Returning from a few days sick into my classroom is always a little bit of fun. The very best thing about teaching is the kids that I teach. A close second, very close, is the staff that I work with. Coming back to the kids though … Often hilarious.
Firstly because I generally run a tight ship, when I am unexpectedly absent, the mice will play. Because they are kids they don’t stop to think of consequences; they have perfected the art of living in the moment. It is only when they see me walk through the corridors that they realise their choices may not have been for the best.
Secondly, this makes my bluff easier for them to believe. Thirdly, the more conscious kids run to me to dob on their peers when they see me, citing the behaviour of their peers as their reason for not completing the work that I left.
And so I always return to my classroom to guilty looks, cheeky grins, and a chorus of, “Where were you?” and “We missed you” and “Hope you feel better now Miss”. And I always smile and add to the chorus with, “Obviously sick. I missed you guys too. I am better now thank you. And I hope you all realise I know you haven’t been the best you can be so go in quietly, get your equipment out, and not a word.”
The kids that misbehaved swallow hard and turn green (a bit of poetic license here), the others grin to themselves knowing the show is about to start.
And unlike every other day, they walk in quietly and follow all instructions.
“I know you didn’t all do the right thing. Keeping in mind that I obviously know who did and didn’t behave, I am giving you the opportunity to own your behaviour and accept responsibility. Stand up if you didn’t do the right thing while I was away.”
A couple of courageous lambs stand.
“What I mean by not doing the right thing is, you had your phone out, you spoke to your friends [a few more rise slowly], you didn’t complete the work, you answered back the teacher [nervously looking at me they continue to rise], you did anything you wouldn’t do if I were here.”
By this point, most of the expected subjects are on their feet or have their hands in the air. I survey the room and when satisfied, ask a few what they did and why. I then raise my eyebrows and remind them that I expect them to be their very best regardless of whether I am there or not.
And then we continue the lesson aka catching up what they didn’t do whilst I was away.
Experience as a teacher is invaluable. I have been in my current school for the better part of sixteen years. My reputation precedes me. Most of the kids have heard stories, true or not, and if they haven’t they soon learn that you just don’t mess with me. Me or my Sister of Destruction.
The funny thing about this is that I love my job, I love the kids (often as if they were my own), and I’m not that scary (ask anyone who has been taught by me).
The perception of me is infinitely scarier than the reality.
I strive to make my classroom a safe zone. A place where the kids feel safe to learn because they are free from bullying and criticism when they make mistakes. As I say to my classes at the beginning of each new year, “We learn nothing from getting everything right. Mistakes are our teaching tools. Please make them.” And like a lioness, I protect those that do, and we all have fun because they feel safe and they know that they are loved and that they are valued for everything that they are, the good and the not so good.
And so we move forward together, connected in learning.