The reality of Primary school life, for as long as I have been involved, has fully ensured that the mantra, shared by an older colleague, came true with amazing regularity. From the classic “dog in the playground”, through children hurting themselves in a variety of interesting and unexpected ways, to parts of the building, notably the suspended ceilings in flat roof schools, falling after heavy rain. No-one can predict these things happening, they confront you with a series of decisions that have to be made effectively, while still trying to run the class, or at least keep control.
Timetable clashes can be a great source of angst, as a PE lesson is lost to the music rehearsal, someone “desperately needs” all the ICT resources, at the same time as you had booked them, or, like I encountered on a school visit for an ITE observation visit, I arrived to be told that some authors had been booked and they did do KS1 talks, so the year 1s were to have the experience, where this was not expected.
The children and the teachers sat through ¾ hour of supremely funny anecdotes and story-telling from real experts, who drew the children in with carefully contrived hooks, believable episodes and the occasional touch of far-fetched imagination. They read aloud, and got the children joining in with, a short play, based on making excuses on arrival at school, with an unbelievable storyline.
At the end of the session, there was not enough time to do the original lesson planned for the observation, so I challenged the student to quickly reflect on the recent experience and to use this to develop a twenty minute holding activity that built on what had been experienced. The class, having recently experienced persuasive writing, were encouraged to think about excuses in that form, drawing out the essential elements, of “strong” verbs, particular adjectives, telling stories with connectives.
The children had time to talk with peers about what they could say, so they rehearsed quickly their excuses, before some were shared. In the final six minutes, they were challenged to write down their excuses, as a way of capturing their thoughts quickly. The outcomes surprised both the student and the class teacher, who are in the midst of moderating writing, as the children produced impromptu writing that was certainly at the upper end of their achievement.
The debrief after the “lesson” focused on the need to think on your feet and to be adaptable to circumstances. These elements are embedded in teaching standards 6 and 5, but with a side order of 4. Think, act and be ordered and organised.
This is a young teacher with huge potential. I hope he has the chance to realise it.