I WRACK my brains continually for ideas to motivate the unmotivated in Year 8. You know the ones. They have discovered the opposite sex in a big way and think all teachers are idiots. It is not that these students are daft, it is mainly that they cannot be bothered. So I analysed what they like about life and came up with the three Fs - food, fun and freedom.
When I suggested that they set up a French cafe and organise breakfast for the entire school, they thought I was crazy. But when I explained that they were in charge, they would get their breakfast too and they would be able to show everyone how good they were at organising, they went for it.
Given the kind of responsibilities where they would only let each other down if they messed up, they really went to town. Role-plays were written for guests to speak before, during and at the end of their breakfasts. French posters were put up round the school and individual invitations in French went to every staff member and pupil. The buzz around school was great.
Another group went to the supermarket clutching their money ad French shopping list, and returned casually announcing that they were under budget because they had taken advantage of the store's two-for-one offers. We were on course for serving bread and jam and fruit juice to all-comers.
Uniforms of aprons and tricolore hats were designed by the creative members of the class. Others made up tablecloths and flower arrangements from red, white and blue paper. Another team telephoned the local paper, whose photographer turned up on the first morning to take a picture.
If I had any worries about being left on my own to serve and tidy up, they quickly disappeared. The organisers were there in force before 8am to set the tables, start the cafe music and butter the bread. We partied in the French room until 8.40am each day for a week, and the whole school was talking about the new words they had learned.
Would we change anything? Next time we will serve hot chocolate, try to get local supermarket sponsorship and set up a bank account. But the three Fs worked well.
Fay Minto is a Year 8 teacher from Morpeth, Northumberland