BestWorst Lesson

20th June 2008 at 01:00
BEST: I was a newly qualified teacher and had the worst class in the school
BEST: I was a newly qualified teacher and had the worst class in the school. So when I was told I would be teaching them French, my initial reaction was "you must be joking". I was struggling to teach them English, never mind French.

I weakly protested, but was assured that teaching a foreign language was no longer optional. So, two days later, armed with only my 10-year-old B in GCSE French and a vague recollection of Madame Baker's tried and trusted ecoutez et repetez (listen and repeat) teaching method, I took a deep breath and began my first French lesson.

The results were bizarre: it was like teaching a different class. They looked like my class, they smelt like my class, but they did not behave like my class. Perhaps it was because, to them, it seemed like they had a different teacher. Gone was the grumpy Mr Thompson they knew and hated. In his place, there was Monsieur Thompson.

Teaching French allowed me more freedom. I went into character, and there was no need to bring back my old irritable self because the children, for the most part, stayed on task. Even if I did lose the odd pupil's attention, I just chastised them in French like a mad old professor.

A lesson that I had been dreading teaching became my favourite 20 minutes of the whole week. A bonus was that, by occasionally dropping back into character at unexpected moments during the rest of the week, I had a new behaviour management technique that kept my class on its toes.

WORST: Sometimes the lessons we learn as teachers are just as important as those we try to teach our children every day, such as the importance of not lighting a naked flame in the classroom. With hindsight, I am sure this is something of which I should already have been aware. But I'm a 27-year-old bloke who still lives with his parents: common sense is not my forte.

In a misguided attempt to brighten up a fairly drab RE topic on Hindu rituals, I had decided to throw an impromptu birthday party. A couple of pupils in my class had birthdays on the horizon and my tenuous point was that demonstrating a familiar ritual to the children would improve their understanding of rituals themselves.

From here on, you can probably fill in the blanks. The candles that I lit on the birthday cake triggered the smoke detector, which triggered the fire alarm which, in turn, placed an automatic call to the nearest fire station. I must admit that I've never much cared for firemen out of pure jealousy but to have them turn up at my school due to my ineptitude has added to my distaste.

Steven Thompson is a primary teacher from Bolton.

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