My bottom set class of 15-year-olds came with warnings. "They will destroy you," prophesied one slightly theatrical colleague. "Just be ... firm," offered another, with a sympathetic smile. With 20 excitable boys, two meek girls and an eclectic collection of educational and behavioural needs, our lessons unfailingly loopy. Except on Friday afternoons.
At the end of every week, half the class were packed off to college for the day, leaving me with a far more manageable group of 10 and a vague mission to "work on grammar skills". And so Fruit Friday was born.
The idea was straightforward: use fruit as prompts for reading and writing. I would hit the market late on a Thursday night and stock up on cut-price pomegranates, mangoes and other eats I hoped would pique their interest. After a sticky first week, I remembered to grab some hand wipes, too.
We started with the basics - use a complex sentence to describe the aroma of the passion fruit; choose five pieces of punctuation to use in a paragraph about the blackberry's flavour - before building up over the term to some truly brilliant short stories, poems and a bizarre haiku or two.
But the best moments transcended literacy. In the presence of a few punnets of strawberries, my rabble of stroppy teenagers was transformed. We moved the desks from staid rows to a big, cooperative cluster. Rather than jostling and moaning, they now offered and waited. One boy wrote such a moving recollection of a lychee tree outside his bedroom window in Mauritius that the whole group spontaneously applauded after his reading.
Frustratingly, the magic of these sessions never quite made the move into Monday to Thursday classes, but I know I wasn't the only one counting down to Friday.
Zofia Niemtus teaches in London.