The dark side of the whiteboard - I'm the bitch who won't do 'fun'

23rd April 2010 at 01:00

It is every teacher's worst nightmare. You have in front of you a detailed but unspeakably tedious lesson plan on the key elements of GCSE English language paper one, and your class bounces in. The children squeal expectantly: "Can this be a fun lesson, Miss?" You smile at them benignly. You speak gently, using the cajoling but masterful tone you reserve for other people's dogs when they hump your leg. "We have too much to get through today. We need to crack on with our reading skills if we're going to get our Cs."

You rely on your emphatic use of the word "we" to settle them, to show them you, too, would rather be making CD covers of songs that reflect your life (anything from the Joy Division back catalogue) or garish superhero posters using DayGlo crepe paper and fabric remnants borrowed from textiles. Sadly, your skilled use of the first person plural (a much over-rated feature of paper one section B: 'writing to argue, persuade and advise') falls on deaf ears. Armageddon erupts.

Apparently, everyone else in the school is having a "fun" lesson. You are the only teacher making them work. You are the worst teacher they have ever had. You stand in the dock, accused, while the evidence is stacked against you: Mrs Jones's class is doing drama, Mr Smith's Year 10 pupils are running around armed with laptops, your HoD's sixth-formers are watching a third-generation copy of Shutter Island, and the student teacher's class next door is having unprotected sex on their desks while she snorts cocaine off a mini whiteboard. Unequivocally, you are the bitch teacher from hell.

The hint that others are having "fun" is enough to make the most compliant class unremittingly sullen, so it's worth having a few tricks up your sleeve in case your neighbour is seen marching in with last week's PTA pub quiz and the leftover prize from the raffle.

You can transform any dull lesson into an exciting learning experience by adding one of the following:

Glue: Giving a class a tub of glue sticks (preferably new ones) is like giving a budgerigar a mirror and a bell. There is seemingly no limit to the joy that accompanies twisting the bottom of the stick so vigorously that the glue rises several centimetres proud of its tubing, before squashing the lid firmly back on again.

Music: Not your nice Classic FM compilation but some ugly, atonal droning from one of their grubby iPods played at full volume through your overhead speakers.

Felt tips: Coloured pencils just don't have the same gravitas. If you want to hit the jackpot, give them your board markers.

Sweets: Brightly-coloured, viscous, unwrapped.

Drama: Just letting the boys take off their ties is enough. You get double bonus points if you then allow them to fasten the ties, guerrilla-style, around their heads. Note: ties don't do it for girls; orange blusher, however, does.

Surprisingly, I rarely succumb to "fun lessons". I am too much of a pedant to choose anarchy over apostrophe use. But if a class is particularly belligerent, I can get them back on board by flourishing my trump card: I am a regional arm-wrestling champion. All I need to do to make it into a "fun lesson" is to best the prop from the under-16s in place of a plenary. And there is no messy glue to clear up afterwards.

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

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