Sat in GCSE maths, nokia mobile situated strategically behind a well-placed textbook and pencil case. Sat sideways on so I can look like I am vaguely paying attention to what is going on at the front of the class, whilst also catching up on all the gossip of either the previous lesson or break time with my friends who were sat around me. This was completely the norm, yet I have just spent a week telling students to ‘stop being so rude’ and to ‘pay attention’ for exactly the same things, the only difference is that Snake 2 is replaced by some highly complex computer game.
The one big advantage of working with teenagers and still being in your early twenties is that you know the tricks. If a student finds their knees overly interesting and will only glance up from them occasionally then odds are their mobile phone is balancing on them. If they start talking in German enthusiastically in English class then their conversation is not to do with forming the simple past tense. Sending a student out of class is just an easy way for them to play on facebook on their phone without them even having to attempt to hide their phone. If a group of teenage girls say the dreaded phrase ‘and then he said…’ you’ve lost them for that lesson, there is not anything you could say to do with phrasal verbs or how to order food in a restaurant in England that could get their attention again!
At 16 you don’t realise how rude it is. You don’t understand that these teachers have actually put in a lot of effort into planning these lessons for you, and that there are a hundred and fifty different things that they need to be doing at the same time as teaching you and when you’re sat on your phone playing on angry birds it is incredibly insulting, even if you have ‘finished’. (Finished in this sense usually means ‘I’ve done the task but not very well, in fact I really could not be bothered so have put minimal effort in and if you read it you will make me do it again’).
Despite all this, being in the classroom is something I love. Even though I am fully aware that teaching isn’t for me right now and there are a lot of things I want to try and achieve before I explore that as an avenue, I clearly enjoy it as I keep going back there! The moment that something finally clicks in a student’s mind, especially a difficult topic or something they have personally been struggling with can never fail to make you smile and give you a certain level of satisfaction. I unfortunately know that I never gave my maths teacher that satisfaction, sorry Sir but catching up on break time gossip was much more use to me than learning algebra – still not sure how I got that B at GCSE…