There are a lot of excellent educational blogs out there, and most are well worth reading if one only had the time.
But one thing bugs me; we tend to focus on what worked for us in class (and sometimes even what didn’t work), and so an outsider reading all these blogs would come away with the impression that teaching is wonderful.
All the time.
And that’s not true. And I know it’s not just me. And I know when things go very wrong we as teachers often don’t have anywhere to go.
Let me give an example. This week has been hectic; I have four teams entering Young Scientist (a science-fair competition) and they are at various stages of readiness. Some are constantly bugging me about it, while others I have to chase down to make sure they are doing anything at all.
It’s the last week of term and students are in festive mode in class, while I, while not wishing to dampen their spirits, am adamant that there is still work to be done.
As a houseperson with responsibility for 60 students I have to deal with each and every disciplinary issue as they arise, and boy have they been arising this week.
I have been socialising at night-time, consuming more alcohol than I otherwise might during the rest of term.
I’m frazzled (read ‘grumpy’). So you can guess what happens next. I’m teaching my normal class. Mary is chatting at the back while I am talking at the front. I snap at Mary. Mary snaps back. I give Mary detention. Mary feels (quite rightly) that she has been treated harshly and the whole class atmosphere changes.
I am human. I experience the full gamut of human emotions. I make mistakes. As a teacher I have to make 100 calls a day on discipline. Most involve ignoring somebody talking or simply asking them to be quite. Most of the time I get these calls right. Occasionally I get them wrong. As I become more experienced I get better at making these calls. But sometimes I have a day where I get more wrong than right. And that’s life.
The trick is to recognise this and acknowledge it. And if that means apologising to a student, whether it be straight away, or at the end of class, or even the following day, then so be it.
Why should an apology be such a big deal for me as a teacher?
And why, if class discipline is such a big issue in schools, are so few of us writing about it?