As a school teacher I spent some years teaching in the same school. As any teacher will tell you, once you are an established and well known member of staff, the students know you and have their assessment of you well planted, so to speak. So, throughout that particular 12 years I received respect and was (I assumed) well liked by the students. There were no discipline problems where I was concerned. I kept up a friendly but firm relationship with the children and they knew what I would and would not accept as far as behaviours went. It was a happy time.
But, then I left that school - and teaching - and became semi-retired.
Eventually, because I missed teaching and, admittedly, also missed the income, I took on some ‘relief’ work, that meant I was on-call to go to my pervious school and one or two others in the district.
It was a shock to me to be back in the ‘old school’ but with pupils I did not know and who did not know me.
I assumed my standing with them would be the same as it had been in days gone by and that I would be welcomed warmly and would assume my original role as a teacher whose attitudes and approach to all manner of school work and activities remained ‘set in concrete’ and understood.
Alas, it was not so.
On that first day as a relief teacher I was confronted with a classroom of Grade Five pupils who were not at all pleased that their regular teacher was having a day off and they had been assigned a woman whom they did not know and (apparently) did not like the look of!
My first day back at the old stamping ground and, I don’t know, did I look severe in my nervousness?
When it was clear that I was quite unfamiliar with their set classroom routine, there were mutterings of discontent.
I retaliated by trying to be assertive and to ‘show them who was boss’. This was a bad move.
The atmosphere in the classroom became tense and the more the students and I faced off each other the more the feeling between us became toxic!
Fortunately I resisted the urge to ‘get on my high horse’ and state boldly that I was not prepared to tolerate bad behaviour and that they were to do as I said no matter what - or there’d ‘be trouble’.
I did not entirely turn into a dragon.
There was only one thing I could do and that was to change tack altogether and introduce completely different tasks for us – as pupils and teacher together - to work on.
I invented a couple of competitions, using simple word and maths games and during lunch break I chatted with some of the kids in as friendly a manner as I could muster.
Gradually, even though the initial damage could not be repaired, the day finished with a not completely disastrous relationship between me, the teacher, and the students. The set work had not all been accomplished but we had learnt some interesting things, had enjoyed a general knowledge quiz and, best of all, I had learnt to enter a new and untried classroom with a more friendly and open attitude.
Lesson: A friendly smile and a warm laugh can go a long way!
A frown and a look of superiority is a sure-fire way towards conflict and unhappiness.
You live and learn.