Bestworst lesson

6th April 2007 at 01:00
Best It was pantomime week at our special school for children with behavioural difficulties. The staff were reckless enough to take the whole school down to Weston-super-Mare to see Dick Whittington.

The children were excited when I explained that they were going to see a pantomime dame. Scott looked pleased with himself. "My nan has got one that lives in her shed," he said. "A pantomime dame?" I asked, puzzled. "Nah, this one's a great dame."

We got to the panto with only a few hitches, and realised a little too late that the bus driver had no idea where he was going. We jogged along the road and were seated just in time for the curtains to be lifted.

Barry from EastEnders was King Rat, and he had done his homework.

"Where's Woodstock School?" he yelled. A big roar went up from our side of the theatre.

"Ah, there you are" he screamed. "Do you want to come and have a fight with me?" About 60 children immediately stood up, with their fists clenched, ready to have a go. King Rat scuttled off stage pretty quickly and looked quite daunted for the rest of the show.

Over breaktime the children discussed the pantomime dame. Jake liked the different dresses, whereas Paul had only just worked out that it was a man.

He then said with confidence: "But he wasn't a man, and he wasn't a woman, he must have been a tripod."

Worst My worst lesson happened when I was teaching in the United States.

I was on an exchange programme with the British Council and swapped jobs, homes, cars and friends with a colleague from Ohio for six months. The differences between us became very apparent, particularly one week.

The principal came to let me know that the father of one of the children in my class had been released from prison. He had just killed the family's dogs with his handgun, and the police believed he might take revenge on his estranged wife by going after the children.

The school was in a farming community, and there were no fences around its grounds, just acres and acres of corn. We then went through an "armed intruder drill".

On a code word from the PA system, we had to take the children at a low sprint across the playground and into the adjoining cornfield. There we had to duck down and hide for 10 minutes before creeping through the field to a neighbouring farm, where school buses and the sheriff would be waiting for us.

As I had one of the children in my class, we were also given an armed deputy.

The pupils were all impeccably behaved, especially as they were only first grade (Year 2) but the experience horrified me - especially as it seemed so run of the mill.

Talking with some of the teachers afterwards astounded me even more. It seemed that this type of lesson was considered a small price to pay to uphold the constitutional right for anyone to own a gun Matthew Cave teaches in Bristol

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