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Basking in the limelight

Teaching is generally a solo performance;it helps if you enjoy acting.

That urge to ham it up in front of an appreciative, if captive, audience is the only excuse I can offer for my schmaltzy rendition of "My Way" in a media studies class, during which the students suddenly fell very silent.

Standing behind me was the principal, stroking his chin.

Community singing, on the other hand, provides safety in numbers. At various times I've had classes warbling the intro to Danny and the Juniors'

"At the Hop" ("Bah-bah-bah-bah"), and, perhaps best of all, bellowing "Tequila!" after I've delivered the introductory bars without warning. And what better vocals than those of "Hoots Mon" ("there's a moose loose aboot this hoose") to brighten up dull moments when studying Macbeth?

Sometimes, a performance needs a prop. There's Barry, the gorilla head on a stick (pull the lever to open his mouth) with whom I occasionally digress, and there's Richard, the squeaky rubber rat named after a famously malevolent vice-principal, who gets thumped when a student drops a real clanger.

Sometimes you just get lucky. Once, a student who worked part-time in a local patisserie told me that at closing time on Saturday all unsold cakes were chucked away. For some time afterwards, my Monday English lesson began with me and 20 students spooning trifle and scoffing profiteroles.

OK, stomachs were a bit wobbly, but morale rocketed. (Don't worry;if I didn't get permission from the principal, the student did from her employers.) When all else fails, food is a sure route to a student's heart.

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