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Teacher, Entertainer, Therapist, Friend

Can you be more than a teacher to a pupil? Do you just teach your subject or can you be friendly too? ‘Maisey Laurels’ argues that you have a responsibility to these young humans. They won’t become our best friends but we can care for them.

Many who consider themselves the first in this list also vehemently disagree that we should act as the other three in schools.
Controversially, I disagree. Here is why;

Learning is instigated by a sense of inquiry. A need for information. At an early age we learn textures, shapes, tastes and sounds by playing, involving ourselves and through freedom to explore.

Watch a young child and the joy of learning is evident. They smile, laugh, are confident and excited by their discoveries.

In fifteen years of teaching across a range of contexts I have been lucky enough to see this joy fostered at all levels. The same smiles, shrieks of enjoyment and triumph. I have also seen classrooms absolutely, unforgivably devoid of joy.

I do not think we should be tap dancing and performing kart wheels to entertain kids but we shouldn’t have to! Learning is FUN. Unless someone, somewhere has stripped away the enjoyment.

Here’s the real secret: teaching is fun too!

Teaching makes me laugh, deep in my belly! It makes me “zing” with curiosity and buzz with questions! It is vibrant and incredible. I want to share that!

So how come we see classrooms where “fun” is a scarce thing? Where laughter is considered sanctionable.

I think, in these cases, that we have lost the kernel of importance in Education. The fascination. The entertaining factor.

We should not have to struggle to be entertainers. Because it shouldn’t be a struggle to do something you are crazily enthusiastic about with a smile on your face.

I also hear, time and again, “I’m here to teach my subject not do touchy-feely mentoring stuff”.

To this I say: “perhaps you should try teaching adults. Or maybe something less ‘customer facing’?”
We are dealing with young humans as they make their way through unchartered waters. We are often the person they see more frequently than any other being. We are a HUGE part of their life. If that makes you uncomfortable then there are various careers where personal interaction isn’t required. Mortician? Solo Everest climber?

Empathy and compassion are, in my opinion, essential traits for those people working with youngsters. Actually, not just youngsters…. HUMANS! This does not mean you must weep at every misfortune or hug every child to your breast. It does mean that you should be prepared to listen, care and be there as a solid, dependable resource for your learners. It’s ok to refer things on when they get heavy or there is concern. In fact, you MUST. Legally and from the point of view of your own well-being, knowing when to pass things on is important. But being approachable, ready to shoulder some angst and openly caring is part of what I believe makes an excellent teacher.

Friendship is a tricky one. Here my opinion fluctuates depending on my own self confidence. I have heard “be friendly but you aren’t their friend”. I have heard “There’s us and there’s them” and again, I realise that we must protect ourselves and the young learners in our care and that boundaries are vital for this BUT…… What makes the basis of a good friendship? And to what degree do friendships all have the same depth, honesty and openness?

There are those who I spend less time with, have less in common with and have far less affection for than some students that I would call ‘friend’. I don’t mean to say we should be inviting students out for Friday drinks or snapping selfies for Instagram with them. I just think it is important to remember why we create boundaries. It is not to prevent closeness. It is not to prevent shared experience.
The “us and them” mentality is often unhelpful and unneeded. It feeds a societal paranoia about schools and teachers. We are human. All of us.
I know there will be plenty of arguments for safeguarding, work balance, prioritising knowledge and subject specifics but I also know this….
I love learning. I love it because someone who cared about me, someone who listened to me and someone who laughed and explored with me made it a priority to keep the wonderment alive.
My parents. Teachers of an accumulative 80+ years. Subversive, wonderful, teachers.
I want to be just like them

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The author

Maisey has over 15 years experience teaching in a multitude of settings from HE/FE and inner city state maintained schools to small, rural primaries. She has also spent five years teaching on the international circuit. Before this she worked in international sales and marketing. Maisey now works in UK secondary and is an advocate of respectful, kind professional dialogue between educationalists. She is passionate about human rights, mental health and diversity and equality. Her interests include etymology, puns and spoonerisms. She also quite likes a gin and a good book!

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