Bestworst lesson

24th November 2006 at 00:00
Best - My best lesson was not actually my best, but someone else's. I was covering for a colleague in a mixed Year 34 class. They were a lively lot and the absent teacher had said that I could read them Daft Jack and the Bean Stack from the Seriously Silly series at the end of the lesson as a treat, if they deserved it. The class had tried hard, and even though I didn't know the Silly series, I opened the book and began to read. By the fourth page, I was unable to continue. Tears of laughter were rolling down my cheeks and I could hardly force the words out.

"Sir, you're rubbish," Ashley called out, "give me the book."

Pathetically, I handed it to him and he drew a chair to the front. He started again, at the beginning, while I sat giggling like an imbecile, paralysed by Laurence Anholt's offbeat humour.

The lesson was fantastic, led by Ashley - a nine-year-old. The children enjoyed and learned, while I corpsed in the corner.

If stimulating an interest in reading had been my objective, I would have succeeded hands down. For the rest of the term, children from that class would appear at odd moments with a silly story and urge me to read it, as they thought that it was funnier than Daft Jack Worst - I suspect that for most teachers their worst lesson occurs in their first year of teaching. Mine was no exception. It was my first term with my own class, with a Christmas Fair looming. I was an enthusiastic probationer, in the days before newly qualified teachers - there was little practical day-to-day support offered and, although the staff would have helped, I didn't ask.

I had decided to make things in Design and Technology (a brand-new subject in those days) that the children could sell. I split them into groups. We wrote to the bank to ask for a loan to buy materials for the project. They declined. Nevertheless, my class planned their products: wooden toy cars, picture frames, furry pencil cases, boxes of sweets, and toffee apples. All made in my classroom in four hours of lesson time, without an assistant! Ten out of ten for enthusiasm, but zero for common sense.

Only two cars and a handful of picture frames were finished in time for the Christmas Fair. None of the pencil cases made it to the sale because the rushed stitching was not tight enough to hold them together. And where the ants came from at that time of year to swarm over our sweets and toffee apples, is still beyond my comprehension.

This was not just a single lesson failure, but a whole half-term's worth Roger Humphries is key stage 2 manager at St John's C of E Primary in Hindley Green, Lancashire

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