Bestworst lesson

11th May 2007 at 01:00

My best lesson was one I did as part of my Advanced Skills Teacher assessment. I had chosen my Year 11s, a small class with 80 per cent special needs (mostly for literacy and behavioural difficulties) who only attended school between one and three days a week. The other two to four days they spent at work placements.

We were looking at how to use evidence of quotations from poems and began by linking Stan, the song by Eminem to Education for Leisure by Carol Ann Duffy.

I didn't do anything particularly showy, so why was it my best lesson? Because, when discussing the bleak future of the poem's narrator, one of the pupils said the character was unhappy because he wanted more than he had but wasn't bothering to go out and get it.

"Thing is," he said, "we're going to leave school without GCSEs, but at least we're going to get a proper job or whatever and not just sit somewhere planning how to kill someone."

These were considered challenging pupils and yet that lesson made me proud of them: they did make the effort to behave well for the assessor but simultaneously, I realised most of them had progressed to the extent of not having to make a special effort.

They didn't exactly achieve academic success in their GCSEs, but they weren't failures. That lesson was my best because it reminded me that academic success isn't the only measure of contentment. I knew they'd be OK in real life.


My worst was the first lesson I taught in my NQT year. I had spent the summer preparing what I was going to teach, so in my eyes, I was ready.

Why did this not turn out to be enough? Because I didn't know who I was going to be teaching.

As it was the start of a school year, no special needs register was available so all I had was a list of names - I had no idea exactly who would come through my classroom door.

Suddenly, a boy burst into the room, quacked a few times and then ran repeatedly round the room. He refused to sit down, refused to take an exercise book and refused to stop quacking.

I didn't even know his name and I certainly didn't know what to do. The rest of the (Year 9) class found this hilarious and followed by instantly becoming as high as kites and paying about as much attention to me as they did to my carefully-written objectives on the board.

All that was going through my head was the thought that perhaps this career choice was a bad move.

It took many months to undo the damage and, although the boy was eventually permanently excluded and sent to a pupil referral unit, I will never ever forget him, and not for the best reasons

The writer teaches in Cheshire

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