Bestworst lesson

28th March 2008 at 00:00
Best While teaching English to secondary pupils in Thailand, I tried hard to make my conversation lessons more interesting than the dry board-and-lecture ones given by local teachers.

On one occasion I devised a two-lesson plan based on celebrity interviews. First, I created a list of would-be answers to questions, before recapping basic question words with the class. (Who? What? When? Where?)

Showing them a celebrity magazine as an example, I made each group pick the name of a Western or Thai celebrity out of a hat. I explained that I wanted them to write interview questions for their celebrity to fit the answers.

They worked enthusiastically. I told them that next week there would be a live TV interview, when one pupil would have to dress up as their group's celebrity, while the others would interview them, reading their questions and answers for the class.

I awaited the next week's lesson in trepidation - they were often lazy about homework - but it was hilarity from start to finish, with the class hamming up their acting skills. The "reporters" had notebooks and microphones and the interviewees wore fancy dress, ranging from football kits to elaborate hats.

Even the shy kids got involved and came up with brilliant, off-the-wall questions. I particularly enjoyed the group that had Britney Spears saying: "Because it makes me feel sick", in response to being asked, "Why did you end your marriage to Kevin Federline?"

It cemented the technicalities of how question words work in conversation and, because of its mix of components, interested all abilities.

Worst On one of the hottest days of the year in Thailand, I had to teach my most dreaded lesson: the bottom class of 50 12-year-olds in the pre-lunch period on a Friday. The boys threw paper at each other and more or less ignored me, and the girls played with their camera phones listlessly, mopping the sweat from their faces.

I was staring out of the window at the heat rippling over the rice fields, fighting the urge to jump out and drown myself in the mud, when a small bird flew in past my face and in a split second became the most exciting thing in the room. It panicked, and skittered around, causing a total circus. Desks were upturned, the boys and girls were competing to see who could scream and flap the loudest, while other children were performing kamikaze somersaults.

I eventually scooped it out onto the balcony and tried desperately to rescue the lesson, but the bird continued to flutter about just in earshot, squeaking pitifully, and I was forced to abandon the last 20 minutes in the face of total chaos.

But I considered myself lucky: a friend had a bird fly into his classroom while he attempted to teach a class of four-year-olds. It dove straight into the ceiling fan and was bloodily splattered over the entire class

Cordelia Lonsdale taught English as a foreign language in Thailand.

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