My Best Worst Lesson

Richard Harrington

Best - I built a hovercraft after finding a design for one on the internet. It was large enough to carry the weight of one person and used an air track blower to provide air under pressure to fill the hovercraft's skirt.

The downloaded design hadn't warned me though of the extreme noise the hovercraft would make when it was running.

It sounded like a pig squealing in the throes of death as air squeezed out between the skirt and the ground when it had a passenger on board.

I am convinced pupils enjoyed the spectacle of their science teacher floating around the lab all the more because of the accompaniment of the banshee-like wail.

I used the hovercraft together with an A1 flip chart of paper to work through Newton's three laws of motion. Pupils were fascinated at how the hovercraft worked and were soon begging me to take a turn.

A ticket to ride could only be earned though by answering a question card about what we had learnt that lesson. I was pleased to find that with the ride as an incentive they had retained the physics in the lesson near perfectly.

I ended up staying well into my lunchtime so all who wanted to could have a go, but I didn't mind at all.

Worst - I was on my first placement of my PGCE at a comprehensive in rural Warwickshire. Things had not been going brilliantly, consequently my mentor had advised the teachers who had been supervising me to give me some extra observations. It was a lesson with Year 7s on neutralisation.

There had been several breakages, minor spillages and one pupil who had managed to get the impossibly staining indicator solution down the front of her shirt. At each of these incidents the teacher who was observing would sigh and write something down on her observation notes.

As with most science labs, the taps were cursed with small white adaptors to focus the water into a beam designed to spray anyone within one to two feet of the running tap.

A pupil had turned on a tap a bit too hard and was spraying his neighbour's desk with a fine mist of water. He then did what most science teachers are all too familiar with; tried to turn the tap off but turned it the wrong way, increasing the area being sprayed.

His classmate decided to lend a hand and stem the flow of water by inserting his pencil into the end of the tap. This resulted in a horizontal circular fan of water spraying in all directions over about a third of the class and their books. At this point my observer shook her head and placed it in her hands.

Richard Harrington teaches science at Caroline Chisholm School in Northampton.

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Richard Harrington

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