Bestworst lesson

9th November 2007 at 00:00
Best: I was on supply with a Year 3 class in a Catholic school in London. The morning was a nightmare. The head had taken out the children likely to be most disruptive at 9am. The rest wouldn't be quiet or sit down, and they ran around the class inflicting Chinese burns on each other.

At lunchtime I asked about the afternoon's RE lesson. The head said I could teach whatever I liked as I'm not Catholic.

I assumed the class would know the parable of the Good Samaritan. Over the hubbub and fidgeting, I announced they would act it out in groups, using a cowboy or space scenario. The noise prevented me from saying more. I nominated children to choose the groups and let them rehearse.

As time went on, I heard a lot of chatting, none of it about the Good Samaritan. And saw no acting. This was going to be worse than I thought. However, the battleground atmosphere had gone.

I called them to sit round the edge of the carpet. Amazingly, they came at once and sat down with no pushing or shoving. The first group showed what they'd got so far. Everyone fell silent for the first time that day. We discussed how they could improve their performances.

Then they went back to rehearsing. More irrelevant chatting and still no acting. Yet, somehow, when the time came, they knew the story well enough to come up with really improved performances. I had thought that it was going to be a disaster - instead, later that afternoon, the headteacher offered me a permanent job at the school, as he had been so impressed with how I turned around this difficult class. I didn't take it, but it was a pleasant outcome to what started out as a difficult day's work.

Worst: I was taking music with Year 4, an enthusiastic class who enjoyed composing and singing. We were watching a video of folk band The Poozies, perfect for identifying a wide range of instruments, although I hadn't had time to watch it carefully. As I started the video, the priest arrived, a little early for his weekly assembly, and sat by the door. I smiled hello.

I quickly realised the song was about a sex-starved widow who lives on a moor. I snatched up the remote, stopped the video and began wittering on about the instruments.

The children hadn't noticed anything untoward. I repeated this tactic several times, allowing only short bursts of the song to emerge, during which I gathered the widow makes a pact with the devil that if he can satisfy her he shall have her soul. The devil loses, of course.

The children were blissfully unaware of anything except wind and string instruments and a catchy rhythm, which we all clapped.

Later, I asked the head if Father John said anything about my lesson. Apparently he commented on how well-behaved the children were. What did they always tell you about preparing your material?

Lucy Lucy is now a private tutor in Herefordshire.

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