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Haili Hughes

Haili Hughes is an experienced teacher and mentor who is passionate about keeping excellent teachers in the classroom, where they make the most impact on young people. She is determined to improve teacher retention rates through the support of high-quality mentors.

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Publications by Haili Hughes

Mentoring in Schools

Written by Haili Hughes, Mentoring in Schools: How to become…

Author Blog

October 26 2020

"The dream is over but the baby is real." Why A Taste of Honey is my favourite modern drama

I know that when it comes to choosing a modern drama when teaching the AQA syllabus, the common and most popular choice is Priestley's socialist manifesto 'An Inspector Calls.' There is no doubt that it is a great play; it's rich in opportunities for analysis and has a surprising resonance with events in modern Britain - particularly when it comes to class. However, as a gritty Northern lass the allure of Delaney's 'A Taste of Honey' has always called to me. Indeed, I have long been a super fan of the play. Even having Helen and Jo tattooed onto me and going on a pilgrimage of the filming locations of Tony Richardson's 1961 adaptation of the play. Much of the movie was filmed in Stockport (including the famous church yard shot, where Jo smashes the baby doll's brains out), rather than in Salford where the play was set. 



When I went on my pilgramage, a photographer friend, Helen Hughes, who is a fellow Delaney fan took some pictures of me in the style of Richardson and this was my favourite one. It's hard to imagine that this is in 2017 and not the 1950s. My outfit was quite similar to Jo's and I had it made for the ocassion, while wearing the grim look of strength and determination that Jo wore for so much of the play. Like me, Helen is a huge fan of Salford band, The Smiths. While we were there, we also got some shots at The iconic Salford Lad's Club...well it would have been rude not to! Morrissey once said: "I've never made any secret of the fact that at least 50 per cent of my reason for writing can be blamed on Shelagh Delaney." He was so greatly influenced by her writing that her face is printed on some of their single covers and there are several references to her plays in their songs.



What I love about 'A Taste of Honey' the most is its realness. I come from a similar background to Helen and Jo and although me never did a moonlight flit, I remember my young teenage mother making us hide behind the sofa when people came to the door who we had to pay bills to. This was in the early 80s and my mother wasn't quite the louche drinker and party girl that Helen was, although I do remember different boyfriends and the strained relationship we had as I grew up. I can relate to Jo so much and as I have grown older and become a mother myself, I have softened towards Helen. With hindsight and the wisdom of age I have much more sympathy for her plight and admire her resilience and ability to just get on with it!

A few years ago, I had quite a challenging class and I just didn't think they would enjoy 'An Inspector Calls.' Some of them had low levels of cultural literacy and to quote The Smiths again, I just didn't feel like AIC would say something to them about their life. So I persuaded the Head of Department to let me study 'A Taste of Honey' with them and she agreed - as long as I was happy to create my own resources and scheme. So I went for it and the results were brilliant; the whole class passed Literature, with some of the Grade 4/5 borderline class achieving Grade 6 and 7. Even more importantly, they loved the play and when I bumped into one of them about three months ago, they were still talking about it. Having a movie adaptation is also always helpful and although the film is a little different from the play script, it is still very enjoyable and a great insight into a mid-century Manchester. 

Finally, after extolling the virtues of the play for several years, I managed to persuade them to give it a place in our Key Stage 3 curriculum, for year 9. We were completely re-writing and restructuring our KS3 curriculum and wanted to include texts that were important and built up cultural literacy for our students. In ATOH, we are building on the contextual knowledge of the historical events of the twentieth century - from the Great Depression and racial tensions in 'Of Mice and Men' to the post-war issues of class in 'An Inspector Calls,'  Delaney's kitchen sink drama sits perfectly alongside this. When we were choosing texts we had something that Kat Howard said in mind: 

"Our duty to our subject extends beyond our love for the subject and wanting to experience that as much as possible; to feel connected with the subject is also to expose students to the magic and power of the subject itself. We must ensure that the many we provide maintains to balance the tension between our perception of the subject and what it may evolve to once placed in the hands of the student, who are future ambassadors for it. We must adequately prepare students that exposure to the debates and combative threads of knowledge of our subject are not new or shocking to them when they encounter them. Above all, we must ensure that the curriculum menu that we deliver is something that we feel has a sense of conviction, a version of truth that it makes us comfortable, and excited to impart it.

We all felt that 'A Taste of Honey' did this perfectly and was an excellent stepping stone to GCSE. Little were we to know that the issues of poverty depicted in the play and the ideas of the North/South divide that Delaney no doubt wanted to expose when she went against the genre of Drawing Room Drama so favoured by the establishment in the 1940s and 50s, would become so prevalent again in 2020, when Greater Manchester was plunged into Tier 3 restrictions and free school meals assistance during the half term holidays was voted down by MPs. 

