Interview with Ms Kennedy: Rough and Uncut

What was the last lie you told and why?

I’d love to say that I don’t ever tell lies, but that’s….in itself a lie… Probably…I lie to my doctor quite a lot, but doesn’t everyone do that? When they say you know, like how many units of alcohol, or how many hours a night of sleep do you get? I lie about that – which is weird cuz you equally want them to help you but you feel like there’s a test you’ve gotta pass about how good a human you are?! Which is not what doctors are for of course…. I think once lied to a pupil

About pastoral care?!

No, but you might just say that a piece of work is perhaps better than it is if you know they’re about to do an exam or something, and you don’t want to break them first, that’s kinda like a white lie though isn’t it? Oh, and I lie to my father all the time. So, I screen his calls and then say ‘Sorry I’m at a parents’ evening’ when I’m not, I’m just watching RuPauls Drag Race and can’t be bothered to talk to him….

What something within school that you would like to know more about?

What are the things that I question about Wimbledon High hmmm, well I don’t really understand all the French plaiting that goes on, I’ve never known a school that is so obsessed with braiding

Yeah, I suppose you see whole trains of people at lunchtime just plaiting in the pit,

It did take me by surprise. And just hair in general is something that seems to be quite a big thing here, everyone has such long and lustrous locks! When I came I was thinking where are all the girls with short hair – its weird I guess. What else baffles me…. Ooh! I don’t understand why the rooms are numbered the way they are. So for example D and E are over there *indicates towards Piper House*, as well as F, but then G is over here * we are currently sitting in her office, located in the main building*. It makes absolutely no sense! They’re not next to each other in any way! I don’t understand it one bit and I find it especially confusing for new staff. And I don’t understand why they keep changing the door codes without telling us, its really annoying. And baffling.

( Oops someone’s just fallen over and hurt themselves quite badly –  you can see my spying position now )

I don’t really understand why we have to have so many emails instead of more conversations, but I think that’s just schools in general I guess. And there are somethings in the Common Room which I will probably never understand, but I’m probably not allowed to talk about those! Probably…

Which fictional character would be either most boring or most interesting to bring to life?

Well most boring, anything by Samuel Richardson ahaha, I guess if either Pamela or Clarissa came to life, I would be pretty upset by that because they were probably the most boring books I’ve ever had to read. And I had to read both of them in about a week.

Ah, Oxford struggles

Mhmmm. They’re just both epistolary novels and nothing excites me less than that.

The most interesting – I would love to meet Dorothea from Middlemarch, I’m obsessed with George Eliot because I think she’s just a genius! *George Eliot being a pseudonym for female writer Mary Anne Evans* In fact I’d quite like to meet her, although I guess its too late. I’d want to meet her because the women that she draws are so ahead of their time in terms of their multifaceted representations, in comparison to their generation. I also want to talk to Dorothea about why she falls in love with Casaubon, because I really feel for that.

I personal just viewed that as her means for financial advancement and or just pity,

Yeah pity, I think she had the whole ‘I can save him’ complex

But she wasn’t the person to do it, it was unnecessary!

I know, but I think a lot of women have that (saviour complex), I found it both horrifying and incredibly believable. There’s also…. I would also like to meet the twins in Angela Carter’s Wise Children, Dora and Nora, who are like these 90 year old ladies-

Oh I’ve just started reading that!

Isn’t it fabulous!

I just started it and its so wacky, I thought what is this? –

Wacky is the word! They’re hard drinking, chain smoking, wise crack twins living together, who like put on oodles of makeup everyday and go around dancing and singing – I love them, and they’re obsessed with Shakespeare so that’s good

They sound like video game characters

Well they are a bit! They are deliberate caricatures, sort of typifying the unbreakable female spirit I think. I love Angela Carter, I think she’s just absolutely hilarious. She’d be a good person to meet as well.

What Hogwarts house do you see yourself as?

I don’t know much about Harry Potter to be honest

*gasp* WHAT HOW………

I know, I know. But I got annoyed because the first hundred pages of the first two were the same! You know, to the extent that I thought I had picked up the first one again by accident!! And so instead I tried to watch the films but I didn’t find them very magical….Well what are they, so Slytherin if you’re mean right?

Well not necessarily, it’s like cunning as well

Cunning? Oh is that Mr Murphy, is he in Slytherin? *Mr Murphy’s answer was withheld until her own answer was given*. Okay, and Harrys in Gryffindor, where you’re like brave or something. Hmm, I’m not that. What’s Hufflepuff? Because I like the name Hufflepuff

They’re like nothing. They’re pretty mediocre. But Ravenclaw is clever, they’re astute and sharp.

