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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
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.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering