My best worst lesson

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
Best - The great thing about being a supply teacher is having the chance to reinvent yourself every day
Best - The great thing about being a supply teacher is having the chance to reinvent yourself every day. It was this that turned a potentially difficult session with a rowdy Year 9 German class into my best lesson.

The idea, made more believable by my German origins, was that I would pretend I could only speak German. I began with a loud "Guten Tag". A boy in the front row asked me for my name; I shrugged. "Do you speak English?" he asked, but I replied with a "Wie bitte?" He repeated himself more slowly, but I just shook my head. He wasted no time in informing the rest of the class: "Miss doesn't speak English." The class went quiet within an instant.

Following a few feeble attempts to shock me with English swearwords, I managed to explain the work for the lesson in German, with the class listening in concentrated silence. While most of the pupils then got on with the task, the braver ones asked me questions about myself in German. How old I was, where I lived, whether I'm married. "Quick, quick, find the word for married," one said; I'd never seen such enthusiastic dictionary work.

By the end of the lesson, the class made more use of German than they normally would in weeks. When the bell went, I was almost sorry to say: "Auf Wiedersehen".

Worst - My agency had asked me to do a day's work teaching a Year 5 class. It was the first time I'd been asked to teach primary but I was more than happy to oblige, imagining little children who would be cute and eager to learn. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The planned activity for the afternoon was to create a poster about Dick Turpin, the highwayman. A simple enough task but, having only lived in England for a few years, I didn't know too much about him. "So, can any of you tell me roughly when Dick Turpin lived?" I asked optimistically. "He was born in 1970," one boy called out. "Not quite," I said. "Oh yeah?" he replied. "What do you know, you're not even from this country."

I gave up and told them to just get on with the poster. As they did so, I kept watch over their shoulders. To my shock, I was confronted with the same image over and over again: a Bin Laden look-alike complete with a turban, a long beard and a gun in his hand.

"What do you think you're doing?" I asked the class. "You asked us to make a poster about Dick Turban, so that's what we're doing," one boy patiently explained. "Turpin, I said Turpin," I spluttered. "It's 'cause you've got a weird accent. Can't you speak proper like?" asked one of the girls.

So at the end of the day, I ended up with 20 posters of Bin Laden, and the realisation that primary pupils are by no means easier than their teenage counterparts.

Anna Regeniter is a supply teacher in the Manchester area.

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