Bestworst lesson

5th October 2007 at 01:00
Best As a young, newly-qualified teacher in a secondary, I realised the enormous impact you can have as a teacher not just at an individual subject level, but by teaching a life skill. I took a group of 30 Year 7 children for swimming and it soon became obvious most of them could swim competently. Their primaries had all used the pool and the standard of swimming was higher than I had anticipated.

But one child was a very weak swimmer, particularly lacking in confidence. His name was Neil and he became my challenge during the next few weeks. As others in the class improved on their technique, Neil tried desperately to get his feet off the bottom and achieve his goal of completing a width of the pool.

One particular lesson, I dismissed the class five minutes early but asked Neil to stay in the water. With individual attention and without the curious eyes of his peers, Neil launched himself from the side once more and, this time, kept going. With an enormous effort and equal amounts of splash, he achieved his goal a full width.

I'm not sure who had the biggest grin, Neil or me, but it was a defining moment and re-affirmed my desire to teach PE and have more successes like that.

Worst Some years ago I went on a teaching exchange to Australia, to work in a school on the central coast of New South Wales. When I got there, I was shocked at the lack of PE facilities. There was no indoor space at all PE lessons were conducted outside on a concrete square which sloped markedly towards a wooden stage where the teachers stood for assemblies. There were no sports markings on the concrete, no shade from the unrelenting sun and you were very visible from the surrounding classrooms.

One day I was asked to teach dance, not my favourite subject at the best of times. Armed only with a tape player and a list of instructions, I was given a double group of 60 kids, but the head of PE said it would be fine as they all knew The Chicken Song dance and it was easy to pick up. Nothing could have prepared me for the total horror as I started the tape and it dawned on me that I was expected to teach the finer points of that all-time classic The Birdie Song.

During the lesson I gave teaching points such as "flap your arms, wiggle your bottom and make your hands like a beak". It was a nightmare. Would anyone ever take me seriously as a PE teacher again? I have always admired Australian sporting success generally and have never forgotten teaching the bottom waggle and arm flap to the children of such a proud sporting nati **

Sally Serridge is school sports co-ordinator at Wyvern Technology College, Hampshire

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