The dark side of the whiteboard - I need glitz - and fast!

2nd July 2010 at 01:00

OMG. I have just found out that I'm going to be observed next week by my head of department and a deputy head so I need to spend the weekend slaving over a hot lesson plan that doesn't rely on a food-based plenary.

Recently, I have been happy to tie off my lessons with a rhetorical question and a tin of toffees: "OK do we all know what a complex sentence is? Great, have a sweet." But next week I need to pull out all the stops and present a glitzy West End show of a lesson with special effects, colour photocopying and full audience participation. It won't be easy. I can't remember the last time I structured a lesson properly; since my exam classes left I have been teaching off-piste.

I have ditched lesson objectives in favour of a more organic approach to teaching, where the content of each lesson is shaped by environmental triggers, such as whether little Jimmy Brown is still in the exclusion unit and whose photocopying I accidentally picked up in our resources room. If I go to my classroom with a mug of coffee and pack of felt tips I consider myself well prepared.

My advanced skills teacher colleagues have rallied around. They have advised me to base the lesson around clear objectives and to use a range of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (VAK) techniques. So far, so good. I'm fine with VAK since my usual lesson - watching a DVD of a classic text - ticks all three as long as I remember to hand round the popcorn.

My subject knowledge might be a trickier skill to demonstrate since my local Waterstone's ran out of York Notes. I tried sending out the internationally recognised teachers' Morse code distress signal - NYN - No York Notes, but so far no response.

My main problem is the topic my Year 12 class is studying. Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber may have attained an iconic status as a fin de siecle neo-Gothic text, but it's raunchier than a Jackie Collins paperback. Trying to find a story that doesn't contain the "c" word, menstrual blood or a thrusting male member is about as likely as getting a good cotton sports bra in Agent Provocateur. Now, if I were employed by a Dawkins-loving academy of atheists, the risque content might pass without remark, but since I work in a Hail Mary Catholic school this might prove an issue. Frankly, we are not great with sex.

Our key stage 3 sex and relationships education provision consists of denying that it actually exists. The first time I realised this was midway through a Year 8 lesson on citizenship. We were reading a PSHE book called Your Life when I noticed that some bright spark had carefully glued together the four pages on sex education. It was the same in every book. I was about to court martial the entire class and remove their Pritt Stick privileges for a term when a colleague revealed that the head of year was responsible. His rationale? Apparently Year 8 girls are too young to deal with explicit images of the human body. He has obviously not come across their profile pics on Facebook. We are a bit more liberal with our KS4 kids: we tell them that they will go blind, it is a venal sin and then sit back and hope for the best.

This prudishness does make lesson planning tricky. Rather than stand accused of gross moral turpitude, I'm going to approach Carter's story The Tiger's Bride through its traditional French antecedent - Beauty and the Beast. Now all I need is the Disney DVD and a tub of popcorn. Sorted.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.

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