Recently TES published a poster on the 100 things you should have done at school before the age of 11 – by primary school pupils. I ripped it out and stuck it on the staffroom cupboard door, and we read through it and compared stories. But straight away it got me thinking…I’m fairly sure this isn’t all that different for teachers.
So here, tongue firmly in cheek, is my 100 things you’ve probably done at school by an ex-teacher…
*Not all based on personal experience, mostly though, and all photo credits – TES.
- Be called mum or dad.
And answer ‘yes darling?’ Even better for one’s self-esteem when you’re called by the wrong gender, cheers child.
- Make good friends.
They’re the ones who come into your classroom and give you a hug when you’re crying in a corner post-meeting, or read a riot act because they can see you’re not quite able to bring ‘full-on-scary-teacher-voice’ out of the bag that day, and bring you a cup of tea to your after school club because they know you’ll be finding it hard to function without one.
- Tell the headteacher to “chill out”…
…”about OFSTED” – I mean, under your breath, once they’ve left the staff meeting obviously…
- Get covered in paint/mud/chalk/glue/bodily fluids that aren’t your own.
Trousers = ruined.
- Hold in hysterical laughter when someone farts.
And glare disapprovingly at the child beside them who’s sniggering, while moving subtly away.
- Take part in a school production…
…from the back of the school hall, doing all the words and actions to every song with great enthusiasm until you notice parents watching you instead of their offspring.
- Have a water fight.
In the staffroom while you’re supposed to be washing up. Who said teachers were grown ups?
- Go swimming.
Because there’s a child in your class who can’t bear to go in the water. So you spend the previous evening making sure you’re ready to go into the water (ie. spend ages shaving/waxing and planning a ‘post-pool-back-to-school’ hairstyle), and enter the pool super self-conscious in your cossie…but by the end of the six weeks you’re no longer needed, the child in question has water confidence even if they can’t quite swim yet, and you’re a little bit sad to be missing out on the inflatables and floats five minutes at the end of the session.
- Be made to sit next to your enemy.
You’re sat in the staff meeting and who sits beside you but the teacher who terrifies you with their strength of opinion and their ability to make you feel about 5 years old. Yes, even though you’re also a teacher.
- Forget your memory stick.
A serious low point in teacher life. Do you ring home and try to get someone to email it all to you or do you drive back, find it yourself and barely make it back in time to start registration? Or, do you relinquish all that work you did last night and make it again? (sob).
- Have a nickname
You just might not know what it is…
- Do something silly and realise the headteacher is standing behind you.
This also happens when you’re a teacher. It’s just as awful.
- Laugh so much that drink comes out through your nose. Snorting tea out your nose in the staffroom isn’t a great look, but it’s one that we’ve all done from time to time when the stories roll in…oh we could fill books with the antics. And speaking of books…
- Throw a book across the room.
Or just onto the floor beside you. But how many times did you explain that one instruction? They repeated it back to you! But nada…in one ear…throwing the book down just vents a tiny bit of that frustration.
- Negotiate post-playtime fall outs.
Who would have thought this would take SO. MUCH. TIME.? Repeating ‘you should have sorted this out in the playground’ is your new mantra.
- Doing the PE demonstration as though it’s your Olympic sport.
Sadly this is as close as you’ll be getting to Rio 2016.
- Tell someone off for drawing a face on a rubber
Or for stabbing their pencil into it with ferocity. Better than stabbing the person next to them though.
- Go on a school trip.
Spend hours preparing the ideal groups that keep particular children apart, and remain on tenterhooks for the entire day while doing constant headcounts and not having time to have a drink or go to the loo. Bed by 7.30pm.
- Get a certificate.
And feel unjustifiably proud that you got one too. The teacher never gets a certificate, but will be just as proud of their terrified-of-heights-but-doing-it-anyway-abseil, if not more so.
- Get told off.
There’s only so many things one teacher can do in a day, but you forgot the seemingly singularly important one. Go and file that paperwork now!
- Experience other schools
Pick up ideas for displays and classroom tips, and have the chance to chat with fellow professionals that reminds you why you do and love the job – and return to school inspired.
- Learn how to get on with everyone.
Parents, children, colleagues, governors, visiting dignitary…you name it, you need to have something to say and a good way to say it. There is no one you now cannot speak to with charm and ease.
- Invent the best activity.
The one where children end the lesson saying how cool it was. Feel smug, and then watch the next lesson fall flat on its face. Such is the life of a teacher. But remembering how little Johnny finally embraced his hated subject brings warmth to the heart and a tear to the eye.
- Make a fool out of yourself/embarrass yourself all. the. time.
This is the secondary part of your job. Teaching dance moves while the governors walk through the hall, check! Doing your best dramatic reading voice as the head shows round some visitors, check! And the fancy dress outfits…the less said the better.
- Work with children from other year groups
Make or break. Find out you love/loathe spending time in Reception/Year 6 and hope you get moved there next academic year/never have to return as you will never master the ordered chaos/decimals.
