My best worst lesson

30th January 2009 at 00:00

Best: I was taking a group of six SEN pupils and we sat around a large table. These pupils are regularly taken out of other subjects to improve their reading and writing. The main part of this lesson was to take it in turns reading a book about the Second World War. The book informed the reader what it was like to live in war times, concentrating on the children, for example the evacuees, which I guess was aimed at making the pupils identify with what it was like to live through a war.

The pupils were in Year 7 and, despite their learning difficulties, read well. Part of the lesson was to discuss the content of the book, which we did afterwards. Two of the boys impressed me so much with their knowledge of the war, which they had learnt at school and from tales from their families.

I relayed stories that my parents had told me about the war, for example how they would go to school one day and the boy or girl who usually sat next to them was not there anymore; they had been bombed that night.

I also told them the story of my dad's house being bombed and them hiding under the table because they could not reach the shelter in time.

I felt that they would probably remember these stories more than the ones in the book as we were having a relaxed, intelligent conversation.

Their mature attitude and thoughts about the war, the meaning of it and the ramifications, made for a great lesson.

Worst: I was covering for the key stage 4 co-ordinator in geography. I had checked the usual places for cover sheets that explain the work the pupils are meant to do, but they weren't there. I sent a pupil to the head of geography but she did not have the work either.

In the meantime, this bottom set, difficult Year 9 class was getting fidgety. While I found out what the pupils were studying and trawled through textbooks to find a suitable task, I decided to get them going on a starter activity.

One of my favourites is to list as many countries as they can beginning with each letter of the alphabet. As I was halfway through explaining this task I suddenly remembered that I had done this with them the year before as a filler towards the end of the lesson. They remembered too and started shouting this out. I told them it was revision and still handed out paper (their books were nowhere to be seen). But I had lost the pupils and some of them started making paper aeroplanes.

This wonderful lesson culminated in a pretty little blonde girl with not such a pretty little mouth calling a fellow pupil something unmentionable. When I reprimanded her she called me a "f*****g kn**head". I referred her to the senior management team

Sue McGowan is cover supervisor at Ravensbourne School in Bromley, Kent.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today