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Great Expectations

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To look at what our expectations are and how they are formed.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need two presenters, two interviewers, four interviewees and three people to act as placard holders.
  • You will also need four A4 sheets of cardboard for the interviewees to use to hide their faces and some A3 sheets of cardboard with comments painted on them, such as 'Aaaah!’, ‘Sad!’, ‘Shame,eh?’ and ‘What a loser!' for the first interviewee, 'Wangle shifting is dangerous to your health!’, ‘Beware the idiot!’, ‘This could happen to you!' for the second interviewee, 'Seek good advice, then make your own mind up!’ and ‘Some politicians can be trusted!' for the third interviewee and 'Never wrestle with a pig – you'll both get dirty and the pig will enjoy it!', 'Never try to teach an elephant to sing – you'll end up exhausted and the elephant will end up frustrated!' and 'There are two sides to every story!' for the fourth interviewee, plus three pieces of card with 'No one can see around corners!' on them.
  • Finally, see if you can find a very large spanner or wrench or make an oversized cardboard representation of one if not.
  • Have available 'The rose' by Bette Midler, from Experience the Divine: Greatest Hits (Atlantic, 1993) or online, and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.

Assembly

Presenter 1 In the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the central character, Pip, expects to serve out his apprenticeship to Joe Gargery, the local blacksmith, then become a blacksmith himself. In fact, his life doesn’t work out like that at all.

Presenter 2 A strange man turns up – a solicitor called Mr Jaggers. Jaggers has incredible news for Pip. He tells Pip that he has a benefactor  . . .  a rich person who is willing to offer Pip financial support that will change his life. Along with his new-found wealth, Pip is expected to become an educated gentleman.

Presenter 1 The rest of the novel revolves around us watching Pip as he comes to terms with the new expectations people have of him.

Presenter 2 Of course, it's true to say that we are all under pressure. Sometimes the pressure is obvious and sometimes it is so subtle that we are hardly aware of it. We decided to interview some people about how they looked back at times in their lives when they were under pressure to achieve. We have hidden their faces to protect their identities.

In what follows, the interviewees and interviewers come to the centre front, in turn. Each interviewee covers his or her face with an A4 sheet of card.

Interviewer 1
Please tell the viewers your story in your own words.

Interviewee 1 I wanted to get in to the Guinness Book of Records by being the first person to sail around the world in a bathtub, but Mum was worried I'd catch a cold if I got my feet wet, so I gave up the whole idea. I'll always regret that.

Interviewer 1 So you blame your mother for ruining your life.

Interviewee 1 Don't blame my mother! She was only worrying about me. I blame myself. If I'd thought it through more carefully, I would have realized that I could've worn two pairs of socks. (With bitter regret) I could've been famous.

The placard holders rush in and hold up the A3 pieces of card with the comments 'Aaaah!’, ‘Sad!’, ‘Shame, eh?’, ‘What a loser!' and so on on them.

They then leave, together with Interviewer 1 and Interviewee 1.

Interviewer 2 enters with Interviewee 2, who is carrying the large spanner or wrench and covering his or her face with an A4 piece of card.

Interviewer 2
How did you end up in this dreadful situation?

Interviewee 2 When I was at school, they said I would make a great wangle shifter.

Interviewer 2 A what?

Interviewee 2 A wangle shifter. I thought  . . .  ‘Well, they must know what they’re talking about’, so I went to university and learned how to shift a wangle.

Interviewer 2 Can you give us a demonstration of wangle shifting?

Interviewee 2 Certainly. You attach the wangle and then you shift it. (Mimes a very simple action with the tool.) See? It’s highly skilled work.

Interviewer 2 So how long have you been shifting wangles?

Interviewee 2 All my working life. I expect I'll be wangle shifting till the day I die, but, to tell you the honest truth, I am bored here. I don't like it. I need the money, though, so I stay, but I wish I'd done what I really wanted to do.

Interviewer 2 What was that?

Interviewee 2 I think I would have been a very good pop singer  . . .  or a stand-up comedian  . . .  or, failing that, a politician. Something glamorous.

The placard holders rush in and hold up the A3 pieces of card with the comments 'Wangle shifting is dangerous to your health!’, ‘Beware the idiot!’, ‘This could happen to you!' and so on on them.

They then leave, together with Interviewer 2 and Interviewee 2.

Interviewer 1 enters with Interviewee 3, who is covering his or her face with an A4 piece of card.

Interviewer 1
We took our cameras along to meet a politician. Do we have too great an expectation of what politicians can do for us?

