The 13th Floor Teachers

The Magic E can do so much more than simply lengthen a vowel sound.

Back in the day, we’d bang out a three minute starter, no problem. Planning in a garage on a battered wooden Macintosh wired up to the neighbour’s grid (she never did find out that she’d birthed the original Learning Grid). We’d even improvised an interactive smartboard way before Promethean got their crewcuts around the concept.

Crispian had the idea first: we got an old projector (like for a 8mm movie screening) and projected oscillating tessellations onto a white sheet. Every time a shape changed colour, I’d mime touching it and it looked just like I’d changed the colour with the touch of my finger. Admittedly, much of the interaction was on my side of the technical equation, but it looked pretty zanzy nonetheless.

You know, it’s hard being a psychedelic teacher. And I’m not talking about getting your ruff trapped in the photocopier drum or mandrax getting into your eyes whilst you’re trying to teach fronted adverbials; it’s more the keeping of the ethos, keeping the groove undulating in the fug of The Man’s thirst for data. There’s not much more ungroovy, when you’re trying to get a class of thirty kids to primal scream the chorus of ‘Dancing With the Moonlit Knight’, than being asked to evidence progress.

What more evidence do you need than to see Elspeth screaming ‘Selling England by the pound!’ whilst Callum pounds away on the class harpsichord? And when Charlotte, Misha and Stuart wig out during the middle eight? Well, their dilated and sweaty aftermath speaks for itself. Learning is not often seen, but in the maelstrom of dilation all things are revealed. Anyone whose ever looked into the grateful eyes of a dog whilst removing them from an extended spell in a dark box knows that to be true.

So when The Man comes to me, a-thirsting for his quantifiables, this is what I tell him:

Easy now! Sit you down upon my small, plastic chairs from which you will rise only with a groan;

Chew over your frenzied reverie of rising lines – tumescent bars of progress that spill glitter into a scattergraph of McFunctional dreams;

The children eat your whimsy, screaming silent and jarringly modern screams;

They eat your grey syllabus, only to spew it into the gloam.

And The Man? Well, he walks away: his tail, oh so between his legs. And my charges and I, we fall to rehearsing our quadrophonic rendition of ‘S.F. Sorrow Is Born‘.

The evidence of learning is there for all to see, if you’ll only open your eye.

Your Third Eye.

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