What Page Sir? Simon Pickering



What Page Sir ? The Joy of Text in a Secondary School Classroom

Not being on the same wavelength as your students is an occupational hazard for teachers. But for the English department, there’s the challenge of engaging a whole class in text they’re at best reluctant to read, and at worst loathe to.

What Page Sir ? records the hilarious and sometimes painful experience of secondary school English teacher as he struggles through some very familiar literary texts with some very unenthusiastic teenagers.

From the coalface of the education system. Simon Pickering serves up the comedy every teacher could do without, from rhyming couplets to re-sits. Ofsted to Covid and everything in between.

Featuring the unusual suspects Austen, Priestly, Golding, Waugh, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Greene, Conan Doyle, Orwell, Dickens, Shelly and of course, the Scottish Play this book provides a fresh and irreverent look at the stalwarts of the school curriculum and asks whether it is finally time for a change.

If Mr Pickering had done his job well and taught me right syllabus, maybe I would have studied English at university. Be didn’t and now I’m a full time drummer who loves Pride and Prejudice. I guess it worked out in the end.


What I liked about What Page Sir ? is that it discusses passages from books, that I haven’t read, leading me to actually learn a few things myself.

Until I read this book, I hadn’t quite realised how much teachers try to make a lesson an enjoyable one when it comes to reading a book that might appear boring to some in the classroom. As pupils in the class study a topic of a book they are encouraged make notes of characters.

All of these great writers are mentioned in all these chapters. Macbeth, Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice, An Inspector Calls, Romeo and Juliet, Lord of the Flies, A Christmas Carol.

Simon Pickering a school teacher takes us through his journey of the schools he has filled in for just before lockdown and talks about after his first year of teaching in a boys comprehensive school.

I found this part very interesting in What Page Sir? Where it is explained all about it the 1990s and early 2000s, about year 9 third year pupils studying for their SATs Standard Assessment Tests.

In the book, what page Sir ? The most popular choice of Modern Text for GCSE is An Inspector Calls as it’s a much easier to read. However the teacher in year 10 finds that some of the boys are reluctant to find a given page or even open the book. With the teacher telling the class what page to turn to, one would ask What Page Sir ? then another in the class would say Sorry sir, what page was that ? Well actually I do remember that well, when someone in my class would ask my English teacher the same question.

There’s nothing wrong with reading Orwell, Dickens, Hemingway but I just personally feel that maybe pupils need a break from reading about past authors. This is clearly because times have changed.

Now days with so many authors producing engaging novels, some teenagers would rather read an up to date book than eighteenth century. And then you get some pupils that don’t mind reading books by past authors.

My heart goes out to all teachers who have to engage in the classroom to capture their attention, making a boring subject become more interesting.

Maybe some of the trouble that teenagers may not be paying attention these days when reading for a GCSE is that too many teenagers are more programmed into playing games on their phone and Xbox, rather than read.

My thirteen year old grandson will not read anything, all he does is play on his Xbox. I do worry as in a few years time he will have to read a book for his GCSE, or simply fail his English exam. He is the only one in our family who doesn’t read.

I blame the technology of today that teenagers which just aren’t reading enough.

In our days we read more because we didn’t have all this technology to distract us.

Here on the plus side of reading about Austen, Macbeth, An Inspector Calls , Orwell, Hemingway, Dickens Waugh and Steinbeck, there are always questions coming up on quiz shows etc about them and for those who have read or had to study them for an exam will know the answers.

The question has been raised is it time for a change ? With the studies of Austen, Priestley, Golding, Waugh, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Greene, Conan Doyle, Orwell, Dickens, Shelley, and the Scottish Play. I think this comes down to personal opinion on the reader within themselves. Austen is my top favourite author.

With my curiosity about what pupils are studying these days for GCSE, I decided to look it up on the internet and indeed it looks like times have changed with some Modern Prose Text, being available with the likes of books that we can all recognise, with, To kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee, Boys Don’t Cry, Malorie Blackman, women in Black, Susan Hill, Never Let Me Go , Kazuo Ishiguro, and About A Boy, Nick Hornby. These are just a few of Modern Prose Text for GCSE, there are quite a few more really good books available for teenagers studying for their exams.

Back to the point of all past authors, set for GCSE, why are GCSE about nineteenth century? Well did you know Michael Gove is the one who made it compulsory for all pupils to sit final exams on a nineteenth century novel which therefore it’s unfortunate for teachers who are responsible for some of the most boring lessons in a students life.

I personally loved reading What Page Sir ? The Joy of Text in a Secondary School Classroom, as it taught me a lot about books that I haven’t even read, and with the hilarious scenes in a classroom, and recommend it .


What Page Sir ? Is Simon Pickerings fifth book. He began writing in 2016 and as a form of therapy, on the train home from his job as a school teacher an antidote to difficult teenagers and pointless government and Senior Leadership initiatives. These are both explored in Ambassadors and Zombies A Teacher’s Guide to Schools and teaching. As Adam Tangent, his alter ego, he has published Those Who Can’t, A Teacher’s Gap Years, based on his two years pretending to be a university lecturer in post-communist Poland at the start of the 1990s. In the last year he has also published Living With Jos Buttler six weeks in English cricket’s summer of love and Gaza On My Mind conversations with my brother-in-law and other Gazans. Simon is still a school teacher and lives in Hertford with his wife and two children.

Here is the Amazon to buy What Page Sir ?


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