My best worst lesson

9th May 2008 at 01:00
Best - I taught this lesson a few months into my first teaching job

I taught this lesson a few months into my first teaching job. My task every Thursday afternoon was to imbue 26 Year 9s with a love of all things French. However, this class approached their language lessons with zero enthusiasm.

Factor in my lack of experience and a non-existent respect for authority among my pupils and you have what is, on paper, a recipe for disaster. This was especially true given that the pupils were always far more interested in honing their teacher-baiting skills than the content of the lesson.

Which is why a successful afternoon with them has become my best ever lesson. The topic was ordering in a restaurant and two things made it work so well: a good idea and a gimmick.

The good idea was rearranging all the tables to form a makeshift cafe. The gimmick consisted of cheques, written from my own chequebook, for different amounts of money. The class was split into groups of four or five, with two volunteers becoming "serveurs", and each group armed with a cheque.

It wasn't the Ritz, but they soon got the idea of choosing within their budget from the menus provided. Working out as a team what they could afford gelled and focused the class.

Some "diners" had enough for a slap-up feast, others just a snack, but everyone co-operated and listened in silence while each group ordered their meals. And then Miss fell off her chair.


This was a lesson I taught while retraining as a primary teacher. The aim was to assess which metals are magnetic. Science was not my strongest point, plus my lesson was to be observed, which meant I was keen to get it right and I prepared it meticulously.

Luckily, I had the opportunity for a dry run with another class. Having set out the magnets and materials, I told the class that they should test each object for magnetism.

I did try to tack on a safety warning, saying: "Now don't try these magnets out on your watches, children - they might damage them," but it was totally lost in the babble of excited chatter. This generally revolved around how you could make your eyeballs, nails and hair come out with the aid of the (by now mythically powerful) magnets.

The good news was that no one damaged their watches. The bad news? Before I knew what was happening, one boy had slid a magnet across the two class computer monitors, which then completely failed to come on when the computer technician arrived.

After he had roared at the class that the computers were irreversibly damaged, I tentatively took him aside and had to admit the terrible truth; that I hadn't actually known that magnetism could do this to computers. The nice man told me the computers would probably be all right.

The following day my observed lesson went well. My criteria for success? Undamaged electrical equipment

Harriet Morris teaches at Telford College of Arts and Technology in Shropshire.

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