Bestworst lesson

5th January 2007 at 00:00

Jack and Tom had the power to make or break all of 11b's lessons. If they decided that they weren't up for it, I'd learned from bitter experience that I was in for an uphill struggle as the whole class followed their lead.

Despite their lesson-wrecking abilities, I was fond of them both, and was happy to do Jack's work experience visit in a local music shop. I misspent a fair bit of my own youth among musicians and was not surprised to find Jack's cockiness had not gone down well.

Prominent in the shop was a washing machine-sized box with "Jack" written on. The Iron Maiden T-shirted manager said: "He would not shut up so we said we would Fed-ex him off to Edinburgh if he didn't."

Back in the class, we discussed work experience. Jack raised a laugh with the story of the box, but Tom was more serious. He had been sent to a school PE department. "It was so annoying," he said. "I had really good stuff planned and the boys just would not do it right. How do you get children to behave, Miss?" I shrugged, we laughed.

Next lesson, a sea change had started. Jack and Tom sat quietly, ready to work. Some of the others muttered restlessly. "Shut up," said Tom. "I want to listen to this." Jack backed him up and said: "You don't know how easy we have got it here." He shook his head wisely and said:"It's easy here.



There are some serious contenders for this part. Workmen arriving unannounced and starting work mid-lesson in the September of my NQT year, the boy who insisted on wearing ear defenders and could not hear instructions (or the joker behind him shouting "fire"), or the Year 9 group who simply banged desks in unison and refused to listen to anything I said.

The worst, however, was undoubtedly a cover lesson in the science department. It was no one's fault, but staff changes had left this Year 10 group with no regular science teacher.

They had received cover and supply for months and had no practicals beyond watching videos.

I taught a lot of them and knew them all as I was a tutor in their year group, but they were now used to science being a free for all. I might as well not have been there as they wandered in and out, turned the taps on and off, flicked water and shouted.

Half an hour in, there was a smell of gas. "Excellent" shouted Jemma - who I was used to seeing working hard at the front of my classroom - "We've broken the gas taps, we can't turn them off."

The room was evacuated. Then the entire block was evacuated. Staff and pupils milled around then headed to the hall. I sat in the gas-filled classroom with my head in my hands. Another teacher sat with me. "You should go with them to the hall," he said. "I'll risk the gas explosion," I whimpered.

We considered what had happened. "Fair enough," he said. We sat in silence

Charlotte Morbey is a teacher in Oxfordshire

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