Ray Henshaw, a friend who is the Principal at Minsthorpe Community College, South Elmsall, kindly offered to set up some focus groups to read Metamorfishes before it goes for publication. He invited me over yesterday (my birthday and National Poetry Day) so that his Key Stage 3 students could give me a Power Point evaluation of the book.
To be honest, I was dazzled by the students' responses. It had taken them very little time to gather the general gist of the book and they were deeply impressed by Nicola's original illustrations. They had found parts of the text challenging: unfamiliar words, references to Arthurian & other legends and some of the conceits. What impressed me particularly was the determination they had shown in unravelling the mysteries and, when they had, their genuine appreciation of what I had written.
What had occurred to them, and what occurred to me as I listened to their intelligent, perceptive and articulate commentary, was that the book was probably one for reading in small groups. What might prove to be a barrier for one, would be a challenge which three or four together could resolve. They were unanimous in saying that the book had extended their knowledge of environmental pollution as well as introducing them to new vocabulary as well as to other cultures and traditions.
Phew! Yes, I am now 69 and their average age was probably 12-13 but I had been just a little nervous. As an extra delight, following on from the presentation, the students asked me questions about the creative process and my other books.
I am deeply grateful to Ray, who has worked wonders in transforming a 1960s pebble-dash site into one with attractive, modern designs outside. Inside, the re-styling has created a wonderful learning environment; walking around, unannounced, I couldn't help being impressed by the focus on learning and the contentment of the students. My photographs are student-free out of respect for Ray's policy on privacy and protection.
Last, and decidedly not least, I want to thank Molly Morgan. She is a member of the English Team and organises the Reading Group which reviewed the book. Molly clearly has a great rapport with her students and is a dedicated reader herself. Thanks to her generosity, I have learnt a little more about myself and have a sharper sense of what I need to think about in my future writing. She is a fine member of an outstanding team.
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