My best worst lesson
At St Anne's, I walked into a spacious and peaceful form room, where 21 polite and knowledgeable young women proceeded to share their summer stories with me. The lesson that followed proved to be much of the same: a group of impeccably well-behaved girls who seem to know everything and go easy on me.
By the end of the day, I had realised how appalling and traumatising Grange Hill had been. My initial thought was to sue the school for post-traumatic anxiety and premature greyness. But then I relaxed, marvelling at the fact that I never have to set foot in there again.
The atmosphere at my newfound haven was summed up when, as the pupils were filing out from their lesson, one girl paused to speak to me. "Thanks, Sir. I really enjoyed the lesson. You explain things really well," she said. The lesson had not been particularly special, she was just welcoming me into her school. Somehow those three sentences were worth more than a month's salary.
Worst: The lesson objective was for pupils to learn how to introduce themselves and exchange common greetings. I spoke politely and gently at first, but they refused to listen. I shouted and frogmarched around the room, which only made them worse.
My counting from 10 to zero was met by a chorus of "Happy New Year!" and "We have lift off!" After every tactic I'd been taught on my teaching course failed, I resorted to empty threats. They got me nowhere.
Trying to calm myself, I went to my desk, where I realised that my board pens, lesson plan and worksheets had gone missing. Pressing the alert button on the Bromcom (an outdated portable computer for taking the register), I reassured myself that the senior leadership team ninjas would soon be abseiling into the classroom to pacify these hideously hyperactive hyenas. Somebody had removed the batteries.
Fearing for my life, I wrote "Help needed in L2" on a sheet of paper and handed it to the wide-eyed girl in front of me. "Take this to the office", I told her. She set off, but was pursued by a boy who returned with my torn up note in his hand.
When the bell went, I told them that the whole class was staying behind for a break detention. Their behaviour was unacceptable and I was the boss, not them. I stood at the door to show my authority. One by one, they left through the window.
School names have been changed.
Mark Stothart is a psychology teacher at Jumeirah College, a British curriculum school in Dubai.