Bestworst lesson

26th January 2007 at 00:00

The lesson is A2 Blake, and the material is tough cerebral stuff, but today it all seems too much. My plan was to look at The Marriage of Heaven and Hell but I realise my worksheet is too abstract and linear. The zeal has to come at least 40 per cent from the group, and today it's at about 5 per cent.

I veer off in a new direction. We will read out the Proverbs of Hell, decide which ones we like, then discuss why.

Off-piste but already I know the load is lighter. My favourite is: "Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion".

I start discussing why I like the prisons and brothels proverb. I say: "It is about the establishment, it is non-conformism, it has metaphors for power and punishment. And it is shocking, who else would have put brothels and religion together?"

Noisy Ryan jumps in: "I like 'The pride of the peacock is the glory of God'. Blake is saying it is OK to be a bit arrogant."

Ellie, cheeky Ellie with her dyed hair and direct gaze, likes "The lust of the goat is the bounty of God". She says:"We internalise this thing about sex and our appetites being bad, but Blake does not agree.

"And, by the way, that is where the word 'horny' comes from. Goats have horns and they are really into sex too."

Uproar, but at least they are all smiling. Andy, who says nothing from one week to the next, says: "I like 'He whose face gives no light shall never become a star'. I think he is saying we all have to try to be good, and our confidence will grow from there." Magnificent


"Poetry is pants, Miss" summed up what most of my GCSE resit groups thought. It was a Wednesday morning in F29, a room with a stain on the wall and a chugging boiler in a corner.

Nearly all the pupils were on vocational package courses; two lovers were kissing and holding hands under the table, about another 10 pupils were texting away to their mates in the canteen. But it was going OK: mobile phones were put away, poems had been read out and now the class was looking at metaphors and desperate for a diversion.

As if by magic in came the seriously off-the-scale lad, who so rarely attended I had given up expecting him. He was 20 minutes late, stoned out of his box and brandishing his bright yellow cigarette lighter.

"Sorr'mlatemiss", he then grunted. I reminded him that he was very late.

Inside I knew the lesson was doomed.

He sat and clicked the lighter on and off about 30 times in a minute, gazing through the flame into space. I asked him to put it away. For the class it was a Godsend: how wonderful to watch their teacher failing to control a stoned student with a cigarette lighter in a lesson about love poetry.

Idiotically, I continued and asked him what he thought of love poems. "No such thing, Miss", he replied sagely. Mercifully, 10 minutes after he had arrived, he asked to go to the loo and never came back. I mean never. That day he left college

Helen Treutler is a teacher in East Sussex

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