What Page, Sir? by Simon Pickering

Thanks to Lizzie Lewis at Red Door Press for the invitation to read and review What Page, Sir? by Simon Pickering.


What Page, Sir? records the hilarious and sometimes painful experience of an English teacher as he struggles through some very familiar literary texts with some very unenthusiastic teenagers. Alongside the comedy that a teacher could really live without, is a fresh and irreverent look at the stalwarts of the school curriculum. 

Featuring An Inspector CallsLord of the FliesOf Mice and Men, plus the obvious works by Jane Austen, Dickens and Shakespeare – texts that seem to have been the staple for secondary schools forever, and, in some cases, remain a drag for everyone involved. 

But beneath the buffoonery in the classroom, this book makes a more serious point about the education we are serving up for our children and whether it’s finally time for change

My thoughts:

I studied English Literature many years ago for my O’ level (the final year before the GCSE started). We had two teachers for English, the very ‘serious’ Mr Weller and the ‘fun’ Mr Todhunter. I enjoyed English because I loved to read, but even I found that analysing a book and talking about it endlessly, did take the joy of reading it away. Just as everyone sees something different in a piece of art, then readers will also take away alternative views about what the writer was trying to portray.

Over the past few years, my own teenagers, plus the many students I’ve worked with, have talked about their love, loathing or indifference to studying English Literature. So this was an interesting read, to compare how a teacher feels about teaching the students.

Some of the books I had read at school, as Romeo and Juliet, and Lord of the Flies were some of my own set texts, plus I read the books my own teenagers studied (An Inspector Calls, A Christmas Carol and Of Mice and Men).

The book provides plenty of food for thought. Why are there no modern texts included, looking at issues our young people may engage with more? Are we in danger of discouraging our young people from enjoying reading for pleasure?

I don’t envy the teachers trying to encourage students to act out Romeo and Juliet or An Inspector Calls. It was interesting to see the different methods Simon Pickering had employed with students from different schools during his career, an important reminder that different students may need different support and encouragement.

Happy to recommend this book to anyone thinking of training as an English teacher, and to anyone wanting a reminder of the books they studied and how their teachers tried to support them.

Just a few of the classic books on my bookshelf, including some that originally belonged to my mum

By Karen K is reading

An avid reader from the age of 4. Love escaping into a good novel after a busy day working with students. Mum of teenagers. Adopter of dogs.

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