BestWorst Lesson

23rd November 2007 at 00:00
Best: It is amazing how one comment can mean so much to you as a teacher. It was the very last lesson with my Year 11 GCSE English class, just prior to them going on study leave. They had been a difficult group - challenging in the modern parlance. Nice kids individually but, as is often the case, problematic as a group. A few immature boys and rather too many mouthy girls had led to a number of situations where I had to work especially hard to keep them all on track.

But here was the last lesson and we were finishing off our in-class revision. As the end of the lesson approached I had just given them a last minute pep talk about doing well in the exams. (I had sold it to them in the style of a football manager sending his lads out to play in the cup final.)

They then asked if they could take photos of each other, insisting that I should be in them. This surprised me because I had been pretty strict over the two years and by no means had I sought any kind of cheap popularity. As they were leaving, one of the boys came up to me and with no hint of irony said: "Thanks for teaching me, Sir. You are the best teacher I've ever had." I was smiling for the rest of the term.

Worst: Eight days into a new school year and it had been a tough week. I had developed an ear infection at the very end of the summer holidays and, even after a course of antibiotics, I was still pretty much deaf in one ear. The infection, I had found out from the doctor the day before, had passed to my eyes which were now sore, very bloodshot and needed antiseptic drops every couple of hours.

Then, just before my Year 11 English class arrived, I bent down to pick up a piece of litter rather too quickly and split my trousers. So as they came into the room there I was: eyes stinging, half deaf and ensconced behind my desk in the hope that no one would notice my underpants were on display. At least things couldn't get any worse.

Wrong. Halfway through reading the court scene in The Merchant of Venice, I started to notice little drops of blood appearing on my desk. "No!" I thought as I stuffed a tissue up my right nostril to try and stop the nosebleed. A few pupils noticed and smiled at my predicament, as teenagers are wont to do, but we carried on. The lesson ended with me almost reduced to a gibbering wreck, but able to smile to myself and appreciate my own perseverance. It would have been a lot simpler, however, to have phoned in sick.

Neil Coley teaches at Chase Terrace Technology College in Staffordshire.

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