Confessions of a primary school teacher

There’s nothing like not meeting the norms of a community to make you feel like you don’t belong. I think half the reason I originally went for middle school training was because I knew I didn’t really fit in with primary school teachers. Not because I’m male, but because of so many other things that I think or do that just don’t… fit.

So here go, my list of confessions. Reasons why I’ll never really belong.

1. I like a bit of blank space on the walls

I’m not a big fan of putting up displays, much less of constantly updating them with children’s work every few days. And don’t even get me started on those folk who like to plaster every wall and window, and even hang things from string across the room! Set aside the fact that I’m just short of 6′, and often find such things dangling in my way, or trying to strangle me; what’s wrong with a bit of white space? I’d much rather see a bit of magnolia paint than another pre-printed display!

2. I use pen in maths

This is tantamount to sacrilege in some quarters. When I once posted about it on Twitter I was accused of being an arrogant bully! But nobody yet has given me a convincing answer as to why it is that all primary schools pupils must use pencil in maths. Nevertheless, it remains a widespread norm. In almost every case, schools expect pupils to progress to pen during Y2-4 in other subjects, but for some reason pencil is king in maths. Personally, I’d prefer to see kids recognising that in maths mistakes are made… and that’s part of the process, than ever reaching for the rubber.

3. I hardly ever laminate anything

How did schools ever cope before laminating pouches? Now displays all over are covered in that shiny glaze. The most common argument is I’ve heard is that it means the resources can be re-used. But most primary school children are past the stage of unexpected vomiting; surely a piece of paper can be stored from one year to the next much more easily if it fits into a simple A4 plastic wallet – something you can’t do once it’s been laminated!

4. I think stand-alone grammar lessons have a place

One of the great difficulties of teaching older children about interesting writing, is that they lack the vocabulary to talk about it. Interesting variety of sentence structures can be achieved through the use of verbs or adverbial phrases as sentence starters. But a child who isn’t clear what an adverb is cannot possibly understand how to replace it with an adverbial phrase, let alone re-order the word sequence for effect.

5. I don’t collect things as I go about my life

There’s many a teacher who finds themselves picking up odds and ends while on holiday, or just about town on the premise that “it will come in handy” for some school project. Some teachers’ classrooms are filled with knick-knacks that they’ve gathered over the years because they suited a particular topic, or would be a great resource for some project or other.
When I moved out of my last classroom, I had about 3 boxes of books and that was it. I just don’t seem to think of such things, much less collect them!

Of course, I do like a bit of stationery, so I’m not a complete misfit.

8 thoughts on “Confessions of a primary school teacher

  1. cazzypot2013 15 June 2015 at 8:16 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. Hayley Earl 15 June 2015 at 8:55 pm Reply

    Oh my goodness, kindred spirits. Apart from the maths pen thing. I HATE cluttered classrooms – I like a nice display, but too many means you never actually see anything. I love my (very short) SPaG lessons – the children have learned loads. And since I married and had a family, I’ve given up collecting things too. I just steal my children’s toys for school!

  3. […] Confessions of a primary school teacher. […]

  4. julietgreen 15 June 2015 at 10:51 pm Reply

    Yep. There are more of us than you think. Last year I had to move into ‘the huts’ for a year of y6 and there was nothing on the walls for a good few weeks before they finally put up the display boards. It was wonderful.

  5. andyc37 16 June 2015 at 7:31 am Reply

    Good article. And I especially like the idea of using a pen in maths. Not least as it stops the nasty habit of little sods rubbing out a wrong answer and replacing it after I have marked it!

  6. Joel 17 June 2015 at 8:37 am Reply

    Wow we must be cut from the same cloth! Have never used pen in maths but can totally see the reasoning behind it.

  7. teachwell 17 June 2015 at 8:40 am Reply

    I agree wholeheartedly. The stand alone grammar lessons are particularly important. I have just finished teaching an intervention group where I was tasked with improving writing. I realised that I had to teach them what all the words were not just nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs. The sea of prepositions, conjunctions, determiners and pronouns in which the former are placed is too much for some children. They need to know what to focus on and they can’t do that if they don’t understand what those other words are. In which case maybe they are adjectives – why should they know any better? The impact was instant. We even practiced dictionary skills as surprise surprise they include what type of word it is and when it belongs to more than one class of word!! So they were learning to distinguish its uses. They were some of the best lessons I have taught in terms of enabling the children to make progress and only wish I had done more of this as a class teacher.

  8. thequirkyteacher 24 June 2015 at 6:53 pm Reply

    Me too, me too!

    We are mandated to have all our walls covered at all time and with up-to-date work, and I have about 14 ‘walls’ to constantly update, not including corridor displays. I hate the clutter.

    I teach stand alone grammar using direct instruction. It has worked wonders for my class, particularly the SEN cohort.

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