Bestworst lesson

19th January 2007 at 00:00

Year 9 post-Sats. That scary period when the serious stuff is over and you're desperate to find something interesting to teach that will keep them in their seats. Good excuse, then, to get The Godfather books out and chat about family values. The kids warmed to the book and the Corleones, understanding their survival instincts and their sense of feeling different.

Time for some role play, I thought. A lesson where the children re-enact Michael Corleone's assassination of Sollozo the Turk. It was a proper lesson; lesson objective on the board; keyword omerta.

The kids brought in overcoats and hats, I made tea and filled wine glasses.

Jose was the police captain, Michael was played by Jade, a very bright girl from Portugal, and Zmorai from Afghanistan, who had a full beard, was Sollozo.

It was so tense. None of the usual classroom noise; all the kids quiet and focused as Jade asked to go to the bathroom, which was when she would get the gun to kill them both.

But she didn't go. Instead she screamed and grabbed Zmorai's beard. His chin hit the desk and the boy was as shocked as Sollozo in the movie. She got carried away and, for a moment, actually believed she was Michael. I grabbed Zmorai in a headlock before he could retaliate.

When I tried to discuss the fight, ZmoraiSollozo stayed tight-lipped, refusing to break the vow of silence. He even got the keyword omerta, I thought. Wonderful stuff.


Having coffee one morning with the newly- appointed Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) for English, he mentioned that the head wanted to see examples of good teaching and would I "allow" her to see how wonder-ful I was.

She wanted innovation, "the more off the wall the better". I was just the man for the job, he said, smiling.

Well, I bought it. I know, but I did. I was fairly new to the profession, felt my ideas were good and wanted to show them off. I even thanked him.

So, I planned a lesson with my Year 8s where the kids were in control. They wrote, delivered and managed the lesson. I hovered round surreptitiously, passing notes telling students to ask for pens, muck about and generally be obnoxious. I expected the lesson to descend into chaos.

That was the point and it gave me the opportunity to highlight how poor behaviour is a barrier to learning. It was when Tim, a sweet child with a bladder problem, walked towards the head, stood by her chair, unzipped his fly and urinated, that I started to get worried.

After the lesson I met the AST for feedback. I said I thought it was a brilliant lesson. The kids performed well and apart from Tim pissing in the corner of the classroom, everything went pretty much to plan. He gave me a seven and said it was crap.

Those Year 8s left this year. A group of them came to see me on their last school day. After signing yearbooks and saying our goodbyes, one of them turned to me and said, "Sir, remember that lesson when Tim got his..."

Kevin Ducker is a teacher in London

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