Classroom Confessions .. The “What Ifs” you can’t prepare for.

The idea for this blog post came to me after meeting the wonderful group of TeachFirst 2015 participants. I overheard the 57, filled with excitement and nerves,  asking many questions starting with the word s”What If…?”

“What if they don’t like me?”

“What if they don’t listen?”

“What if they refuse to leave the room?”

“What if I don’t know the answer?”

These worries are normal and there are a plethora of ways/techniques to help you deal with each one in turn but it got me thinking… what are the “what if’s” that myself and fellow teachers have encountered that quite frankly, you would never.. EVER.. expect to happen.

Schools and teachers shall remain anonymous .. the situations are all very real!

The jist to this article..
The jist to this post …

Here we go: “What if you are humiliated in front of your class?” Having been *very active* active at the front for the majority of a lesson teacher M poses a question to the class.. hands go up.. they choose student A who replies “Miss, the answer is six, and you have massive sweat patches.”

“you have massive sweat patches”.. those words will remain Teacher Ms mind for eternity. Student A was right, it turns out teacher M did have massive sweat patches but what did she do? She dealt with the situation. She reprimanded the rudeness, explained that the patches in question were a sign of how hard she was willing to work in order for the pupils to learn and then naturally, once the class had gone, hoped the ground would swallow her up a tiny bit. She coped.

Teacher P encountered this “What if…. Some kid sets fire to your desk with propanone in the second week “by mistake”?” Well step one is to put out the fire, and then you simply deal with the situation. Interestingly with a problem like this it is important not to take it personally as the pupil in question later went on to be Teacher Ps favourite pupil.

“What if you tell your pupils to swear at you?” Teacher Q came across this situation when attempting to implement an AfL strategy learnt in summer training. The classic Thumbs up, middle or down was misinterpreted by teacher Q and came out as the instruction: “thumbs up, middle fingers or thumbs down.” Naturally, every single one of the 28 pupils in front of her were sat with their middle fingers directed at teacher Q. This situation you have to address the mistakes. teacher Q laughed it off and then NEVER made that mistake again.

Teacher Rs “What if” highlights the importance of caring and supportive staff members. “What if the decorative zip that goes from waist to knee turns out not to be decorative at all and you are expected to go and teach a class imminently and your entire backside if on show?” The solution? Quick minds working together meant that one teacher went off and started the class of year 10 whilst two others ran to lost property to source some spare school trousers. On returning to the classroom (after a swift change) what if a pupil says that they “swear” they saw you wearing a skirt today.. well on this occasion the solution is to lie a little bit and reply “nope and now back to work.”

Teacher Q offered this golden what if : what if a pupil screams at you “my mum’s gunna rape you” at the top of her voice? A bizzare situation and one which I don’t think many people would think to ask with how you deal with it. Teacher Y followed protocol, implemented the disciplinary system and sought help from more experienced members of staff. This resulted in student Y being placed on alternative provision before unfortunately being excluded for a multitude of other offences. There was no way Teacher Y could have been prepared for this situation however the support systems in place at schools are well equipped ro deal with the unexpected. Yet again, teacher Y coped.

Teacher Z answers this more worrying what if.. “what if a pupil walks towards you threatening they are going to *effing* punch you in the *effing* face?” This situation is the stuff of nightmares, luckily schools know their pupils, and this school has a constant police presence. The aggressive child was swiftly dealt with by the Police Officer and not Teacher Z (whose effing face remains in tact). The moral of this story is, direct confrontation is always not acceptable and should always go higher than you. Staff members are trained in this field and it is not down to you to take abuse, verbal or physical. If you are in a threatening situation, do your best to calm it down and know the protocol as to who to pass it on to. Although these last two are more serious situations, it is important to know that you really aren’t alone and all schools are there to support their staff.

These situations, from the embarrassing to the frightening all highlight one thing which we (as new teachers) have been amazed at all year. We can deal with almost anything. Pupils coming to us in floods of tears over unimaginable home life situations, pupils shouting accidentally hilarious things (naming parts of a circle and “rectum” was said instead of “radius”), pupils embarrassing us, pupils outsmarting us. These all point to an unknown ability to cope with situations that up until now had never been tested.

If I could go back and tell me from a year ago one piece of advice/moral support it would be to trust in myself and my instincts. For all of the unimaginable situations, you somehow know what to do. You deal with the immediate problem, you source a logical solution and then you carry on teaching.


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