My best worst lesson

Andrew Mackay

BEST - My Year 7 pupils were due to visit Windsor Castle and I wanted them to design a plan to attack or defend it, which they had to present to classmates when they returned.

Each small group chose whether to attack or defend and was handed a dossier marked "Windsor Castle - Top Secret: for your eyes only" in true James Bond style. It was covered in bloody hand prints (paint, not blood).

Each dossier contained similar information: maps, drawings and diagrams of the castle "aged" using the tea bag technique beloved of all history teachers. The class spent a lesson examining the dossier before the field trip and came up with a basic plan.

During the walk to the castle, we stopped frequently and discussed possible approaches, emphasising which routes would provide cover, or safety from attack by the defenders.

During the visit we debated where it might be possible for the defenders to place catapults or where the attackers could push siege towers against the walls and turrets.

When we returned to school, we spent two lessons devising the plan, which pupils then presented to their classmates. The winning pupils' cunning plan would have made Baldrick proud - to ambush and replace the New Guard as it marched from its barracks to the castle with a counterfeit guard.

Once the counterfeit New Guard had replaced the Old Guard, and the Old Guard had left the castle, the counterfeit New Guard would open the gates and allow the rest of the attacking army (which had infiltrated Windsor cunningly disguised as civilians) to rush in and capture the castle.

WORST - I was teaching English as Second Language teenagers at a summer school in Cambridge and decided that it would be a good ice breaker for the new students to draw a poster about their country, which they would present to the class.

The first to do so was interrupted immediately by another who protested that her poster was inaccurate as it showed Bosnia as being part of Croatia, where as Bosnia was, of course, part of Serbia. There followed what Mrs Merton would describe as a "heated debate" as students from Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Russia and Italy piled in on one side or the other.

There was a risk that the third Balkan War was about to erupt in my class and I had to resort to using my best Sergeant Major parade ground voice to restore order. Once tempers had calmed we were able to discuss the issues in a rational manner.

Fortunately, diplomatic relations were restored in true Grease summer romance style at the next disco and peace returned to Cambridge

Andrew Mackay is head of history at Brigidine School in Windsor.

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