I killed a wasp this morning. Not a particularly remarkable feat. To be honest it didn’t present much of a challenge trapped between the window and a BBC Goodfood magazine. Wiping its entrails off the glass, I was reminded of warm September days when the classroom windows were still open, a wasp would fly in, and an entire lesson would come to a standstill until it had been removed. Or rather its life had been removed, usually by the nearest exercise book. I rarely feel heroic in life, but the cheers of a class after slaying a wasp are the closest a teacher gets to Superman catching Lois Lane.
Simply being a teacher isn’t impressive to your pupils. However, there are certain actions teachers can take to really make an impression. In no particular order…
Stretch out Blu-Tack. This, in itself, is not a huge skill, but there is something hypnotic about watching someone stretch out Blu-tack and then fold it into a ball again. Pupils are not generally impressed by the action so much as they recognise that you are the owner of a lot of Blu-Tack, therefore you must be important.
Make paper aeroplanes.
These don’t have to be fancy, simple paper darts will do. Check out this one:
Fold the page in half, fold in at the middle, and in again, and then make the wings. Avoid the classic rookie mistake of not folding from the nose of the dart. Once you demonstrate this simple skill, they will hail you as Caesar. The downside is that paper planes are made to fly…
Threaten to do outrageous things.
You can’t physically threaten children. Well, you can, but it’s mean, so don’t do it. You can, however, have a lot of fun making stuff up. “Does anyone have a hammer I can hit him on the head with?” was a favourite of mine. Another one was, “Go and find me something to beat you with!” And then the classic, “Can I see how far I can throw you?” Strangely children always seemed to be up for that one. Always a bit of a risk, but generally fine if everyone understands this to be a joke. Generally.
Play a musical instrument.
This depends on what. Certainly not recorder. “Look how amazing he is on the recorder,” said no pupil, ever. Piano can be very cool, but one line of Edelweiss and all credibility is shot. Guitar is generally good, but steer away from Kum Ba Ya. Accordion? Hm, might go either way.
Sharpen a pencil with a craft knife.
This is the most direct way to become god of your classroom. Just like being stretcher-of-the-Blu-Tack, wielder-of-the-knife is a position of power for two reasons. One, you get to wield a knife. Two, you create delicate little shavings of wood that curl and fall into the bin, often to sighing/oohs/aahs of impressed pupils. Learn this.
Clap and toss a paper ball.
Bear with me, I’m going to have to explain it. Searching Youtube for ‘ball clap’ did not return the videos I was expecting. Roll up a sheet of paper into a ball. Hold the ball with the fingers of one hand, then clap your hands together allowing the paper ball to be flicked upwards (looking like it went through your other hand.) This can take a while to perfect. It will take your pupils a while to perfect. Until they do, be prepared for paper balls to be flying about at all angles until they gain some control.
A variation on a theme is to flick the paper ball sideways, aiming to hit an unsuspecting pupil on the head. Children enjoy seeing people getting hit on the head with things; this is funny, therefore it is impressive.
Whistle with your fingers.
Aah, I never mastered this, but I still remember Mr McKee doing it with aplomb. All I ever managed was saliva running down between my fingers. This doesn’t impress anyone.
Draw dotted lines across the board.
Nope, didn’t get the hang of this either, and it’s a dying art with black boards all but extinct now. But Mr McAlpine had a way of holding the chalk at such an angle that it vibrated across the board leaving a dotted line. We were impressed, and believe me, 2D3 were a tough gig.
Make your pupils jump.
These moments seem to be prominent in what ex-pupils remember about me. I do confess to creeping on someone who was drifting off/ writing notes/eating sweets/packing up too early/etc during a lesson. The rest of the class would never alert the hapless offender to my approach because they wanted to see them jump as much as I did. Ah, fun times. Pulling a chair back when a pupil is swinging on it (obviously not letting it fall) and leaping out from behind doors also works well. Be creative. Spring from places they wouldn’t expect; it keeps them on their toes.
Keep a well-stocked stationery cupboard.
Most pupils love stationery, simply having a cupboard laden with post-its, pens, pencils, Blu-Tack, paper wings, paper clips, googly eyes, small calendars (for when you make calendars in January), address labels, markers (especially ones that have a strong smell), rulers still in their plastic covers, a box of compasses and/or protractors and paper in all its various forms makes you a person of substance. To own all this, clearly you must be somebody.
Crucial to making an impression however, is the ability to laugh with your class, laugh at your class and allow them to laugh at you. (They’ll spend a lot of time laughing at you, so you might as well give them permission to do so out loud.) As Maya Angelou once said, “’I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”