My best worst lesson

5th September 2008 at 01:00

Best

My best lesson involved "the most sophisticated piece of technology you will ever pee on". It was with a Year 10 English group that was about to embark on a piece of coursework analysing television adverts.

Rather than select the slick advertisements that win all the prizes, we decided to focus on those that really annoyed us . with those catchy, repetitive tunes, impossibly perfect worlds or ridiculous taglines. We then began to pull them apart in terms of language, representation and values.

I was heavily pregnant and just a few weeks from my maternity leave. I was particularly struck by an advert for a pregnancy testing kit with what I viewed as a patronising male voiceover, and singularly unimpressive unique selling point of spelling the word "pregnant" at you.

The pupils were amused by my vitriolic attack and relished the freedom that my rant provided to experiment with their own critical voice.

The result: a collection of concise and cutting evaluations filled with acerbic wit that could teach Simon Cowell a thing or two about critical analysis.

Worst

I was a naive PGCE student on placement and struggling with a Year 9 English class that, due to a peculiarity with the timetable, I had to teach twice on Thursdays.

I had tried to make the challenging extract from Dotheboys Hall as accessible as possible by having the class design increasingly disgusting menus for the poor pupils of Dickens's institution, but frankly, the group was having none of it, and behaviour degenerated from mildly uncooperative to sanity-threatening disruption.

One boy, who had been in trouble during the morning's lesson, had begun to make increasingly loud and objectionable comments, accompanied by equally loud and objectionable farts. He claimed that this was connected to the task in hand because it was exactly how the boys in the narrative would behave were they to eat the food on his bill of fare.

Lacking the patience and disciplinary experience to deal adequately with the situation, I lost it a little and shouted at the culprit to leave the room. "I've had enough. Just go," I shrieked. "Walk out the door."

"Don't turn around now, `cause you're not welcome anymore" chorused 25 Year 9s in unison, and with no prompting, back at me.

"I will survive" became my mantra for the remaining Thursdays of the placement.

Theresa Gooda teaches English at the Holy Trinity Church of England School in Crawley, East Sussex.

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