Bestworst lesson

18th May 2007 at 01:00
BEST Billy arrived mid-term in my Year 4 class. He just sat and watched. He was expressionless. His head and eyes moved constantly, like a sparrow on the bird table. No matter who spoke to him, or what was said, he failed to respond. He just looked around and remained on high-alert status. At break time, he followed the children outside, but they soon gave up trying to involve him in their play. I was desperate to communicate with him.

After break, and with uncharacteristic boldness, I abandoned the timetabled maths lesson and decreed to my incredulous class that we would have an art lesson instead. Every child was presented with a lump of clay on a board, but no tools - just in case. With the blind enthusiasm of the amateur psychologist, I asked the class to make a sculpture that would represent a feeling, such as love, hate, fear. I announced that I would work at my desk for a while and then come round to see how they were getting on.

Five minutes later, I noticed Billy crawling on all fours around the edge of the class towards me. I pretended to ignore him and so did the children.

Billy made it to my chair, then scuttled back to his place. With serious misgivings, I reached under my chair and brought out a perfectly formed clay model of a spherical bomb with a fuse, as seen in TV cartoons.

Instantaneously, the whole class, Billy and I included, collapsed helplessly with laughter. I don't know whether I had communicated with Billy, but he had certainly communicated with me.

WORST My new school had an integrated unit for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. In my first lesson, David, a boy from the unit, was proving to be bright, articulate and extremely irritating. Between gesticulating to other children and fidgeting with his pen, he managed to give a continuous and distinctly unflattering running commentary on the quality of my lesson.

I tried to ignore him, but his language was increasingly abusive. I had received advice about using positive language, but not a single positive thought entered my head. I found myself snapping at David and sending a rapid series of hard stares in his direction. The rest of the class, clearly more used to David's behaviour than me, got on as though nothing strange was happening.

As the remains of my confidence were evaporating, David launched a ferocious kick at a child walking innocently past his table. I lost the plot. Yelling at him, I screamed that I had never seen such atrocious behaviour and demanded that he promise never to commit such a violent act again.

"I can't," he said. "You will," I bellowed. "No, sir, I can't. I'm really sorry about what I did, but I can't promise never to do it again. I have ADHD." I felt very small and incredibly lucky John Gordon is a teacher in Lincolnshire

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