Interviewee 3 Looking back, somewhere, some time, some place, somebody must have decided I was to be trusted. In the back of my mind I can just remember somebody saying that to me  . . .  'You can be trusted', they said. I can't even remember why they said it. Maybe it was justified at the time.

Interviewer 1 How did that change your life?

Interviewee 3 Well  . . .  (getting upset) I started to believe it myself. I was doing my best and I thought everybody liked me, but later someone said some horrible things about me. I thought I was useless.

Interviewer 1 What did you do then?

Interviewee 3 I went to the careers adviser. I said that I was apparently very good at giving the impression I could be trusted and they said it seems to be a useful quality if you want to be a politician.

Interviewer 1 So you became a politician?

Interviewee 3 I did. Looking back, I think I've made a big mistake. I shouldn't have listened. I should have made up my own mind. Looking back I realize that I was pushed into something I never really wanted.

The placard holders rush in and hold up the A3 pieces of card with the comments 'Seek good advice, then make your own mind up!’ and ‘Some politicians can be trusted!'

Interviewee 3 I never became the person I wanted to be. I only became the person they wanted me to be.

Interviewee 4 comes in and Interviewer 2 turns to Interviewee 4.

Interviewer 2
Tell us your story.

Interviewee 4 is confident and happy.

Interviewee 4 My story is nothing like those losers. I've always been a winner. I trained hard and was expected to win the 50 metres.

Interviewee 4 Did you?

Interviewee 4 Yes, and I trained hard and was expected to win the 100 metres and I did. Then the 200 metres and then the 400 metres. No problem.

Interviewer 2 No problems at all? So why are we interviewing you?

Interviewee 4 There was a problem, but it wasn't mine. They had the problem.

Interviewer 2 They? Who are ‘they’?

Interviewee 4 They are the people who have expectations and keep pushing you to do what they want you to do. They didn't like it when I decided to do aerobics instead of running. I was bored with running, so I stopped.

Interviewer 2 But you were a winner.

Interviewee 4 I'm still a winner. I still push myself hard, but the important word is 'myself'. The most important expectations are the ones I have for myself.

The placard holders rush in and hold up the A3 pieces of card with the comments 'Never wrestle with a pig – you'll both get dirty and the pig will enjoy it!', 'Never try to teach an elephant to sing – you'll end up exhausted and the elephant will end up frustrated!' and 'There are two sides to every story!'

Interviewer 2
Do you mind if people put pressure on you to start running again?

Interviewee 4 They can pressure me all they like, but the most important opinion I listen to is given to me by my own inner voice  . . .

The presenters now join in the discussion.

Presenter 1
(To Presenter 2) Don't other people's ideas mean anything to him/her?

Presenter 2 Sounds a bit selfish, if you ask me. Pip in Great Expectations wouldn't have got very far if he'd taken that attitude.

The other performers agree loudly and ad lib their own comments until Interviewee 4 backs down.

Interviewee 4
OK, OK. I'm exaggerating a bit. What other people think is important. All I'm saying is that you have to be careful who you listen to because  . . .

The placard carriers have the last word. They chant in unison as they raise the placards containing the words 'No one can see around corners!'

Everyone
No one can see around corners! 

Time for reflection

Presenter 1 No one can see around corners. No one knows what is going to happen in the future. Other people may have views as to what we should be like – great expectations for us and we may have great expectations for ourselves. Because we're human, our expectations can be out of balance. We can expect too much – or not enough – of ourselves and those around us.

Christians believe that Jesus has great expectations of everyone – that everyone can become the person they were created to be – and God loves the person we really are.

So, let us think for a moment about what our expectations could really be, what gifts we have, what will truly help us become ourselves. If we get that right, it should help us to face whatever lies around the corner.

Follow-up activity

  1. 'Never try to teach an elephant to sing. You will end up exhausted and the elephant will end up frustrated!' What does this phrase mean to you? What does it say about the way we should set our expectations of others?

  2. In John's Gospel (8.31–32, GNB) Jesus said, 'If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth , and the truth will set you free.' 

    Identify what Jesus asked his disciples to do and be like. Which of those things do you think were restrictive for them? Which might help them to find some deeper truths about themselves and life in general?

  3. Look up the dictionary definitions of the words 'development' and 'fulfilment'. Think of at least three different scenarios that represent a 'successful' life for you, as seen by, for example, your mother/father/parents/carer, your best friend, your worst enemy. What is your own 'success' scenario?

Music

'The Rose' by Bette Midler 

Publication date: August 2014   (Vol.16 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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