Bestworst lesson

30th November 2007 at 00:00
Best: For my Year 7 maths class, I decided to do a lesson on betting, using horseracing footage for illustration. We would calculate how to work out winnings on what odds were offered.

I gave out some tokens, to represent pound coins - obviously we couldn't gamble for real. Each pupil had 10 each, the idea being that they would bet on the race I screened. Bets were taken, odds discussed, potential winnings worked out - but the video would not work. The head of department came to my assistance, but to no avail.

So, thinking on my feet, I made up horse names, using the children's names as inspiration, such as Sally's Pony. I wrote them on the whiteboard and gave them all odds. I then proceeded to make up a commentary on the race - "and Sally's Pony has fallen at the first". I felt like an idiot. But the children loved it. They brought me their betting slips if their horse won and then had to tell me how much they should get. Three races later, the majority of the tokens were back with me, and the children had learnt that the bookie always wins.

Worst: It was my first observation as a new teacher and I had taught this Year 7 mixed-ability class only once before. They had been learning a piece of software that allowed them to create animations. The problems (and my perspiration) began almost as soon as the class sat down. The starter I had planned required them to look at a web page, but there were technical glitches galore: "I've forgotten my password", "I haven't got an account set up yet" etc.

After we got through this bit, I thought it was going OK. I asked all the children to turn their chairs to face me. Big mistake. One small boy in the front row cried out in pain. He had caught his nail in the chair and cut his fingernail half off. There was blood, so I sent him with another boy to the medical room.

I got the class working on their main task - amid cries of "Miss, I can't find that" or "It's not on my computer." They were right - the new software really wasn't on some of the machines. There was more small-scale disruption, as the class were not familiar with me. Not a successful day, but now I think in my next observed lesson I would be ready for anything

Sally Lofts is newly qualified and teaches technology and maths at Conyers School in Yarm, on Teesside.

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