Sunday, 18 March 2012


It's long been my experience that life delivers messages and benedictions, if you want to hear them and can understand them - but they are never what you expect!

Some back-story. I've been having difficulty teaching a group of 11 and 12 year olds, on the basic level of the children's behaviour and classroom discipline. At one stage I thought I'd made some progress, but then, the next time I saw them, their behaviour was the worst I'd experienced, the class was completely disrupted, and I really lost my rag with them, banging books on the table, shouting, telling them I was appalled by their rudeness and their behaviour, their parents would be told, etc. etc. (Such is the reluctant lot of one in a position of authority, even when that one is, by nature, something of an anarchist!)

Subsequent to that, much searching for ways to handle the situation better next time, me talking with the head of children's teaching about working with this age group and these particular students, alternative approaches, tips and strategies - anything that might help me do a better job. (I don't like not doing a good job.)

Fast forward to the next time I was due to see them. Immediately beforehand I was, unexpectedly, asked if someone could sit in on the class. She was an older Ukrainian woman, who'd been a schoolteacher in the past, and was observing classes, with a view to doing some teaching at the school herself. You can probably imagine that, at first, I wasn't best pleased to be asked - not this class, on this occasion, when I feared that all hell might break loose, and the chances of me appearing competent and professional were very low indeed! I could've refused, but at the same time I thought her presence might have a positive effect on the children's behaviour - I'm quite sure they take advantage of the fact that I don't understand what they say to each other, and they wouldn't be able to do that with her.

So to the class, with a couple of new strategies in mind, and now a different classroom dynamic. It went very well. The children behaved considerably better than usual (I'm sure the presence of the former teacher played an important part), and we even managed to do some work! A much better experience in every way. But that's not the point of the story.

I got to the end of the class, and of course I wanted to know what my observer - a trained, experienced schoolteacher - would have to say. Would she comment on the lack of discipline in the class? Would she talk about the behaviour of the children? Would she make any observations about my approach? Eventually we did talk about all those things, but her very first, unprompted, words to me at the end of the lesson?

"You obviously love children."

That was not what I expected to hear. Talk about coming out of left field ... But, hearing her perspective, instantly my whole experience of working with the group was re-framed. That's not to say that I suddenly realized that classroom discipline was of no importance, but rather that I was too hung up on it; nor that I suddenly abandoned my determination that the children learn some English in the classes, but rather that I understood I already had the most important quality for bringing that about in abundance. The mind of course quickly jumped in with its disagreements ("but ... no ... really? ... but it can't ...what about? ..." etc.), trying to re-establish the status quo, but the message had already been delivered. Straight to the heart. I'm still absorbing its impact.


  1. Aaaah - that's so beautiful!

    On a different level I couldn't help thinking 'gosh, I wonder what Peter looks like shouting and banging books on tables'! I genuinely can't imagine that...

  2. :)))

    As for the latter - I understand. It's pretty unfamiliar territory for me too!

  3. "Perhaps, more from love than power", my movement teacher sometimes suggests on movement workshops. Notably to men.