In Mrs Tilscher’s class and Valentine

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In Mrs Tilscher’s class and Valentine

Subject Matter

Mrs Tilscher’s  class

        The poet is remembering a year in primary school when she was in the class of a teacher called Mrs Tilscher. This is the title of the poem. She remembers a particular lesson (Geography) and a typical break time. This is mentioned in stanza one.


        The title tells you that the poem is a Valentine - a gift of love - but straight away, the poem makes it clear that it is not normal type of Valentine: Not a red rose or a satin heart. This is mentioned in stanza 1 line 1.

She gives her love an onion as a sign of her love and the promised light that they could share. This is mentioned in stanza 2 lines 2 and 5.

She explains why the gift is so apt, using original romantic images. This is mentioned in stanza 3.

She adds a note of caution - too much commitment could kill off their relationship (love can be lethal).


Mrs Tilscher’s class

        She preferred school to home because of the magic of ‘enthralling books , sugar paper and coloured shapes’ which helped her to forget her fears  of Brady and Hindley (the Moors Murderers who killed a number of children in the 1960s). This is mentioned in lines 9, 11 and 12.

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She describes details of other lessons and playtimes, especially one day when a rough boy told her the facts of life. stanza 2 lines 21-23.

At the end of the school year, when asked about how you where born, Mrs Tilscher didn’t let on, but there is a sense of growing excitement with the coming thunderstorm. This is mentioned in stanza 3 and lines 26-30.

Duffy includes details to set the scene and help us imagine the classroom ‘chalky pyramids (on the blackboard) / A window opened with a long pole. Stanza 1 and lines 6 and 7.


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