Mr Smith goes to London: Chapter One

“Marley was dead: to begin with,” Mr Smith said. Was that convincing enough? He decided to say it again.

“Marley was DEAD… to begin with.” That was much better! His tone of voice was much more interesting, almost shouting “dead” which contrasted well with the quieter, intriguing “to begin with”. The way he calmly moved his hands while he spoke kept his listeners focused on him, stopping them being easily distracted. He thought the way he moved his eyebrows added something too. Good.

“That’s the opening to a book by a guy called Charles Dickens. He was a really famous author who made lots of money! Now today, I’m really interested to find out why. Why did he make so much money?” He began to speak faster here, conveying his urgency. “Why did his readers read the whole of his book, right to the end, instead of [throws book across classroom] throwing it away after they’d read the first line? Now, I’m going to say that first sentence again.” Dramatic pause. “Marley was dead. To begin with. Joe: why is that such a good opening to his story?” There was no-one called Joe in the room. There was only Mr Smith and his reflection in the mirror. But in his imagination he was talking to the two assessors he would be delivering his lesson to in only a week’s time. He was incredibly excited for his assessment day! He really wanted to be a teacher: he had a passion for helping to shape young lives into the people they were created to be. It would be his first ever time going to London too. His friends couldn’t believe that he had never been to the capital city and had told him of all the exciting places he should visit there, and now was finally his chance to see them! It would also be an excuse to wear a suit, something he hadn’t done for ages. He felt very official in a suit, very teachery and grown-up, and he liked that.

Did Charles Dickens really make lots of money? Or was he one of those authors who was successful but was actually poor? He would have to look that up on the internet later. In the meantime, Joe had probably had enough time to reply, so Mr Smith responded. “Yeah that’s good Joe, well done. It’s very important to introduce the main characters in the opening to a book. Do you think Marley is a main character?” Silence. “Yeah maybe he is! But we aren’t sure, are we? And that’s one thing that makes this opening so effective, right? The fact that we don’t know all the information. Jessie,” he said, directing his gaze to the right hand side of his mirror rather than the left, “does that make you want to keep reading?” Silence. “Exactly! So let’s write that on my mind-map on the whiteboard.”

There was no whiteboard. There was no mind-map. There was no Jessie. If any of his housemates came in to his bedroom now, they would think he was being silly, talking to himself in the mirror. But if actors can spend hours diligently practicing their lines, why can’t a teacher practice the start to their lesson? Well, a trainee teacher. Well, he wasn’t even that yet, but he wanted to be, and if this lesson went well, he might be. He sighed as he remembered the reality of his situation. He urgently had to write an essay on William Shakespeare’s play King Lear, and he needed to get good marks in his university assessments if he was to have any hope of teaching real people in the future.

When he was younger, he never understood why people would want to be teachers. It must be so boring, he thought, to wear a shirt and tie every day, to be at school when nobody was forcing them to be there. They must be so miserable too – why else would they shout so often? But now he understood. They want to make a difference. They’re at school because they want to help the children who are forced to be there. And they only shout because they care. Without discipline in the classroom, how are children supposed to learn? It would be chaos!

As John sat at his computer typing his essay, he wondered whether this would be a good story opening. The first chapter in his career as a teacher might be about to begin! Then again, it might not. The unanswered questions made him excited, nervous, apprehensive, and lots of other adventurous words. If he was reading this in a book, he would certainly want to read chapter 2.


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