Best. It was the end of term and I was playing, on CD, an extract from John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men to 30 rather tired Year 10 pupils. The objective was merely to be compiling an essay plan. But during a key scene, in which Curley's wife is killed by Lennie, one pupil asked why she had no name, simply referred to as "Curley's wife". I was silent it was an excellent question. A few boys started to laugh at the fact I had no answer to give them.
Gradually, however, the class realised it was an interesting issue. What followed was a 30-minute discussion in which we came up with possible reasons for Steinbeck's decision. For example, she didn't need a name as she wasn't an important character (it was a male story and only the men needed names). Alternatively, Steinbeck wanted us to guess a name, or perhaps he couldn't decide on a name or even that he simply forgot.
The class even held a democratic vote for a suitable name for the character. The winning name was Betty; someone said that the way Curley's wife was described as acting and speaking reminded them of Betty Boop and although quite funny, this was at least a little plausible. So, for the remainder of term, that name stuck.
It was a dark, snowy afternoon in the middle of January and I had already slipped down a hill while on my journey into school. My twisted ankle hurt, I had a cold and just wanted to be in bed.
I was teaching English in a liberal secondary school in Zurich, Switzerland, where the pupils seemed to rule the school with their unruly behaviour. I was due to take 20 somewhat moody 14-year-olds for the last lesson of the day. We had just read the book About a Boy and I had planned to show key excerpts from the film; surely a pupil's dream lesson? Apparently not at the start of the lesson, no one had turned up.
Ten minutes passed and two girls stomped in. I questioned them about the whereabouts of the rest of the class but they merely giggled. Suddenly the rest of the class piled in, red-faced and covered in snow. We started to watch the film, until the light bulb in the projector broke. Great.
One of the louder members of the class helpfully suggested we use the TV in the library, to which he had the key. So we did indeed watch the film in the library and the pupils really enjoyed it. I went home feeling pleased that at least something had gone right after such an atrocious start.
The next day, however, I received a severe reprimand from the librarian for "breaking in" to the library. Only then did I tearfully realise that the oh so-helpful pupil had in fact stolen the key. Ooo **
Rhiannon Davies, 25, teaches at St Peter's Catholic Comprehensive School in Guildford, Surrey
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