The moment I swore in the classroom (Part 1), by @_JPMason

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This post answers the 17th question from my TeacherToolkit Thinking page of Thunks. You can see my other top-Thunks here.

Thunk 17: Describe the moment you swore in the classroom, by @_JPMason

Answer below:

We are all human…

Have I sworn in class?

Of course I have!

I have made mistakes on the board and just blurted out “Fu*K”, but to be fair, I haven’t done that in a long time. I certainly did it more often when I was younger… It’s a matter of training yourself. As you grow older, you stop using a ‘type’ of language in general conversion and therefore, it becomes less of an issue.

“I’ve had students swear at me, sometimes very aggressively. All their angst at the system directed in a tirade of abuse.”

I’ve had students swear at me, sometimes very aggressively. All their angst at the system directed in a tirade of abuse. We have all probably and unfortunately, heard or encountered this for ourselves directly.

Another time a really pleasant girl sitting at the back held up her mini white board that read:

“This lesson is Sh*t!”

…I nodded in agreement. I knew in my own heart, it was a really bad lesson. She wasn’t being rude, just telling me how it was.

…There was one other occasion that really sticks out too.
“It begins with one solitary, Brussels-sprout…”

I had given up my first teaching post to go traveling but hadn’t saved enough, so I was working as a supply teacher in a boy’s Catholic school. It was a funny place. At the Christmas party, I wondered why everyone was leaving food on their plates!? It turned out, there was a traditional food fight. It begins with one solitary, Brussels-sprout which gradually turned the gathering into utter carnage and plenty of expletives!

There was only one rule: You are not allowed to throw food at the Headteacher or the Vicar!

Anyway back to the matter in hand; I had a Year 7 maths class. They were a nice bunch; a bit cheeky, but aren’t all of them that age? I don’t actually remember what was said, but I remember my action. I had said something to the class and this eleven year-old retorted with something so clever, it cut me down to size. For the life of me I can’t remember. I looked at him and just stuck my middle finger up! It’s what I would have done to a mate at the pub; not the expected behaviour in the classroom!

(For those interested in the origins of the gesture:

The class fell silent…

I stood there. What do I do now?

…The pupil wasn’t beginning nasty. I couldn’t just turn it around on him, so I did what anyone would do. No, actually most teachers would have a) never have been in this situation b) just apologised.

I panicked.

I didn’t want his parents or the school finding out about this. So, I gave him what any mature, professional teacher would do, five, free-times he could swear at me. He used four up really quickly… I’d hear a “Sir across the room; I’d look up and there was the middle finger…pointing up, straight at me.

However, he saved one for later! The thought filled me with dread. This student was certainly sharp enough to use it to belittle me.

What did he do?

Well, he came to parents evening a couple of months later. In front of his Dad, he stuck that middle finger up again! He had already told his parents what happened on that day. His Dad wasn’t impressed though and told him off for swearing back at me.

“But Dad, I had one left!” the boy said.

He was happy that his son was doing really well and loving Maths, but said that this was down to me. Dad said;

“If it had been any other teacher, he probably would have had complained.”

I look back to that day and think what an idiot I was. I was young, immature and care-free. Since then, I’ve witnessed Senior Leadership hand out written warnings to people for making such a mistake. Swearing, has no place in school; common sense does!

To conclude, my question for the reader to think about is this: What would you have done to that girl, who held up the mini-white board?

Written by @_JPMason, edited and posted by @TeacherToolkit.

Jon Paul Mason been teaching maths for about 11 years.  He is a mathematics AST in an East London secondary school.

Maths AST, Jon Paul Mason answers TTkitThunks Q17

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