Bestworst lesson

14th March 2008 at 00:00
Best: I suddenly realised I had unthinkingly created the group from hell when I put a Year 10 group together after constantly having to go into lessons to quell disruption while they were in Year 9.

I had thought that if this group of disaffected, naughty lads was with me, I would not have as many sent to my room and so my stress levels would reduce.

But it would be the same faces, the same problems, the same old stories. What had I done? I felt nervous and panicky, and got an attack of the sweats thinking about the first lesson. However, I was in for a massive surprise; over the summer, they had become little darlings and hung on my every word.

One lesson in particular showed how amazing this mixed-ability Year 10 group was: fighting over who could be Mickey, Eddie, the narrator and even Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers. They put real expression, passion and emotion into their lines, singing along to a CD of the West End production: "There's a man gone mad in the town tonight" and "Tell me it's not true". They also analysed how two mothers are portrayed in 1970's Liverpool.

And then came the cry: "Miss, can we perform it again?"

Looking around the room, I saw 29 sets of eyes glued to the text, no movement, no noise, except for the witty tones of Connor performing his lines.

The feelings these lads gave me were immense; with their enthusiasm seeping through every pore, I relished every minute of being in the room and knew why I had come into teaching.

Worst: The same group of 29 mixed-ability Year 10 angels sat in front of me waiting to learn about explicit and implicit meaning in Blood Brothers, the musical.

As I introduced a PGCE student to them, the glint in the lads' eyes meant trouble and I realised within a few minutes that I'd lost any respect they had ever had for me.

"This is Miss X and she will be observing our lesson today," I said. The PGCE student in question was stunning - slim, beautiful and young. The lads couldn't handle her being there and behaved as badly as they usually do in every situation with the opposite sex.

When colleagues in the staffroom had exclaimed that so and so was chucking ink cartridges and paper across the room, I would nod sympathetically and empathise the best I could, while secretly thinking, "Thank God that's never happened to me".

Why was I so naive to think it wouldn't? Now there were boys swiping one another with pens across their arms and faces, calling out: "Yeah man, that's right! Safe! Safe!" A fight broke out in the far corner as a lad went over on his chair while trying to ogle the teacher-to-be and hit another boy.

What can I say? Seven lads kept behind - a severe reprimand given. I will never again sit smugly thinking how great my Year 10 angels are. They're capable of anything, good or bad.

Claire Fairburn is head of English at Turves Green Boys' Technology and Humanities College in Birmingham.

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