Lessons you'd swear blind by

18th November 2005 at 00:00
Well **** me, hasn't there been a lot about swearing in schools in the media recently? First off, there was the school down south where pupils could say **** four times in a lesson without getting into trouble. It was the end of civilisation as the conservative press knew it, or it was an imaginative attempt to get pupils in a school for those with severe behavioural problems to confront their use of language.

Then we had Channel 4's The Unteachables, where some seriously disaffected children were given innovative teaching in a residential setting. English teacher Phil Beadle had some brilliantly imaginative ways of engaging the kids. He was also not averse to using the odd swearie, sometimes in song.

I'm not sure if I remember it correctly, but I think one of his ditties went: "A noun is just a ****** piece of **** Until you stick an adjective in front of it."

Hmmmm. I thought I was being clever in the days when pupils had to recall physics formulae by rote to get them to chant: "Listen to my physics rhyme Distance equals speed times time."

Perhaps a parental advisory gangsta rap version would have been better.

"Isaac Newton, he kicked *** Acceleration is force over mass." Nope, doesn't scan.

I don't think I could pull off the Phil Beadle "relate to them by using their language" trick. I'm not sure Phil Beadle could pull off the Phil Beadle trick. If I heard a pupil loudly asking another to "gie us the ******* voltmeter," I would certainly admonish them for the use of aggressive language. Whether or not I would also openly express my pleasure that a piece of scientific apparatus had been successfully identified and named would depend on the circumstances.

Should someone in a class quietly remark to their neighbour that vector diagrams were ******* difficult, I think my reaction would be to wait a discreet moment and then sidle over to help them.

Now here's the one I need help with. It's a wet Monday afternoon. I have an all-male third-year physics class containing a significant number of the disengaged and disaffected. Amped up on food additives, the majority are twitching in their seats. But the lesson goes well. An engaging, fun practical activity helps to illustrate a tricky concept. An offbeat analogy makes them smile but reinforces understanding.

When the bell rings, they file out still talking about physics. As he passes, one pupil tells me: "That was ******* brilliant, Mr Steele. You're a ******* magic teacher."

It hasn't happened yet, but I'm buggered if I know what I'd do if it did.

Gregor Steele thought the science teacher in The Unteachables got it right.

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