Geography lessons in the real world

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
She did the job for a week, but for that brief time was Britain's most famous geography teacher.

Now Clare Short's performance in the classroom at Southfields community college, south London, will be held up as a salutary lesson for budding teachers at the Geographical Association's annual conference next week.

The former Secretary of State for International Development spent a week at the school for the BBC2 programme My Week In The Real World.

Her appeal to the children's better nature proved unfruitful and her performance was mocked by the press. By the end of the week she did resort to the discipline techniques advocated by her mentor, Tracey O'Brien, head of humanities at Southfields, and managed to restore some order.

Mrs O'Brien and Celina Viner, the teacher who handed over her class to Ms Short, will be speaking at the association's conference in Canterbury next week.

Mrs O'Brien said: "We will talk about what we think were her expectations, as someone not in the profession, and what we think our expectations were of her.

"The talk is pitched towards newly-qualified teachers - it will be getting over the fact that you need to get your class behaving before you can inspire them.

"I'm biased, I think teaching geography is very easy because children have inquiring minds about other places, cultures and people.

"Clare obviously had a fantastic background and knowledge but as a geography teacher she couldn't get that over. She needed to control the class first and then try to enthuse the students.

"I think her heart was in the right place but she needed to do proper training and firm up her behaviour management skills. It is harder than it looks."

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