My best worst lesson

19th September 2008 at 01:00

BEST: Being a Blue Peter-phobe, I dread art with Year 1, but we had decided to create work from natural materials, based on Andy Goldsworthy's Rowan Leaves with Hole.

I had visited the woods and collected bits of bark, twigs and fern fronds and began my lesson by bringing them out of a bag to the oohs and aahs of the class, letting them describe the colour and texture of each piece.

Next we went into the playground. I gave the children 10 minutes to collect natural objects, specifying that they had to be dead - I could just imagine them ripping up the flowers, or bringing me half-squashed woodlice - then they set off. They absolutely loved it, rushing up to me and shouting: "Look what I found", with hands full of twigs and leaves.

We then went back to class and I put the children into groups, giving each a piece of black paper on which to create an arrangement. I was surprised by the beauty of the work they created - every piece was unique and intricate. We photographed what they had done for display.

Until then I had forgotten how much fun learning can be when there is an element of adventure.

WORST: I'd been sent to a school in a godforsaken council estate in east London. I was going to teach Year 3. How bad could it be?

"She looks Eighties," one of the pupils shouted during registration. Did they mean old, or from the Eighties? Which is worse? Book Day assembly did not dispel my unease. The staff were dressed as characters from stories and moved inaudibly about as the pupils yelled at each other, oblivious.

Then it was numeracy. I was to teach direction. I finally managed to get the children on to the carpet.

"This is north. Now everyone . turn east, clockwise . ". "Ugh, Miss, he's farted. I'm not standing by him." Shrieks of laughter. Five children with harrowed expressions spun around while the rest ran wild.

A table crashed over, pushed by a boy who was standing with his hands jerking at his sides. "You cuss me, bitch?" he said.

Before I could move, he had shoved a girl into a corner and was laying into her with fists and feet. As I struggled to pull him off, half of the class ran out. The other half shouted: "Fight. Fight."

Eventually he ran into the schoolyard. I was shaking as I restored some kind of order. The headteacher arrived 10 minutes later, wearing brown bear ears, whiskers and a cross expression. "I've heard there has been fighting in your classroom," he said in a sniffy voice. I explained the situation. He sighed. "Well, I've spoken to X. He's sorry and will behave from now on." He deposited the boy, and was gone.

And that was that. I somehow got through the day and never went back.

Angeline Williams is a long-term supply teacher at a school in north London.

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