with ceremony, to seats in front of the class instead of our usual roaming brief. The two classes sang all we had taught them, perfectly, and recited a poem in English which they had written to thank us. The poem was presented to us in a scroll tied with ribbon, together with an embroidery of our initials, a box of chocolates and – wait for it – a kitten to replace ours who had met with a fatal accident. The last gift was well-thought of: a box of tissues, as we were both in tears!
The official concert had to be postponed because of an epidemic of swine flu, followed by a month or more of deep snow. When the concert finally took place, we thought the children would have forgotten our teaching, but not a bit of it. We were ushered to front seats labelled “Les Profs d’Anglais” and every one of our past pupils came up and kissed us. The performance, given by the combined pupils of three little schools, was superb.
The poem, written for a coursework exercise, is in ballad form: abab quatrains and an aab tercet