Bestworst lesson

21st September 2007 at 01:00
Best During a particularly difficult NQT year, I led a "circle time" to try to address the fact the class was not working well together as a group. Each pupil (and the teacher) writes their name on a piece of paper, folds it and puts it in the middle of the circle. The papers are then shuffled and we each pick out a name and say something positive about that person. But one neg

ative comment or smirk, I knew, could undermine the whole process.

I drew one last uneasy breath as the first child read aloud the name on his paper it was someone he'd had an argument with that morning. To my relief, however, he talked about how helpful the other child had been in school and what a good sportsman he was. The task continued around the circle and there were many positive comments. When a child picked my name and discussed lessons they had all enjoyed and jokes I forgot I had made, I too felt immediately better.

By the end of the circle time, every child was smiling and the heavy atmosphere I had grown used to seemed replaced by the happy buzz of voices as the children began their next task.

I never again doubted the power of circle time in dealing with sometimes quite difficult issues. It was amazing to see the children realise they were indeed respected by others in the class who they had not regarded as friends, and were able to reciprocate their appreciation.

Worst For some weeks, my Year 6 pupils had been looking forward to a design and technology lesson where they would make slippers.

We spent a week analysing the footwear and they produced some quite elaborate designs (it's amazing how children can be so creative when approaching even the simplest tasks). Over the weekend, I gathered the extra resources they had requested and got to school early on Monday to prepare the different threads and needles, overlooking one vital factor my own complete inability to stitch.

"Sir, how do we stitch this?" came the same question over and over again.

I had already demonstrated tying a knot in the thread at one end, so it couldn't be pulled through the fabric, but that was about the limit of my skill. The children waited in anticipation as I repeatedly tried to thread the needle. When this was eventually achieved, they all cheered and clapped in encouragement. When I had finally demonstrated sewing just a few uneven, loose stitches, they were falling over themselves to congratulate me on the beginning of the most unsuccessful slipper ever attempted.

I do remember this lesson fondly because, seeing their teacher in difficulty, they collectively offered their support and encouragement and not one child laughed. I told them that everyone needs to practise their skills if they are to become successful at something, regardless of age, and that not giving up is often the hardest part of a difficult task. To me, it was a reminder of the power of praise and encourageme **

The author is a teacher in north London

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