Sharp, brave, bland or mean…. Well what you’d want to do is be in Hufflepuff and revolutionise it right? Yeah, give it an identity, because that’s what I’d want to do. Because you don’t want to be boxed in, so if you go into Hufflepuff you can be whatever you want!

Ah! So you’re ambitious, so that makes you a Slytherin

Agggh! (Damn it!) But the word Hufflepuff is probably the nicest one right, so I might go for that just so I can say it. Do think I should my name to Finnoula Hufflepuff, you know, the soft fricatives are good huh?

A very Harry Potter name

Fionnula Hufflepuff, why not?

So what is your astrological sign?

Well, I both don’t believe in astrology but also massively believe in it. So, I don’t believe it unless its about me… So I’m a Scorpio, which I think is probably about right. Interestingly – and this is no exaggeration – I would say that most of my best female friends are also Scorpios. I think fiery women attract fiery women. So like Miss Franklin – also a Scorpio – yep. I don’t know whether the characteristics happen to coincide with my nature or if I know how Scorpios are meant to behave.. But you know, bit fiery,

I never expected to hear the nature verses nurture debate about astrology!

Well you see this is how its going to be like in Hufflepuff, we’re surprising you left, right and centre! I guess I tend to say things as I see them, and it’s also true that if you annoy me I’ll probably be annoyed with you forever which is not a good quality. But once you’re on my team ,you’re on my team forever as well. So either horrendously loyal either way – loyal to my grudge and people I like, I think. What are you?

A Taurus

So stubborn is that right?

Hmmm, yeah I guess. I’m a Leo, so am I brave?

Yes, you could be a lion! You know, brave and all that, you’re a lion!

Does that make me a bull?

Definitely not in appearance but spiritually of course.

I like to think so. What teacher gossip are you allowed to tell us?

Teacher goss… well do you know what  – and this is genuine – I have never been in a staffroom where there is less goss in that sense. But, everyone is jealous of the maths department, that’s true. Because the maths department get really good results and they have loads of fun together, they always go off and do cool department stuff and everyone else is just a bit bitter about that.

Ms Reiss feels like a matrix character

Yeah, I see that. They’ve also got the coolest SMT in there, so they’ve got like Mrs Duncan, who like, look at her hair! I mean the woman knows what she’s up to right? She’s awesome. So they have a really good time. So everyone’s jealous of them so talks behind their backs quite a lot… The closest I can get to goss is Miss Cox and Dr Parsons had a fake wedding in Japan but you guys know about that!

What was the reaction to Ms Gleadhill, telling everyone about her anti-bullying stuff?

It was amazing! I loved the overshare, but of course its okay if Ms Gleadhill does stuff like that because she is genuinely cool, so no one would ever dream of criticising her. Whereas if anyone else did that they would get loads of shtick about that. Other goss…Mr Murphy is really grumpy ALL THE TIME!

Even after his optimism assembly?!

Yeah!

Have you ever seen him happy?

No, because I don’t see him during the holidays! Ahaha! Because you know, on SMT its like Mrs Duncan and I genuinely like love our lives, have an awesome time, get to meetings early for meetings because we’re really looking forward to seeing everyone! And then Mr Murphy shuffles in sweating, having just got off his bike. It just brings the vibe down!

That’s quite an image!

Isn’t it? So, there’s not much goss not much intrigue, everyone has very well developed personal lives. It’s not like other schools I’ve worked at where everyone is in love with each other. I know its so boring here, everyone’s happy!

What’s your favourite TV show/movie?

Oooh interesting. So, I am a huge Tilda Swinton fan. So probably my favourite movie is an Italian film she’s in called I Am Love, which is absolutely glorious! I have a huge, billboard sized framed poster of it in my kitchen, which is awesome – you should check it out. Nothing much happens, so its my favourite kinda film

Would you recommend her version of Orlando?

It’s fab, absolutely would recommend. Also, she plays Isabella in Edward II. And I don’t really get much of it – at one point there’s a naked rugby scrum which apparently symbolises something?? But I’m also not complaining! I just wasn’t quite sure, having taught the text, what that was symbolising, but she’s wonderful so I would watch anything with her in. And GOD she knows how to wear clothes. TV shows, I watch far too much Tv. I think people think I sit around reading whilst listening to radio 4, its just not true. I like the West Wing a lot, a lot. Josh, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but Josh in the West Wing is like my ideal man. He’s incredibly bright, a little bit full of himself, and is eventually tamed by a good woman

I’ve actually been recommended that show specifically for that character but never got around to it.

