I know that currently teacher training is on hold. There are no lectures taking place on theories of learning, different curriculum models, behaviour management techniques or safeguarding. All of these things are of prime importance, however there is a skill that does not seem to be taught in universities. The art of keeping a straight face, regardless of whatever is said or shown to you. It is quite easy with children as you can distract them or turn away. With adults it is somewhat different. Especially when the first thing that springs into your head is “Too much information!”
Many teachers will have had the situation where a parent uses them as a disciplinarian tool for their children. You know the type of thing where a parent asks you to tell their child off for not getting dressed in the morning. As a headteacher this didn’t come to my attention much, but there were some occasions where a parent’s filter of what I needed to know malfunctioned.
One morning my deputy headteacher came to say a parent needed to see me urgently. She said that I should see the parent as I would find it funny. The parent in question was well known to me as her version of how her child behaved and the school’s version differed somewhat. I remembered that she had recently started a new job and she came in dressed for business, although I am not sure whether the yard of cleavage on display would have fitted in with our dress code. Names have been changed to protect the guilty
“I’ve come to apologise for what our Jemima brought into school yesterday, I don’t know why she did it and I am so sorry and embarrassed. (Not too embarrassed to come and tell me though)
“I haven’t heard about any of this,” I replied. “Jemima, what did you bring in?”
“She brought in a condom. She was showing it to all of her friends. She took it from my bedside table and was telling all of her friends that I have these because I have a lot of sex!”
“Really?? Congratulations?? Do you want a certificate in Friday’s assembly? But most of all, why are you telling me this. I don’t want to know”
Of course I didn’t say any of that. I kept my face straight and spoke to Jemima about how things should be kept private. Also that she should not be bringing these things in to show her year 3 (YES YEAR 3!) friends as some parents would not be happy about it. I eventually found out that she had put the condom in one if the sanitary bins in the girls’ toilets. No teacher had come to tell me about this. There had been no parents in contact with the school. I suppose she just wanted someone to know about her sex life!
On another occasion we had had a phone call from a parent to say her child would be collected by her niece as she had to go to the doctor’s and she wasn’t sure if she would be back on time. A very sensible call you might say. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have caused any issues except that there had been some recent child protection issues around the pupil in question. After tracking down the social worker I was advised to meet whoever was picking the little girl up, find out where she was being taken and make a judgement about whether I was happy. If not I was to keep the child in school and get in touch with social services.
I followed the reception class out to the yard and stood with Chloe. She pointed out who was picking her up. So far, so good I thought. I asked the person collecting Chloe where she was going and was told that they were both going to her auntie’s house. I knew the auntie so I was quite happy. I was just about to say goodbye to Chloe, in the middle of a very busy school yard, surrounded by parents, children and staff when…..
“Aye, our Samantha went to the doctor’s. He’s sent her to the hospital. The silly cow hooked up with some fella last night and now she has got her coil stuck!”
I could not think of a single thing to say. So I just kept my face straight, waved goodbye and went back inside the school.
So, if you are a student teacher, or any teacher for that matter, may I make a suggestion? In this period of lockdown, if you are not in school, take a bit of time to practise your straight face in front of a mirror. And keep a note of the tales if you ever decide to write a blog.