My best worst lesson

13th June 2008 at 01:00
Best: Northend Primary in Erith, Kent, was a last-minute signing from my supply agency and a real struggle to get to
Best: Northend Primary in Erith, Kent, was a last-minute signing from my supply agency and a real struggle to get to. Somehow I managed to scrape through the gates just in time for registration, but not before being subjected to the glares of parents that spelt out "imposter" in no uncertain terms.

I hardly had time to think about what I would have to teach or whether I needed to bring anything with me. Primary teaching was not my usual bag. The school, however, was desperate and seemed happy enough to give me a go.

On entering the classroom, the first thing that hit me was the shock of being a large, clumsy person in a world of small things. The miniature inhabitants seemed intent on leading me everywhere like a lost giant; I felt like an ungainly oaf that a tiny race had taken in but would never allow to stray. I suddenly longed for the indifference of secondary school.

The tots followed their usual routine and I began to fit in. Sitting down on the mat for a story, all eyes and ears were on me. I managed a few names and, bar a couple of grizzly ones, the whole class was co-operative and charming.

After the story, we settled down to do some spelling and I turned to the board. To my horror I saw that it had neat lines on it. Proper joined-up writing? The game's up, I thought. I tried a small word to begin with.

"That's not how you do it," said Rosie at my feet. "Well done," I exclaimed. "Now who's brave enough to climb up here and have a go?" "Me, me, me," came the reply. I smiled broadly and breathed deeply: "Wonderful".

Worst: One school I was teaching at in north London was in special measures and the dreaded day had arrived: inspection. I, along with the other two teachers in the art and design department, had stayed late the evening before to go through all the schemes of work and lesson plans.

The day had been progressing smoothly and a clear blue sky promised much from the classroom window. Rumour had it that the inspectors were in the department. As if on cue, two boys suddenly jumped up and began a heated row. Something to do with the relative merits of the Colombian and Bolivian football teams, I seem to remember.

I watched in horror as one boy proceeded to head-butt the other, resulting in a torrent of crimson gushing from the victim's nose.

"Quickly, get him to the toilets," I yelled. As he was whisked away, I rounded on the culprit. "You ... " I began, only to be interrupted by a knock on the door. It was the inspectors. The class fell silent. "Welcome to the art room," I said. "What work are they doing?" one of the inspectors asked.

I gestured towards the boy still standing over spots of blood. "Juan will explain," I offered. Juan smiled charmingly and paled considerably before forming a perfect explanation of the task.

Miraculously, neither of them noticed the blood and the school managed to pass its inspection.

Kevin D. Miles is an art and design teacher at Walworth Academy in south London.

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