Take it from me, its worth it! But I tend to quite like political things, like House of Cards as well )

What’s your favourite song/anthem/last thing that was played on your phone?

I know the last thing I listened to, it was Don’t Kill My Vibe by Sigrid. Just because I like stomping around. And! Very embarrassingly, I really like Taylor Swift’s new song

Controversial opinion!

Really?!

Look What You Made Me Do! I really like it even though I didn’t think I would!

Have you seen the music video?

No, I don’t really do that. It upsets me too much.

Yes, I think it would, just from a feminist perspective

Also, I can’t watch MTV, I just boil with rage. I’m also very much a traditionalist, I listen to a lot of Whitney Houston and Barbra Streisand – I’ve basically got the music taste of my 60 year old gay uncle, that’s basically what I like. But lots of classical as well, lots. Choral in particular. Mr Bristow would be proud.

And your anthem song?

Well, I’ve been waiting to be asked that question all my life but now I have I don’t know what to say! I mean, Whitney is so emotional, I guess she’s gotta be there. That woman was just extraordinary, I know that she ended quite sadly, but that’s just the way it goes doesn’t it. There is no emotional situation that I could be in where I wouldn’t be happy when I hear the opening strains of her songs. I recommend it, for all emergencies.

Who is your closest friend amongst the staff?

This is political isn’t it… Obviously its Mrs Lunnon! Although, she’s more like ‘mum’/’guru’ than close friend…. I’m just worried that Dr Parsons is going to cry if I don’t say him, and no one wants to see a small, sweet man in tears

He’s in Japan he won’t know!

He is. But, probably Miss Franklin. She is the most energetic woman I’ve ever met, for better or worse, she’s got energy! And she’s just so hilarious. But to be honest when I came here I didn’t have any friends….

Awwww! 

I just didn’t think anyone would like me, and didn’t think that I was allowed to hang out with anyone….It took a while, but everyone is just genuinely cool here. I think Mr Murphy would very much like to be my friend, but…I…well no. It’s just a no. Mrs Clarke and I have decided that he needs the cold shoulder for a while,  as he’s just out of control.

Is it the sweet jar incident?

Yes! Because this jar was full *indicates to a large jar with a few, sad remains* You are of course welcome to some – but be aware that it’s all been pawed at by Mr Murphy. But I’ll tell you the reasons that I do like Mrs Franklin and Dr Parsons is that they’ll always, always be up for singing show tunes with me when we’ve had a glass of wine, and that is what makes them true friends.

Do you support pineapple on pizza?

Do you know what? I do. I LOVE a good Hawaiian, I really do, so I’m really annoyed that it’s become untrendy to have one. Pizza Express doesn’t do them anymore! Ugh, it’s just so delicious. Although I do not support fish on a pizza, fish has no place on a pizza. Ultimately I am with the pineapple movement, I am pro pineapple. Pro Pine! PP!

What has been the funniest moment for you at this school?

Well I can’t share with you my funniest funniest moments. But what I can tell you is that, my Year 12s already know this, I did enjoy Sophie Whelan writing about the ‘fist meeting’ between Jane and Rochester! That did make me laugh, a lot! I was rolling around on the floor whilst I was marking it. Also, I really enjoy when Miss Cox, as she has this really unfortunate habit of constantly making Freudian innuendos in meetings without meaning to. She often has me in fits of giggles, particularly during important meetings with serious people from Trust, I just have to *mimes silencing herself*. I guess I do laugh a lot here, it probably always involves Parsons somehow. I had a pretty funny weekend in Oxford with Dr Parsons and Miss Franklin, Miss Cox and Mrs Duncan. But I can’t go into the details of why it was so funny – that’s all I’m giving you!

What do you think about the current progression of feminism at this school?

