BestWorst lesson

4th January 2008 at 00:00
Best: Of course pupils will find Macbeth or Romeo and Juliet interesting. There's blood and guts in one and teenage romance in the other. But it's the language that's going to deflate them. That is the age-old problem with teaching Shakespeare.

My solution was to juxtapose iambic pentameter, part of the nuts and bolts of the Bard's verse, with their own beloved rap. I had them write their own lyrics in lines of 10 beats.

Those who weren't feeling especially creative could adapt the words from existing songs they knew. They had to adhere to the following rules: the lines didn't have to rhyme and the only effect required was metrical, there was no need to worry about their meaning. The activity worked a treat, with several fledgling Wills emerging from it.

"My boy's buff and though my mum don't agree

Hell will freeze over before he leaves me" and

"I play in goal for The Little Cheese Toes

And, oh my days, we can whop the Arsenal".

I've since come to the conclusion that the vernacular of 21st-century inner city estates is the closest modern English gets to the vitality of the Elizabethan's honeyed tongue.

Worst: The calls usually started at 7am but I didn't get this one until 8.50am. The laconic Scotsman who ran the supply agency asked me if I could do a day at a very nice secondary in Enfield, Middlesex. Living in south London, I said it would take me at least an hour to get there. "No problem," he said, "I'll let them know. Change at Finsbury Park." When I got to that station I boarded the train for Enfield. Or at least I thought I had. But when it began to hurtle past open fields I grew uneasy. The first stop turned out to be Stevenage, about 30 minutes out of the capital. I called the school to explain my predicament and caught the first service back. By the time I finally arrived it was lunchtime. Fortunately the deputy head was understanding, gave me my timetable for the afternoon and said I should make myself at home in the staffroom.

At the end of lunch I asked reception for directions to the afternoon's lesson. "Oh, that's on the lower school site which is three miles away. The staff taxi left 15 minutes ago." Transport was then ordered just for me and with a whole 30 minutes of the school day remaining. Blushing from ear to ear, I was finally in front of a class of pupils. They behaved like angels but stared at me as if I was from Mars until the bell.

In the office I sheepishly handed the deputy head my timesheet. I hoped I might still be able to claim for a full day's teaching. His glare sent me swiftly back to south London.

Adrian Cross is an SEN teacher in Wandsworth, south London.

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