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Subject and theme:about rites of passage, the transition from childhood to the adult world, from security of childhood to dangers outside school gates, symbolized by sexual knowledge.

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Introduction

Subject and theme: about rites of passage, the transition from childhood to the adult world, from security of childhood to dangers outside school gates, symbolized by sexual knowledge. Child's view of the world - school is "better than home", thinking that the teacher loves you. Poem ends with child wanting to move on, as teacher implicitly accepts the "rough" boy's account of sex, but will not say it directly. Treatment of tadpoles hints at the cruelty in the adult world. Structure: oddly written in the second person, so reader identifies with "you" of poem, who could be poet or any child at school. A mix of narration and description but with chronological movement - ends with leaving primary school for good. Key images: many details of inside of school, which is likened to a "sweet shop"; "good gold star" is a transferred epithet: the child who receives it is good, not the star; tadpoles described as punctuation marks, which children learn to write; "Brady and Hindley" suggest the dangers of the adult world; weather and electricity suggest mood - "thunderstorm" marks the onset of puberty. In Mrs Tilscher's Class: This is, I think, a poem about the transition from childhood to adolescence. It begins in the primary school, as we can tell from there being only one teacher. The conversational second person singular pronoun, "you," makes the poem seem an intimate recollection. Mrs Tilscher's (she was a real person who taught Carol Ann Duffy) ...read more.

Middle

The child makes one, last attempt to stay in the secure, safe womb of the primary school. She asks Mrs Tilscher, who seems like a surrogate mother, the truth about babies. Mrs Tilscher does not answer, but "smiled and turned away". Her time is over. She who can tell the truth about the real world of the Blue Nile has nothing to say about the real world of marriage and children that the children will be facing in a few short years: "You ran through the gates, impatient to be grown," and the storm which threatened at the beginning of the verse, finally explodes, "split(ting)" "the heavy, sexy sky" open. In Mrs. Tilscher's Class This poem, like Before You Were Mine, is autobiographical, but more obviously so. Mrs. Tilscher is a real person, who taught Carol Ann Duffy in her last year at junior school. The poem is about rites of passage, the transition (move or change) from childhood to adolescence and the things we learn at school, from our teachers and from our peers. Duffy also associates the oppressive feeling we have in humid weather with the physical changes of puberty. Leaving primary school for the last time is like an escape we are eager to make but which takes us from safety into a dangerous unknown. Throughout the poem Duffy refers to "you". She means herself as she was in Mrs. Tilscher's class in the 1960s. But by writing in the second person she invites us to share her experience. ...read more.

Conclusion

All this builds up to the final image, that of awakening into adulthood and sexuality: You ran through the gates, impatient to be grown, as the sky split open into a thunderstorm. * She includes details to set the scene and help us imagine the classroom - chalky Pyramids (on the blackboard) / A window opened with a long pole. * She uses similes and metaphors. Find some examples in the poem and explain why they are effective. Here are some ideas: * The classroom glowed like a sweet shop. This emphasises how special the classroom was to a child, since a sweet shop is a place full of treats and surprises for children. * Brady and Hindley faded, like...a mistake. She uses a typical classroom image of rubbing out a mistake in your work to show how Mrs Tilscher helped the children 'erase' their fears. * Inky tadpoles. This description is very visual and helps us 'see' the blots and dashes as the children learnt to use ink pens. * The poet appeals to our senses to help us experience the classroom more fully: * There are vivid descriptions, as if the poet's memory is like a photograph, so we can see the children's fingers travelling up the Blue Nile. * There are many sounds mentioned, so we can hear the classroom as well as see it. Mrs Tilscher chanted.The laugh of a bell.A xylophone's nonsense * We can also smell the classroom air - The scent of a pencil...- and almost taste the electricity of the end of term and feeluntidy, hot, fractious. ...read more.

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