Did you just suck in your breath and then feel a rising sense of indignation? Yeah, I would have done too, reading that question. But, I also scan back through my mind at the interactions I have with students and wonder if I was the right role-model for the best of behaviour sometimes. So, to stop you feeling upset – let’s talk about me – then, maybe, you can question how much you relate?
When I first started teaching I thought that shouting was the way to get attention. I had been brought up that way and I had been taught that way. You could say at the age of 23 I knew no better. I would shout in children’s faces when they were out of order. Aggressive and unrelenting, I let them know I was the boss of that room. And, to be fair, the kids feared me and I suffered no issues with behavioural management. But, scared kids don’t make good learners and there were not many students in the school who wanted to be taught by me. After a few years and a great mentor, a lady who was a Head of Year, who showed me how a gentle voice and a disappointed demeanour was far more powerful and children began to like me.
When I became Head of Faculty and other teachers used me to scare their kids, I was annoyed. I have a naturally sullen resting face, so it was natural to think that I was likely to eat you at any moment. The fact that my team brought children to me to shout at was not my favourite situation. I had learned not to shout by this point. This meant I was put in the situation where I had to ask the student to sit in my room, before the teacher explained the problem. There is nothing more humiliating for a student than witnessing one teacher bad mouth you to another.
Then, when I became stressed and tight for time, I had a terrible habit of being sarcastic, or teasing students to a point when it was just plain not funny anymore. I lost the ability to spot the tell-tale body language – the lack of eye contact, the nervous laughter, the embarrassment of the student. My classes would go quiet and I would know that I had done something wrong – modelled behaviour that the students saw as unjust. The quietness was not a badge of honour. It is because none of the students in my room wanted to be spotted by me. I was always happier that I was doing a good job when there was just that little bit too much noise – a bustling, productive atmosphere – I knew then that students were safe in my room.
It is tough when you realise you might be using hierarchy to get away with bad behaviour. But, we are all only human and sometimes time, pressure, the students themselves, push our buttons and we act in a way we wouldn’t want our students to emulate.