To celebrate how amazing the play is, I have designed a scheme for it complete with around 30 PowerPoint presentations and resources, a knowledge organiser, assessment and mark scheme and a homework booklet of unseen poems and lyrics to analyse, which are linked to the play. It has a whole week on becoming an English scholar and learning how to critically evaluate texts, as well as use thesis statements, seeing the text as a conscious construct and using critical theory to analyse the text and produce conceptual responses. I have borrowed lots of resource ideas and templates from amazing practitioners such as Stuart Pryke, TES and Becky Wood
so thank you to you all! There's a cheeky dig at the DfE and their anti-capitalist text agenda in the lesson, but I've always been a bit of an anarchist so...nolite te bastardes carborundorum baby! I have also embedded the film clips into the PowerPoints and they are strategically placed for you to watch along with activities that link. You can find the scheme here: 
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1sHfqFJ_tMh1Z4XzTjr3tiW9jGh0HkMLy?usp=sharing

I want to finish with this quote from the paper 
'This One Is Different Because It's Ours: The Ordinary, The Extraordinary, and The Working-Class Artist in A Taste of Honey' by Laura K Wallace, 2017, as it sums up why I love the play and its message so much and believe it's of so much value for today's students:


"A belief in one's own extraordinariness can function as a survival strategy for the marginal and misunderstood. A Taste of Honey provides a model for self‐care that nurtures hope. This hope may not entail a revolutionary politics. Rather, the kind of hope this film offers is a sense of individual value outside of markets and marriage plots, the belief that an individual is “bloody marvelous” even if she does not live up to her potential."

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October 31 2019

Using rap as a vehicle for developing unseen poetry analysing skills

This is me. I am not ashamed to say, I am probably the least 'down with the kids' person in the entire world. I once even called 'Snap Chat,' 'Chat Snap' - to the great hilarity of my pupils.


So it was with a small amount of trepidation that I decided to follow in the footsteps of some of the fabulous educators I follow online and to dip my toe in the river of rap as a way of helping students develop their skills of analysing unseen poetry. Of course, I have used song lyrics for this purpose before - but I always stuck to bands I liked. I have a brilliant series of lessons on Smiths' lyrics which I may blog about some other time. But after stumbling across some resources on Iambic Pentameter and Eminem, I thought I would give it a go.

I can't take any credit for coming up with the idea of the two songs I started out with - my resources were based on a PowerPoint from TES here. Analysing Tupac and J. Cole together worked really well as although they mention similar issues in both of the songs, one has a much angrier tone. I sometimes find mood and tone is something which my pupils have particular difficulty commenting on, so this helped them to understand what sort of comments I was looking for.

My year 10 class particularly loved the comparison between the following lines:

"It ain't a secret, don't conceal the fact
The penitentiary's packed and it's filled with blacks" In Tupac

- and -

"Asking the Father for forgiveness, got 'em overwhelmed (Please, God, I want to go to Heaven)
As if He's spiteful like them white folks that control the jail" in J. Cole.

These lyrics in particular gave an opportunity for a rich analysis of tone and the nuances of using particular words. They picked up on the plosives in Tupac's "penitentiary's packed" and commented on how he is angry but seems to possibly place the blame on the police or authority/government/society. Whereas, the use of "spiteful" and "control" more directly blame white people as an oppressive race. I live in a very white area, so it was refreshing to hear pupils talk thoughtfully about colonialism and hearing them consider the daily struggles of POC.

This also led to an interesting discussion on police brutality both in this country and the US. It would have been a brilliant opportunity to do some interleaving to Language Paper 2 skills here as there is an excellent Reggie Yates' documentary about race riots in the USA, where he follows a young black male who is arrested for having sagging pants. There is a clip here which would be really great stimulus for doing some transactional writing.

After this introduction, I did a lesson on Stormzy, using his song 'The Crown.' We started the lesson with this picture on the board:

I asked students to write five adjectives on a post it note to describe how they would feel if they were walking down the street and saw this gang and to stick their post it notes onto the white board when they were finished. A student volunteer then came to the front and read out some of the answers. Unsurprisingly, many of the adjectives were quite negative and we spoke about why that might be. One student spoke up about how this was unfair and that the picture just looked like most teens on a Friday night as there is nowhere to go and that society unfairly judge teenagers in hoodies by stereotyping that they are all causing trouble. 

I then gave each row a newspaper headline I had printed out about teenagers. I found these by just doing a quick Google search, but they included ones such as:

EXCLUSIVE: Mob of schoolboys 'fuelled by VODKA from a pre-GCSE exam party' destroyed treasured model railway exhibition, claims 'mortified' mother

- or - 

Bike yob crashes into a Mercedes as he does WHEELIES while weaving through traffic - but then surrounds the motorist with mob of friends as they blame the DRIVER

Each row discussed the connotations of how teenagers were being presented in the press and whether they thought it was fair that as teenagers themselves, they should shoulder the blame for how all teenagers behaved. This set the tone up really well for analysing 'The Crown' as in it, Stormzy raps about his frustration with having to be the voice seen as representing all young black males. The YouTube video is here. 

I am not a huge fan of acronyms, but until my class is confident, I have given them a structure to analyse unseen poetry using TILL: Title, Ideas, Language, Layout. Once they become more confident, many will no longer need it. So, when analysing the lyrics, each member of a group of four worked alone to take responsibility in exploring an element of TILL in the lyrics and then came together to team teach the rest of their group what they had come up with. Through this discussion, they could then annotate the lyrics with different layers of meaning as some disagreed on what things could suggest. 

I felt it was a really useful activity, which will lead in nicely to analysing the Power and Conflict poetry next half term. One of the kids even called me "fresh" which I am saving in the compliments bank for the next time I say something embarrassing. 

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