It is the dog end of the school year, three more stumbling days before the gates close for the summer holidays. Numbers are depleted, some are isolating, others just not turning up.
Staff shortages mean free lessons are taken up covering for absent colleagues. Mostly, I am timetabled for English lessons. They are enjoyable times. Because they are cover lessons, there is no pressure to achieve anything specific (some teachers regard cover lessons as times to sit at the front doing marking whilst keeping one eye on the class who will have been set work to do). Because they are cover lessons, they are an opportunity to explore the work that is being done, to ask questions, to study the material.
So it was that this morning I went to join a Year 7 class for English. The task they had been set was to design a book cover for Goodnight, Mister Tom, including writing a blurb for the back cover. Most used the A4 sheet they were given for the title, author’s name and an illustration they deemed relevant to the story (for some of the boys, this was chiefly drawings of aircraft). One more imaginative girl created a three dimensional cover, with an illustrated front page, a spine with the title and author, and a back page with a blurb.
Not much teaching was demanded, but at the outset some asked for ideas. “What about if I put the film on to give you some ideas?” I asked. This met with general approval.
Not being a film buff, I haven’t much of a critical faculty to express an opinion on its qualities, but Goodnight, Mister Tom seemed a film that perfectly captured the world of wartime England that my parents experienced.
My grandmother with my father and his sister were evacuated to Berkshire at the beginning of the war. My father would recall the many unaccompanied children who were evacuated, some of whom would have been similar to William from Goodnight, Mister Tom. My mother recalls evacuees from London arriving on the farm, recalls the shortages and the challenges of everyday life.
Perhaps it was the acting of John Thaw as Mister Tom, but the film seemed compelling. I sat at the back watching every moment. Occasionally, students would raise a hand and say, “sir,” and I would get up to go to offer advice, but for most of the lesson my viewing was undisturbed.
At the end of the hour, I stopped the film and the class went off to the next lesson. I felt a sense of delight that the film was available free online and that I could watch the rest of it in my own time.