- Grow some flowers or vegetables. Cress! Sunflowers! That’s about the limit… Turn ‘forgetting to water them over the weekend’ into an interesting Science lesson by comparing them with the one that somehow survived.
- Jettison your wheelie chair across the classroom once the kids have gone home.
And probably wheel yourself round to the next door classroom. Yes walking would have been quicker but it’s not as fun is it?
- Learn to feel confident in front of your class.
Fake it till you make it.
- Be a leader of a subject.
Congratulations, you are now ‘Clearer of the Cupboard’. Dig out resources you remember using when you were a child and restack into a different order, after sharing these at staff meetings. Hopefully inspire new enthusiasm and passion for your topic.
- Feel like you can trust someone.
That moment when it all feels a bit too much and you find the person in school who becomes your back up at crucial ‘I can’t keep going’ moments. Never, ever, lose touch.
- Help your class raise money for charity.
Negotiate all the details, organise a float and run the event, and once you’ve raised £34.53 feel it was all completely worth it for the sense of achievement on the children’s faces.
- Have a party in school.
Fizzy and sausage rolls aplenty, now smushed into the carpet despite your best efforts. Post end-of-term, children have gone home, skipping down the hallway. It’s the END OF TERM!
- Attend the after school fair.
Even though you’ve not had an evening in because of three play performances and a parents’ evening, your presence is required. Smile graciously while watching the lucky dip (all the paper from the shredder) disseminate over your classroom.
- Teach something you had no knowledge of 24 hours previously.
No subject too complex, almost. Thank goodness for YouTube.
- Make a best friend.
They will know in 30 years time when you make reference to one particular child exactly who and what you mean without you needing to explain. And you’ll still laugh over it then.
- Take part in outdoor learning.
A mathematical treasure hunt = a welcome tan.
- Forget you have a ton of paperwork until the day before it’s due.
Sleep is for the weak anyway.
- Deal with a difficult situation.
A beloved grandparent has died. The dog has been put down. Their dad’s gone off on active service. There’s no training for it; it’s up to you to do all you can to make that transition just a little bit easier for them.
- Watch a film in class.
Because it’s very relevant to the topic.
- Have a pyjama day.
Best. Day. Ever*. Work in pyjamas.
*After you’ve remembered to buy appropriate, matching and flattering pyjamas the night before at the supermarket.
- Realise it’s your class assembly 3 days before it happens.
Pull off something reminiscent of Spielberg.
- Tell a joke.
Mixed reviews…don’t give up the day job.
- Have your class go off for cycling proficiency.
An hour of freedom! Oh what to do? I mean, obviously marking, but in peace and quiet and with a cup of tea. Luxury.
- Being sarcastic.
Half the children will find it hilarious, the other half may not get it. The other staff in the classroom will enjoy it anyway.
- Have a huff and get in a mood.
Hey, you’re human! End of term sometimes cannot come fast enough for everyone.
- Be in a school photo.
And hoping you didn’t wear the same outfit as last year, and the year before, and possibly the year before that.
- Demonstrate an incredible lack of sporting prowess.
Get child volunteers to demo, and lament your lack of ability to catch.
- Fail so that you can improve on your mistakes.
- Feel happy and safe
As you close the door on that last Wednesday in July…
- Eat school chips
Because you know that when Fish and Chip Friday comes around you’re only going to be jealous of the smell as you walk through the hall. You tell yourself it means you will just have a salad for tea. As if.
- Have a class pet
Perhaps you’re one of the brave teacher souls who does this. Or bring in a stuffed toy for parents to enjoy over the weekend, filling in his ‘diary’. Are everyone’s weekends always this packed with fun stuff?
- Run an after-school club
The one with least possible teacher involvement, combined with maximum educational possibility.
- Play “Heads Down Thumbs Up”.
Last ten minutes of the day, and it self polices. Watch your class be kids, because, they are.
- Find out that you are good at something.
Turns out you can make a mean origami swan, or choreograph a West End showstopper: new career options await.
- Find out about different cultures.
As in five weeks you need to be a world expert on India or the rainforest. Get completely sidetracked into finding out all about it. Part of being a teacher is loving the learning, including your own.
- Be caring.
Because they’ve had a terrible morning, or their home life feels it’s imploded around them, and sometimes all they need is a hug.
- Rediscover your favourite author.
And force your class to listen to you reading their books in Reading Time.
- Take part in a special event.
And playing it cool because you’re the teacher. But sitting in the cab of a fire engine never loses appeal and you still get someone to take your photo – you’re not that cool.
- Attend a school disco.
So many sweets. The floor is so sticky. Hot, sweaty hall. Never lost the moves though.
- Create an exploding volcano.
Weeks and weeks papier macheing, then watching it all turn back to gloop. So satisfying.
- Try to get children to work as a team.
Some produce a beautifully finished piece of work in an hour, others are still fighting over who’s holding the pencil. Sigh.
- Be inspired by a teacher.
And go back to class to try all their good ideas.
- Have a play day.
Play all your favourite childhood games again when they bring them in for games day. No, a mini skateboard is not a board game.
