It is not so long ago that I was teaching, but it was before the current system where target setting and testing seems to be more important than those golden ideas of a broad, balanced which included skills, interest areas and knowledge in a wider sense. Everything seems to rigid with students now having to set targets to be reached by the end of the lesson, the end of the topic, the end of the week etc.
Although my main teaching was working with young people whose first language (sometimes languages) was not English, I also taught ordinary classes English too. We had pretty much a free hand in choosing the books we would read and the poetry we would study, which meant it really could be tailored to the class in front of you. Every class is different some, some classes are a real mixed bunch, some are lively and full of strong personalities, some have a lot of young people interested in the academic – no two classes are ever the same.
I had one class which was a real mixture in terms of levels of interest and ability in reading and writing, and very varied personalities, but they were one of those exceptional and magic classes who were just brilliant as people, and I’ve never forgotten them – and thanks to social media I’m still in touch with some! I can’t remember what prompted me, but we did a topic on ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’. I was reminded of this by a news item on the BBC news site, where a small clay tablet containing some of the story of this ancient king, warrior and hero, has been returned to Iraq from where it had been looted.
An ancient clay tablet displaying part of the story of a superhuman god will be returned to Iraq by the US on Thursday. Known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, the 3,600-year-old religious text shows a section of a Sumerian poem from the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is one of the world’s oldest works of literature and was looted from an Iraqi museum during the Gulf War in 1991.
It’s such a great story –
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest recognised epic poem. Parts of its stories are mirrored in the Hebrew Bible. The tablet is written in the Akkadian language in cuneiform script – a system of writing on clay used in ancient Mesopotamia thousands of years ago.
Scholars discovered it in 1853, when a 12-tablet version was found in the ruins of the library of an Assyrian king, Assur Banipal, in northern Iraq.
The events revolve around King Gilgamesh of Uruk – an area corresponding to southern Iraq. The myth is based on a real king who ruled sometime between 2,800 and 2,500 BC. As the story goes, King Gilgamesh was a demigod of superhuman strength whose powers were inherited from his mother. Accompanied by his sidekick, a man raised by animals, he slayed the Bull of Heaven, representing the violence of the gods, and tried to discover the secret to eternal life.
In my memory the class really enjoyed learning about this ancient warrior king and his friendship with a man from a very different background. I remember being excited by the work they did, the poems they produced, and the stories they wrote… but of course they might actually have been bored stiff and have erased it from their memories as just another tedious lesson!
Here’s a link to the whole BBC report:
…and here is another report on the story of the tablet itself: