The True Meaning Of The Stick Man

“Okay class, today we are—Maisie are you chewing? Don’t look at me like that, go spit your gum out right now. Okay class, today we are reviewing something called a visual prompt, commonly used in writing.”

In the corner of my laptop screen, Maisie’s name pops up with a Teams message reading, “hate this class sm”. I can’t help but agree as I type out “always”. Mr Barnet’s sixty-year-old brain is struggling with the PowerPoint, and the class’ volume is steadily rising.

“Quiet!” his voice booms. “Thank you for the help Shannon, you can sit down now. Right, visual prompts. Images given to a writer that can inspire creativity and story ideas. Note that down, it may come up in your assessment.

“We’re going to bring together all our work on analysis and use them towards today’s lesson. I’m going to show you an example of a visual prompt and you are going to tell me what sort of message the image is trying to convey.”

The PowerPoint switches to the next slide, where a simple drawing of a stick figure is waiting on the screen. Stringy hair, one-line limbs, minimalistic Voldemort face — the usual package. Mr Barnet doesn’t seem to think so. He’s gazing at the picture as if the Reception class kid who drew this is his idol.

“Five minutes to talk amongst yourselves.”

I turn to Jermaine, the quiet kid who sits next to me in almost every class (teachers and their obsession with alphabetical order), and he merely shrugs. Good to know he hasn’t got a clue either.

The five minutes pass and from what I can tell, nobody knows what the hell Mr Barnet is on about. So far the conversations I’ve heard have ranged from iCarly to Doritos, and the stick man does not fall under this radar.

Mr Barnet is expecting hands up, but once again we’ve let him down. “Nobody?” Nobody. Not a single person has any idea how this stick man is meant to draw a spark of imagination from our soulless secondary-school bodies. Somehow, Mr Barnet does, though.

“Just look at it!” Yes, sir, that is what we are doing. We are seeing nothing.

“The nose! Or lack of it! Showing the artist’s relationship with the works of JK Rowling!” No, sir, I don’t think a child that age has read Harry Potter.

“Those blank, lifeless eyes! Devoid of emotion!” Yes, sir, do you not notice the thirty pairs of blank, lifeless eyes devoid of emotion staring at you right now?

“The frail physique, symbolising hunger for power — greed, if you like!” No, sir, that’s just how you usually draw a stick man.

“An overstretched, forced smile to mask pain and personal conflict!” Yes, sir, that is what I look like on a daily basis.

“The absence of colour to mimic antiquity and perhaps even depression!” No, sir, the only absence today is Hayden Richards, who bunked off today because of your lesson.

“Don’t tell me none of you observed any of that?”

“None of us observed any of that,” Jermaine mutters beside me.

“Well, maybe you’ll do better on the next one!”

Please, stop.

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