Bestworst lesson

23rd March 2007 at 00:00

A good lesson gets the hairs rising, the heart pumping and the adrenalin-fuelled sweaty sheen spread-ing across your back. Teaching is a dirty business.

Sixth form lessons usually bring that pure joy that comes with exploring the depths of your subject. Not this group - an odd mix of even odder characters with the group dynamic of a singular corpse. I'd pulled out the stops. Conferences, visiting speakers, assembly planning, outdoor practicals and... nothing.

It was Friday afternoon and Year 13 would just be killing time until 3.20pm. I needed something to shake them up. The philosophical debate - free will versus determinism - wasn't exactly going to do it but we had to get this module done by the end of term. As I walked down the corridor with a set of dull worksheets and example essays, even I couldn't face the lesson.

Teaching is sometimes almost spiritual in the way you can suddenly connect to a higher place and find inspiration. It does not often happen but all the cliches of lightning striking apply. And suddenly, a lesson plan was formed.

The group was divided into opposing sides of the debate and launched into campaigns to promote their arguments. Catchy slogans were coined, T-shirts were designed and cut out of paper, badges, leaflets and posters made.

The result was a top-notch display and a double period that passed quickly, with laughter, banter and a healthy dose of competitiveness between the opposing sides. Some even lingered after the lesson to complete their task.

Sweaty sheen? They say you could see it from space


Part-time is great, except for the money. To fund a much-needed holiday I decided to take up the offer of a few days supply at a nearby primary school. After all, how hard can it be? I'm a mother of two and I've worked some tough senior schools. Even bottom set Year 9 don't phase me.

The first day was magical. They sat meekly through some quite basic maths.

They made me little cards during wet-play tell-ing me that they loved me.

And they applauded with gusto as I sang them through the music-hall songs they needed to learn for a performance.

That night, I told my partner that I'd found my true calling. Maybe a PGCE conversion course could be found?

Registration the next day was hell. Some were behind curtains. Some under desks. Some crawling out of the door on their hands and knees. The rest of the day slid into anarchy. Other teachers came to see about the noise and went shaking their heads at my ineptitude.

I never went back. They never asked me to go back. The next lesson with Year 9 they sat incredulous and not a little suspicious as, handing out chocolates, I told them how much I enjoyed teaching them and let them watch a video

Sally Morris teaches in Edgbaston

Tell us about your best and worst lesson - and we'll pay you pound;100.

Email no more than 500 words to

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today