Well, I’m pleased to work in a school where I imagine that most girls would identify as being a feminist, but what worries me is how difficult its is to maintain that identity when boys still have that social cache to ‘put your money where your mouth is’. So, I know for a fact that girls at this school will allow themselves to be treated poorly at parties, because its just not cool to make a fuss – that really worries me. I see social media content (although people think I don’t) that makes me really unhappy, A. as it suggests a lack of self esteem and unhappiness in that girl and B. the things written underneath that these girls perceive to be ‘cool’ to receive from a boy are actually degrading. So perhaps there’s a mismatch between what is said and done. And I know this is only true to an extent always because feminism as an ‘ideal’ is quite different to feminism in the practice of what is done. I mean because this is a political world and theory and reality are not one and the same, but that you should try to bring them closer than we tend to do sometimes. And what we need to do is support each other in doing that, because once one girl makes a fuss at a party and others need to support her instead of laughing when the boys call her frigid. Once we can show a bit of solidarity, it can snowball.

And in extension of that, do you think for some things girls at this school feminism is less of something they consciously think about and more something that is accepted blindly because of the emphasis placed on it by the school?

Yes, of course. And I think that’s the problem with schools leading on something like that, you need to be careful that it doesn’t become preachy. Obviously I have an agenda that I preach constantly, but equally I feel that I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t do that, but I need to be careful so as not to put people off, as it would then become an older generation’s issue. So what I do love is that we have Year 7s in WOW, I think that is so lush – they are also the most adorable, ever! I think that’s quite unusual to have little ones voluntarily coming to a feminist club, its really awesome and actually quite radical. The only thing I would perhaps say is that in this school, there is a little bit of closed minded-ness, partly due to the idea of feminist acceptance going on. Our girls are quite easily shocked, for example when Claire Fox came in and she talked about that fact that rape isn’t the worst thing that can happen to someone and they’re like ‘HOW DARE YOU’. So what I’m saying is just listen to the argument being made, don’t be so emotionally reactive to stuff because it is actually quite unhelpful. And because, she’s right, it isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person – you are still alive. We’re not victims, stop giving the idea that all women are insane. Because with freedom comes risk. I don’t wanna be chaperoned everywhere, I don’t want to go back to Victorian England where my father enters me into the living room! I know that having my freedom means that – this sounds like an odd thing to say – but I am free to be abused or hurt.

There are consequences to everything

Indeed, there really are.) I worry that here there is a lot of talk of ‘safe spaces’ and ‘triggering’ and I do understand that there’s is a language that perhaps my generation aren’t as comfortable with or as familiar with. I just worry that they’re throwing away quite a lot of stuff that was hard fought for, because we’ve been told now to be scared. I don’t want to be scared. And if someone pinches my bottom, lucky them! – Not that that’s happens all the time, no! It’s that I don’t want that to turn me into a victim, just to carry on with my life, it doesn’t need to define me, that moment or even my character! I worry about concept creep,  I’m not saying that being violently sexual assault is the same as having your bottom pinched, at all.

So what would you take from everything about Harvey Weinstein and the increasing number of female celebrities coming forward with their stories.

Well, good on them, because he’s immensely powerful. I worry that the more airtime we give Harvey Weinstein, the more he’s doing that *a rude hand gesture* at the press. He gets the sort of ‘rockstar’ status in someway, but better late than never. Another thing is that these are all alleged crimes, I want to make that clear. It like now that Jimmy Saville is dead, he apparently molested 20 million children – why are we accepting everything has happened? You’ve got to understand that we work within the jurisdictions of the law, however I also know that that law punishes women who were raped. It’s really difficult. It’s clear that he’s done something bad, because women don’t tend to come out against powerful men without extensive thought. Have you heard Emma Thompson about it? She’s great, watch the video, she’s fantastic, such a legend.

Have you got any exciting half term plans?

Yes! I’m going to Italy tomorrow morning with Andrew Doyle – who comes in to do the comedy stuff – he and I and a few mates have hired a villa in Perugia. We’re going to eat and drink wine and read books and play trivial pursuit and talk nonsense for a whole week and I can’t wait!

Anything fun on your reading list?

I’ve got James Salter, a wonderful American writer – he must be about 360 years old now! It’s a bit Jonathan Franzen but more spare! So he writes a lot shorter novels that still manage to be quite epic. Its called All That Is. I’m reading a Margaret Drabble at the moment, called The Pure Gold Baby’ and I just love Margaret Drabble – she’s also really really old. I don’t know why I’m only reading octogenarians at the moment! I’ll probably have to do some Jeanette Winterson because I’ll be teaching that after Christmas and I want to let it embed

How do you feel about Jeanette Winterson?

I feel very positive about Jeanette Winterson. How about you?

I feel she’s very up herself!

I think she probably is quite up herself! Is that okay? I would be if I’d written cool stuff!

(I’m shamed into borrowing Winterson’s autobiography, which I still haven’t read.)