- Make a card for a special person.
Just joining in with the activity, because it’s fun and you get to chat to the children in that incidental and enjoyable way you do when you’re all colouring in. Present card to colleague later.
- Fall asleep in a lesson.
Not completely but you may have zoned out for a second…or two.
- Mistake a boy for a girl…
…they have the most beautiful long hair, hopefully you haven’t upset them for life…
- Run round a corridor corner only to smash into a child.
They were supposed to have left hours ago!
- Discover an item of clothing that does not have a name stitched into it.
And learn that children identify their jumper by smell…
- Hatch chicks in an incubator.
Or run into your colleagues room at the end of every day to check whether the eggs have hatched yet, and then be persuaded to hold a chick and have them poop on your hand.
- Get to see inside the headteacher’s office.
It’s pupil progress day! Half a day out of class, half a day discussing exactly where that one progress point needs to be found.
- Read a book on the grass on a sunny day.
Story time is even better outside.
- Offer to do someone’s playground duty.
Instantly regret it when you realise how cold it is, but feel better when you know it’s made the world of difference to their day.
- Run around in the rain.
“Everyone inside! Now!”
- Play conkers.
Remove conkers due to health and safety/constant arguments.
- Make a daisy chain.
Wear it for the rest of the day. And all the ones the children made you. Forget you are wearing them until after you’ve come in from meeting all the parents.
- Listen to an unbelievable story.
Yet feel too exhausted by it to question it, instead walk away muttering ‘what?!’
- Be the elf in Santa’s grotto.
You’re never too old to enjoy Christmas…instead channel your inner Will Ferrell. Smiling has always been your favourite.
- Lose a child into the pond when you go pond dipping.
Apparently the bank was slippery…you’ll be sitting in your PE kit for the rest of the day then child, with a slight stench of algae around the classroom.
- Dress up for World Book Day
And keep the same costume for when it comes around next year.
‘Is that your favourite book?’
‘Er, yes…’ It was absolutely not the easiest possible thing to pull together from a charity shop at the weekend.
- Try different types of food.
To prove that they’re delicious, until you tasted a sardine and remembered – they’re not.
- Be invited to join in skipping in the playground.
And only after agreeing, remember how terribly unfit you are and feel the immense pressure of not tripping over the rope.
- Learn basic first aid.
‘Why don’t you go to the office?’
- Wet Play: the movie.
Opens to scene of utter devastation.
Voice booms: You have got THREE minutes to sort this out.
- Learn a language sufficiently to teach it.
And hope no child ever actually goes to France on their holiday.
- Diagnose a grazed knee in the playground
‘Put a wet paper towel on it.’ There is still no scientific evidence about whether this helps, yet it continues as common practice across the land.
- Eat your lunch in the rain on a school trip
While standing up, under a tree, headcounting.
- Freak out when the fire alarm goes, secretly hoping it’s actually the real thing.
Feel that rush of adrenaline, then calmly manoeuvre 30 wide-eyed children into the playground with efficiency. Hope that you need to stay there till breaktime.
- Help the supply teacher work the photocopier.
Becoming proficient in all photocopiers everywhere.
- Watch a dance routine in the playground
Applaud, then encourage them to ‘go and show someone else’.
- Have your family come to visit the school.
‘Is that your Mum?’
‘Why do you have the same surname?’
‘Is that your son?’ – ‘No, that’s my brother who’s 2 years younger than me…’
- Get to spin on the chair in the office.
Making a post-work phone call once the children have gone home. You never get to sit in the office chair, so it’s still fun pretending to be in admin.
- Have someone be sick in the classroom.
Despite your best intentions to send them to the office in time…and then try really hard not to be sick yourself due to the incredible smell, eventually coaxing the class outside for five minutes to recover.
- Try not to laugh during sexual health lessons.
Even though you know you’re perfectly old enough to use these words without laughing. And especially when children ask you questions revealing rather more about their parents than they’d ever intended – begin to wonder if your children have asked any such questions about you and stop laughing.
- Have a spider in the classroom
“There’s nothing to be scared of children…if someone wants to just get rid of it for us…” *hyperventilates.
- Come into school with a new haircut
And have every child comment on it as a statement of fact, without giving a positive or negative opinion – an unusual and confusing scenario.
- Be able to recognise the work even though there’s no name on it.
After leaving teaching you’re seriously considering a career in forensic handwriting recognition, you have this down.
- Be sad to leave.
There’s those people you wouldn’t have made it through the day without, and then there’s those 30 little lives (x the number of years you’ve been there) who you may never find out anymore about, even though you’ve cared about them day in, day out for a whole year.
- Learn to look after yourself
Still learning. Work-life balance? Pfft.
- Throw something at your colleague.
A wet paper towel? A cuddly toy? Anything’s game. Race around the hall shrieking like children and loving it, knowing full well you’d never let the kids do this.
Sometimes there’s nothing else for it. And out of the mouths of babes isn’t a saying without very good reason.
How many have you done?