Mark Grist: The teacher-turned-poet on classroom hecklers, Viking rap battles and his love of rude board games

 

I was a good teacher because I failed so many times I remember one lesson when I was introduced as the trainee teacher to a Year Eight class. When I asked them to sit down, they were like, "You're not a proper teacher, we don't have to listen to you!" People were throwing things; I had a proper revolt. But unruly classes are like dealing with hormone-ridden hecklers at a gig; the more front-line experience you have, the better you get. And the next time someone came at me with a comment, I had a rebuttal.

Watching films or TV shows about teaching is weird I particularly can't watch Waterloo Road [the BBC drama set in a comprehensive school], because everyone in it is such a caricature. Teaching is a profession where you caricature yourself, so you have stock responses to given types of behaviour. So I found it just too weird to see my day job dramatised like that.

When you tell kids to follow their dreams, you start thinking you should too That's why I quit my job teaching English in Peterborough and started a poetry open-mic night. I found that I enjoyed reading poems that made people laugh; I got made the poet laureate of Peterborough and formed [spoken-word duo] Dead Poets with the hip-hop artists MC Mixy [with whom Grist has performed at festivals around the UK].

Rap battles are an undervalued art form They've been around for millennia: even the Vikings were doing it [flyting – the exchange of insults between two parties, conducted in verse – is found throughout Norse literature]. And it was my rap battle with MC Blizzard two years ago that changed things for me, becoming the most-watched rap battle online. [Grist beat the student in a rap contest that went viral, generating millions of views on YouTube.] After that I got pitches for TV and radio work.

I write poems for people who don't like poetry Many people see poetry as some great, lofty British tradition they can't connect with. But poetry is everywhere; they're words that just have to work a bit harder. Lively comedic work is my kind of thing, such as Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes. An opening line I like to use in my own shows is: "Come to Peterborough, a city of unusual beauty/ Houses so cheap we don't pay stamp duty."

There's a poem I've been writing for two-and-a-half years now I'm on to line six, and one day I'll finish it. It's about an old woman who lives across the road, who stares at me through her front curtains; she'll probably be dead by the time I finish it .

I'm a board-game addict I have nearly 100 board games, scattered everywhere; any shelf, there's a small game perched on it. I'm particularly interested in seeing how the mechanics of a game work; I was single for a long time. My current favourite is Cards Against Humanity, a horribly offensive word-based game I play with my girlfriend.

I get frustrated by how teenagers are seen in society They're far less dogmatic and more likely to change their minds about something than adults. When I used to tell people I was a teacher, they'd either feel sorry for me or say, "Oh, that must be awful." But honestly, working with teenagers was the coolest part of it.

Mark Grist, 32, a former secondary-school teacher, is now a poet, rap-battler and educational consultant. His tour, 'Rogue Teacher', runs from 17 April to 30 May (markgrist.com. The education documentary 'Mr Drew's School for Boys', in which Grist features as a teacher, airs on Channel 4 this spring

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living