I think it’s fair to say that teaching didn’t (doesn’t?) come naturally to me. We all have those friends who have known they wanted to be teachers since they were at primary school themselves, whose parents are most likely teachers and who slot into the role like a 2p coin at the penny falls. If you are friends with me, I am 99% sure that the person you are thinking of right now is someone else (you traitor).
And you know what? Good for them. Regrettably, for some of us, the first year of teaching is more like an uphill sprint on a slippery path. Only the path is on fire, a boulder is rolling towards you and you’re about to get eaten by wolves.
All this I thought, rather self-pityingly it has to be said, until I came across a photo of me, taken no less than a year before I embarked on my teaching career, where I happen to be exhibiting one of the fundamental pillars of the profession.
In my early, woefully naïve days, I used to think The Stare was a simple matter of looking at a child until they did what you wanted.
Oh-ho-ho! Let me tell you how wrong I was.
The Stare is not something you can acquire overnight. It takes months of blood, sweat and tears (the blood, sweat and most of the tears being the teacher’s – the odd outburst from the children) to perfect it. It’s a look that says ‘whilst I respect you as your teacher and demand your respect as my pupil, the behaviour you are exhibiting right now disgusts me and if it does not cease this instant I will be forced to embark upon several steps of disciplinary action, which may or may not terminate in your expulsion from the school.’
Here is a by no means exhaustive list of the things you might try in my classroom that would warrant The Stare:
- Incessantly tapping the table with a ruler.
- Calling out the correct answer while the rest of the class is deep in thought.
- Looking in any direction that is not me or the whiteboard.
- Having fun.
In my early days, when a child exhibited one of these behaviours, I would look at them in what I determined to be a superior manner, which quickly dwindled to bewilderment as it had absolutely no effect on them whatsoever. But now my stare is to teaching what Blue Steel is to Zoolander – a total game changer.
For some reason, discovering that I had the knack to create The Stare somewhere about my person well before I began consciously trying to create it has soothed me, buoying me up with a sense of being on the right path. I suppose there’s really only one question left to ask:
Who the f**k was tapping a ruler on the other side of the camera?