Bestworst lesson

1st February 2008 at 00:00
Best: For our school's fundraising day, everyone had to dress up as a nursery rhyme or fairytale character. We told the children there was no need to hire or spend any money buying a costume, they should be homemade.

I thought I had better search my own wardrobe, but had nothing eccentric that could be turned into a fairytale costume. All I found was an old hippie-ish woolly jumper from my university days with an enormous blue flower printed on the front and a smaller one on the back.

This gave me an idea, so the following morning, earlier than usual, I borrowed my four-year-old son's face painting kit and carefully designed plants, flowers and some silver bells on my face. Then I drove off to school, aware that other drivers were probably looking at me curiously, but I was nonetheless happy to arrive at school looking like a possible Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.

When my Year 5s entered the classroom and saw how I looked they were unusually quiet, intrigued by whom I might be. I enjoyed guessing who they were and moved on surprisingly swiftly to the day's work, without all the usual "look and listen" gestures I normally have to make. Perhaps it was that I was more relaxed hiding behind someone else's identity. Anyway, the next day came and I remember thinking, "Who should I be today?"

Worst: I was keen to make French lessons fun for Years 1 and 2, so I thought it a good idea to introduce food. Each would make their own pizza and take it home to cook.

I had it all carefully planned out. Ingredients were laid out for demonstration on my big table: flour, water, a measuring container, olives and tomato sauce. Their tables had each a thin plastic sheet with the right amount of flour and water in a glass. As Year 1 came in, they sat down on the carpet and listened to the ingredients and instructions, all in French.

Then in pairs, they made their pizzas, mixing flour and water into a ball, flattening it and adding their choice of ingredients. It was all a bit messy, but they took their pizzas home afterwards and I left, happy that they seemed to have enjoyed this practical lesson.

But I failed to notice all the flour stuck on the carpet. Worse, it was the deputy head who alerted me to it. He called me in to tell me he had been trying to clean the mess I had left. He had been at it for a long time and had other important things to do. I was embarrassed and disappointed - he cleaned my mess and all I had cared about was my pupils enjoying themselves and learning some French. Soon after, a new carpet was bought for my classroom

Sophie Carnell teaches in Surrey.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today