The Poetry Man and the Biscuit Zombies

If you remember, a few weeks back, I recently decided to dip my teaching toe into Disney territory and introduce The Poetry Man to one of my year 7 classes. It was a mad old time, with balloons and mayhem aplenty. Read here. Anyway, with two weeks in between each visit I’d had some time to work out how to follow my own act – a tricky endeavour considering how quickly 11 year-olds get used to routines, no matter how odd. I started with a note delivered to the class on the previous afternoon instructing them to bring torches to the lesson. And so it began.

Tuesday morning: I vacate my room and a colleague gets the class in. Through the office door I can hear them asking whether or not the Poetry Man is coming. My colleague does a sterling job of feigning incredulity; she tells them to stop being ridiculous and prepare for a punctuation test. Shortly after, she ‘pops out’ of the room and cues me in. I don the mac and trilby, grab the brolly and harmonica, and… pause at the door. How do you make a second big entrance?

Easy. I just start knocking and don’t stop until one of the kids swings the door open. Takes about a minute and a half (which is a long time in knocking years).

The next 15 minutes is suitably bizarre. I shut out all sunlight and put some creepy music on, and with our torches, we read a poem I wrote years ago called ‘The Pigeon’. It’s a pastiche of Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’ about biscuits. You can read it here, if you’d like. There’s lots of audience participation and shouting of “NEVERMORE”. Which is great. Then we get into it.

I reach into a drawer and retrieve about six packets of biscuits, rip one open and casually start munching. As I chew, spraying crumbs everywhere, I ask the kids if they’ve ever heard of Biscuit Zombies. Bless them, a sea of hands goes up and we have a chat about Biscuit Zombies; what they are (zombies), what they eat (biscuits), how they look (like teenagers), how to become one (by eating three packs of biscuits) etc.  Then I burst into a chanty song about Biscuit Zombies that the kids have to join in with. Scribbled in my trusty Moleskine below:

BISCUIT ZOMBIES

They creep around when it gets dark,

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

Nibbling biscuits in the park…

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

They stagger, sway and slowly stumble,

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

They never speak, but sort of mumble…

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

When you see them, please be wary,

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

When they’re hungry, then they’re scary!

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

If you see one, don’t be reckless…

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

When they get you, you’ll get peckish!

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

Biscuit treats they like to munch,

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

But they might have YOU for lunch!

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

Don’t eat biscuits when you see them,

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

It would be unwise to feed them…

“Biscuit Zombies, Biscuit Zombies”

 

During this, a new Teaching Assistant comes in. I leap up and, shining a torch in her eyes, instantly challenging her to a poetry-off where the kids have to give us words and we have to make rhymes out them. Why not ?

Anyway, long story short, the rest of the lesson is a hunt for Biscuit Zombies. Biscuits in one hand, torches in the other, we troop out and go slinking around the school. The emphasis is stealth on this one and not being seen, so whenever we see a member of staff we freeze.

“If we don’t move… they can’t see us…”

“OK Poetry Man!”

At one point, we go through a ‘No access to students’ area in the science block and round a darkened corner. I haven’t planned to meet any zombies, but even I’m slightly freaked out when I see a figure moving about in the shadows. It turns out to be someone from admin doing some filing and she looks less than happy to see a bunch of year 7s, with torches, trailing biscuit crumbs, in a part of the school they shouldn’t be in. We run.

In the stairwell, I slump, disappointed, to the stairs and we all sit down. I play a little tune on the harmonica and quietly admit that I got something wrong… You can only see Biscuit Zombies at night! The kids are suitably bemused until I have my Big Idea. Why not pretend to BE Biscuit Zombies and convince the rest of the school they exist? Here, I brandish an InstaMax polaroid camera out from my mac. Yes, two weeks is a good amount of time to plan one outlandish lesson.

The rest of the time is spent pretending to be biscuit zombies around the school and getting photographic evidence, which is hilarious. Then we returned to the classroom where we wrote ‘Warning’ poems to go with the photos, put them in envelopes along with the biscuit crumbs, ready to be posted off to various teachers of choice. At the warning bell, I did the same as last time and delivered a parting rhyme before spiriting myself away.

So. That’s the second outing for the now famous Poetry Man. I do feel as though it’s a mad thing to be doing at this unreasonably busy time of year, but hopefully these kids’ll have something cool to remember about year 7 as they move up the school. When I get a chance I’ll get some of their zombie poems together and share.

Right then. Next session will be after half term. Let’s see what happens…

-Unseen

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5 thoughts on “The Poetry Man and the Biscuit Zombies

  1. If I said I loved you, I would be understating the way I felt.

    I’ve had a shit half term, but you make me believe what I’ve always known. School CAN be fun…

    • Haha – the feeling is mutual! I’m lucky enough to have a year 7 that I only see sporadically. There’s no way this would fly otherwise…

      It’s weird though- this half term has felt brutal and rough and I can feel myself reacting by going a bit mental. I can feel the pressure, at my school definitely, for everything to be reduced to systems and protocol, and the actual enjoyment of learning is almost irrelevant. And with so much bloody STUFF to get through, it’s near impossible to get into that cavalier mindset where you can have fun, go off piste, enjoy just being and not be a slave to results. I’m starting to hate results. On some psychological level, I think The Poetry Man must be a response to all this. He doesn’t even do the register.

    • Absolutely. Like I said above, I’m lucky enough to have a class I can muck about with. It’s a really sad thing that we don’t have the space to breathe and just ‘be’ with all our classes though.

  2. This is just fantastic, it goes way beyond costume and into inhabiting an entirely new character. I’m going to have to devote a whole section of the book I’m writing to this story! Thank you so much for sharing it.

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