I remember when I was studying English in highschool, everybody feared the second grade because that's where you learned "Reported Speech" and "Passive Voice". Everyone had horrible experiences of failing tests and even the subject because those two structures were just too difficult.
So, when I got to the dreaded secong grade, I had no other choice but to study very hard, memorize the rules for those structures and pass the test (barely, in fact). But those two names stuck in my memory as the most difficult and useless thing I had to learn in English during my 15 year experience in a bilingual school.
More or less 3 or 4 years later when I started teaching English, I remember I got to the part in the manual where I actually had to teach reported speech. I couldn't sleep the night before, how was I going to be able to explain a structure that I don't fully understand myself, that awful experience from second grade was still haunting me...
In the end everything worked out well, I was able to teach reported speech to the best of my ability and improved the more I taught it. The first few times I realized my students were finding it just as hard to understand so I tried to figure out ways of showing the real practicality of it.
From that day on I committed as a teacher to the concept of relevance. Students need to find the topic meaningful and they have to be able to find the practical use of it in real life if you want them to remember it and actually learn it. Learning a language must be an enjoyable experience, nobody needs to suffer and sweat from a hard grammatical structure.
What I do now whenever I have to teach Reported Speech is choose the latest gossip in a celebrity's life and ask the students to tell me what has been said. Or I bring the newspaper to the class and have the students report what it says. Seems so easy, uh?