Bestworst lesson


It started as the story before home time and turned into a whole term's work and mega production.

The tale was of a modern princess, saved from an unwanted marriage by the very ordinary Doreen. It was funny and topical and inspired exciting drama work and later art and design, which pushed the children's practical skills to their limits.

They had to devise and make a bride's dress which could stand up without support and allow a princess to escape from a trap door in its rear, crawl beneath the long train to the hall's back door and disappear. Its creation was a feat of incredible ingenuity for the class of nine-year-olds.

I remember the laughter in those lessons and everyone's eager involvement in every aspect of the preparation and performance.

The gown, crafted from a pyramid of large cardboard boxes covered in net curtains, did not let them down. Our diminutive princess made her clever escape and the first years, watching at the front of the hall, puzzled over it for weeks.

Like all good performances, the result was a close-knit working group. And brilliant memories WORST

It wasn't really my lesson. I wasn't even a teacher. I had just completed my O-levels and was spending a week helping out at my old primary school.

Many of my former teachers had retired so few people knew me. I was mature for my age and used to looking after children and so did not find it odd when teachers started giving me groups to teach or even a class of 34 in the school hall for an apparatus lesson.

Their teacher had muttered something like: "It finishes at 12, make sure it's all put back" and left the room, never to return.

With naive optimism, I divided the children into groups, put them on different pieces of potentially dangerous equipment and told them to start.

And they did. They climbed, leaped and threw themselves from enormous heights on to other apparatus, their friends or mere passers-by.

The sounds of triumphant Tarzan yells and bodies thwacking against rubber mats were deafening. No one heard me call stop.

I watched in horror as the most dextrous climbed to the top of the high ropes, swung over the bar and hung upside down like bats, 25 feet above me.

I did not know any names and without that knowledge, control was impossible. My calls of "boy with curly hair", "girl with plaits, come down," were justifiably ignored.

It was the dinner bell which finally saved me. Hunger made them return to the ground, pull their uniforms back on over knickers and vests and run for shepherd's pie.

It transpired that the staff thought I was a second-year teaching student from Gold-smiths Gina Crowley is a teacher in County Durham

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