This week it came to my attention that a student I teach had described me as “annoying but alright” on social media. Whilst I’m not a fan of students discussing teachers online for various reasons, I wanted to take the time to focus upon the sentiment in his description. I believe that a teacher should never be students’ friends. Therefore, I would take “annoying but alright” as an almost exact description of how I would want to be perceived.
Annoying is negative though?
From knowing this student as I do, I believe his perception of annoying is that I will not put up with him chatting or slacking. In this respect, despite the fact he is top set and a very able student, he will come back at lunch if he has not worked well enough and I will not let him get distracted/distract others. In this regard, I suppose I am “annoying” as he cannot get away with cruising at 70% effort like he possibly can in other classes.
Don’t you want to be more than “alright”?
With his class particularly, I have to be very careful as they are lovely students who genuinely make me laugh. There are a number of cheeky and friendly students who genuinely can multitask by working and chatting at the same time. Therefore, I have to keep myself in line by ensuring that I always remain as their teacher who has the authority to make them get their heads down rather than being seen as a pushover.
I always say to newbies that the “cool fun teacher” that they often aspire to be only exists because they have silent rules and routines lurking in the background. With this class particularly, I’d say that this is exactly what “alright” means. They know they can have a joke and enjoy the lesson but they know that I will stop them if they go too far. It is my job to ensure they all meet and exceed their target grades. Therefore, it is my job to make sure the fun side does not sacrifice that or set a precedent that less than 100% effort is okay.
Okay but how do you establish the knowledge that you’re in charge but enjoy a joke too?
For me, it is all about going hard on rules and routines at the start of the year (if it’s a bit late for you, go for a re-load where you spell out your rules clearly and then apply them). From here, students to see that you will apply the rules. This means that they know the rules are there and know that they are not just for show. Thus, once you start building the relationships with the students, they start to relax around you, enjoy your lessons but they are reassured that you’re not running a “doss” lesson and will clearly reiterate boundaries as appropriate.
So there we have it…
In terms of what -I believe- makes a successful classroom, “annoying but alright” is as good as you’re going to get from a mischievous student who often clashes with teachers. Don’t be afraid of clear, strict rules. Don’t be afraid of applying them. But also, don’t be afraid of enjoying a joke; you are a human being and students will “play ball” more if there is an element of give and take. Nonetheless, remember, you are not their friend and they should never feel that “oh but miss, please!” is ever their ticket out of getting the job done.
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