Bestworst lesson

25th May 2007 at 01:00

The door opened to announce another interruption to this particular literacy activity.

The interruption was a cherub-faced Primary 4 (Year 3) pupil with a glint of mischief in her eyes and a message about choir practice, which she delivered from the door without waiting for the formality of an introduction.

I summoned her to the front of the room to administer a little "advice" on the etiquette of entering a room.

My own class's attention crystallized into an amused gaze of anticipation.

However, there was a determination in the way she marched to the front of the room, stood beside me and smiled, which said: "Well. What do you want?"

This little lady was not to be intimidated.

"Who are you?" I asked.

"Nicola," she beamed.

"How do you know that?" I probed.

Titters from my class came at the prospect of a little entertainment. She asked for clarification.

"How do you know you really are Nicola?"

She tossed a disarming smile. "Because I looked in the mirror this morning and I recognised my face."

My class was now caught in the exchange and with the image, so I struck.

"What if she hadn't recognised her face?" I asked the class. "What would you do if you were in that position? Who might you be? How might your day be different?"

A little direction focused their enthusiasm and imagination into the most entertaining writing activity, which lasted over several days and numerous revisions and captivated everyone.


The sun shone as the bus trundled along the beach road towards the field centre where we were looking forward to playing games.

This was our third outing with our partner school. The children were from different traditions and the Department of Education had made funding available for joint projects in the hope of fostering positive relations.

We had just picked up our partners - no separate transport for us - and enthusiastic integration was our goal.

As I sat with my partner teacher we listened to the animated chatter of 50 Primary Six (Year 5) children as they renewed acquaintances, swapped news and shared anticipation for a day at the beach.

In front of us, enthusiastically exchanging gossip, were two boys who had become friends and were rarely separate during these outings.

Approaching the beach, the bus slowed for speed ramps outside the main entrance to Magilligan Prison - the isolated location underlining its role in housing those convicted under terrorism legislation.

Squeals of delight echoed as the children bounced exuberantly on their seats and from the two boys in front we heard: "That's where my dad works."

(Indicating the prison).

"Oh. He must know my uncle. That's where he is. My dad visits him."

"I'll ask my dad if he knows him when I get home."

A gasp of horror choked my partner teacher as the significance of the exchange dawned. There were no further joint activities

Peter Heaney teaches in Londonderry

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