My best worst lesson

Victoria Hannan

BEST: "Come in my pretties," I cackled from underneath a black, pointed hat as 30 Year 9 pupils dragged their feet through the door of the drama studio. I was on the first placement of my PGCE year and desperate for them to enjoy Macbeth. "What we doin', Miss?" asked one boy who always had an answer for everything.

Having closed the door firmly I spun on my heel to reply: "Quiet, insolent toad". I had their full attention. This was the first time I had tried "teacher in role" and so far it was having fantastic results.

I gestured to two black pointed hats beside me while I picked up a walking stick, which became my magical staff.

"To complete my spell I need two volunteers," I said to the class, still hanging on my every word. I took a risk and chose a boy who, despite frequently becoming the centre of attention through his disruptive behaviour, claimed to hate performing and never completed drama tasks. I also chose a quiet girl.

To my delight both stood up when I said their names. For the next few minutes, without realising, it they took part in an improvisation in front of the class.

After we cast a spell by throwing ingredients into an imaginary cauldron I pulled the hats off my two witch companions who then became pupils to the sound of rapturous applause.

Many pupils answered questions creatively about body language and the voices actors could use when playing witches and in groups of three all the pupils rehearsed and performed, to a high standard, the opening scene from Macbeth.

WORST: The Big Brother theme music was pumping out of the stereo and I had divided the room into four spaces: the diary room, the living room, the bedroom and the kitchen.

The class was a large, mixed-ability Year 9 group that was causing me to reconsider my career as a teacher, even though I was only in my second term.

The first pupil to enter the room was being chased by another, trying to open a shaken bottle of fizzy drink over his peer, who proceeded to swing a chair around his body as a shield.

Some girls followed, using a rather limited vocabulary to describe the unjustness of their punishment for something.

The rest of the pupils arrived in dribs and drabs, and passed comments such as: "What's with this music, Miss?" and "This is so pathetic."

About 20 minutes into the lesson time the pupils became Big Brother housemates and had to work in small groups to complete a task that involved them telling a story without words, expanding on non-verbal communication skills I had previously tried to teach them.

Soon one of the more confrontational members of the group was lying on the floor simulating having loud sex with a bottle, "just like the girl from Big Brother did . well we are doing Big Brother, aren't we? I'm just getting into character."

I had a strong cup of tea in the break time that followed and a glance at available jobs in my local supermarket.

Victoria Hannan teaches drama at The Foulstone School in Darfield, Barnsley.

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Victoria Hannan

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