Last year, I began my crusade to have Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo, removed from our book list. I've 'taught' the text for the last ten or so years. In some ways, it's kept me young. I put it down to being immersed, for a couple of hours each week, in the fug of pubescent hormones emanating from twenty-five excited students. I should be grateful. It's evidently helping me to ward off osteoporosis, facial hair, night sweats and the other scourges of the menopausal.
I'm not bothered that Lockie and Vicky get sexy. I'm more concerned that Winton gets preachy. There's one line in the text where Lockie tells the Sarge, his dad, that the Sarge could never be a teacher because he's got too much going for him. Really hate reading that line. Every year I hate it.
I also dislike Winton's stereotyping of rich kids and their parents, of the kids at the church youth group, the bogans, and yes, the teachers. However, it usually leads to worthwhile discussion about the positives and negatives of stereotyping.
Almost every year that I was coordinator, I received complaints from parents, concerned about their precious children reading about sex. One poor kid, forbidden from participating in any class on Lockie, had to suffer the ignominy of sitting in my office, wading through The Sun on the Stubble - a novel of which his mother, a rabid Christian, approved. Interestingly, she thereby guaranteed that Jimmy, a bright and curious kid, read all three Lockie Leonard books, perhaps with a torch under his bedsheets.
So why is Lockie still doing us, despite the protestations of an oldish former English Coordinator who wouldn't mind aging gracefully?
Basically, most students love it. I even received a petition from one group last year who'd heard from their loose-lipped teacher that we were considering dropping it. So Lockie stayed. Can't fight that.
My students read Lockie aloud in a sort of 'readers' theatre'. One person reads the 'narrator' and other students take the various parts. There's great competition to read the 'rude' bits. This year, two boys desperately wanted to read the first nipple section. With a coin toss, we sorted out who would read. 'Fair enough,' conceded the losing contender, after another had tossed a dollar into the air and called heads. He was crest-fallen but placated by my promise that he could read the next rude bit.
I teach my year 8s in the period before lunch each day. A couple of weeks ago, so enthralled were they with what they were reading, they begged to be allowed to stay in at lunchtime to finish the chapter. I kid you not. They stayed in for seven minutes, and even though I had a full teaching day, I didn't care because I don't think that's happened before. Engagement with reading is what it's all about for us English teachers. I felt really good.
It's been interesting observing my students this year. They're more sophisticated than last year's group. They pick up lots of unintended innuendo. They cracked up at the men holding their sausages in the water-skiing scene. Neither have I received any complaints. I suppose I am teaching in the world of Two and a Half Men.
I do wonder though, what Winton thinks of Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo from the perspective of twenty years. Wonder if he cringes. Wish I'd written it.