Meeting a York poet

Wandering through town the other day I was surprised and delighted to see a man sitting behind an old fashioned typewriter and a sign declaring, ‘POEMS on (almost) anyone or anything’.  Of course I couldn’t resist going and talking to him!IMG_3243

He told me that he writes the poems requested and then people can pay as much as they like for them.  I (rather rudely) asked him if he makes money as a poet and he said he does, which I thought was pretty impressive because I think I remember reading once that even the most popular modern poets only sell a couple of thousand copies of each of their books.  At any rate, I asked him to write a poem on why poetry is important and about half an hour later I received this rather lovely little verse.  (I paid him £5.  Do you think that’s fair?)

Poetry is important, by Stefan Kielbasiewicz

Poetry is not important
because of ShakespeareIMG_3324
Eliot, or Frost, and not
everyone’s cup of tea
but important things
like engineering, medicine,
or programming aren’t either.
It’s not my place
to say whether it is important
or not, since that statement
like poetry itself, cannot
be true or false.
If it’s important, it’s because
it involves people from all over
the world, and lets them say
what they mean and feel
in a different way,
and nothing could be more important
than having that possibility.

So there we go.  This is for all my students who’ve ever asked, ‘but what’s the point of poetry?’  I hope you like it as much as I do!

Do go and find him – he was on Parliament Street last week though I don’t know if he’s always there.  And buy a poem!




He’s on Facebook at this link, or you can search streetpoetryyork (with no spaces, just like that) to find him.

How I became an English tutor in York

I’m one of those people who was always going to be a teacher.  Just on my mother’s side of the family alone, my mother works in higher education, my aunt is a primary school teacher and my grandmother taught EAL.  When I did ‘what should I be when I grow up?’ tests, the answer was always teacher.  If you’d asked me when I was 16, I’d have turned my nose up and told you I was going to be a writer, a lawyer or a vet, depending on the week, but in my heart of hearts I think I always knew.

Teaching English is brilliant for two reasons:  I get to talk about books and I get to talk to teenagers who, in almost all cases, are funny, brilliant people.  Put simply, books make me happy and teenagers make me smile.  The combination is exhilarating.

When I moved to York it was for university.  Like lots of York graduates I then decided to stay, because, well, why wouldn’t you?  York and North Yorkshire are beautiful.  I may not officially be a northerner but this is definitely where I belong.  I married my northern boyfriend and we settled in to our respective schools.  (He was a History teacher for a while but now he does things with computers.  Apparently this is also fun, but I suspect not as fun as tutoring English.)  I loved teaching in schools with a passion – I loved boarding, I loved English, I loved Drama, I loved school plays, I loved being a form tutor, I loved UCAS (I know!), I loved my students, I loved my colleagues and I loved, loved, loved talking about books all day.

Bearing in mind how much I loved teaching in schools, it was a slow move to becoming a private tutor.  I took on a couple of students to whom I was recommended by other teachers and gradually I decided that as a tutor I would be able to make more of a difference than I could as a school teacher.  When tutoring English and Drama I and my students can achieve so much more in an hour than we can in a classroom environment.  With no distractions, an hour of tuition can be like a week’s worth of classroom lessons; we can focus entirely and precisely on what that particular student needs and we can make enormous progress extremely quickly.  This is brilliant for students who can suddenly see that they have ability they didn’t realise they had and can get an almost instant confidence boost.  I can plan schemes of work but I’m also not tied to a school’s deadlines so if it becomes apparent that we really need to spend 20 minutes on structuring complex sentences right now, we can do it and the student can get immediate feedback.  I can work really carefully with my students’ needs and, importantly, they can tell me exactly what they want without worrying that they’re taking up too much of my time or that I won’t have the spare hours to dedicate to helping them when they need it.  They get an instant level up – and, in a way, so do I.  I see that glow of confidence, that smile as a particular skill clicks into place, that laugh as a previously impenetrable text suddenly makes sense.

Teaching English and Drama in York was brilliant but tutoring English and Drama in York is even better because the same things are still true – York is beautiful, books make me happy and teenagers make me smile – and now, to top it all off, I get to teach every lesson with a freshly made cup of tea and a slice of Yorkshire parkin.  It doesn’t get better than that.