This is a simple blog post about teaching and learning, one which will divide the profession between ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the name of teacher wellbeing versus quality of teaching.
“Just put that cup of tea down for a moment and give your students 100%!”
When I first tweeted about this idea in the summer of 2013, the #TeaTeaching question was picked up by The TES after trending on Twitter for 3 or 4 days. They featured my conundrum in their newspaper, so much so, that the evidence is still available on Twitter here. You can see from the results, that 66% disagreed with my own views.
“I’m old-fashioned and trained under the guise of intensive and soldierly practice…”
Call me old-fashioned?
Well you could, but I’d just say I was traditional with a progressive outlook on the quality of teaching in my classroom and of others.
This blog will stir controversy. It will divide opinion and perhaps go down like a ton of feathers, but give it some thought the next time you see a mug of tea in a classroom. I am not advocating dehydration in return for teaching great lessons over time; just posing a question of professionalism versus practicality. Perhaps exchange the coffee cup in your hand whilst you teach the students, with a bottle of water and keep rehydrated this summer?
The formative years of my career were in a brand-new school with a headteacher passionate about comprehensive education. I also worked with @headguruteacher at the time. Rigour, routine and high expectation were the norm. The same expectations were set of staff … The headteacher was adamant that cups of tea were not allowed in the classroom; particularly when ‘a cup of tea’ equated to a teacher be late to the classroom for a lesson! These views were ingrained into me early on in my formative years of teaching and as a middle leader, and they have never left me.
Whether these opinions are right or wrong, I cannot seem to shift this attitude; that a teacher standing at the front of the classroom, supping on a cup of tea whilst teaching, just makes my spine shiver!
Now I know, don’t shoot me down! Teachers are very busy people. We need to look after our wellbeing. I get it, I get it, I get it …
The quality of a teacher is not determined by what they drink in or out of the lesson, or what and when they drink. I know that. And I do know that we all need to stay rehydrated so that we can be fully functional in a very demanding profession. But, I ask the reader, why do you think that I have become to believe in this opinion? Particularly during a time of high-stakes teaching, demanding full-time timetables and cognitive science suggesting the need for brain hydration = equates to high-order learning.
Allow me to explain the reasons why I’ve formed this opinion; that drinking cups of tea during a lesson in front of your students is far from ideal;
- Your school may have a behaviour policy; perhaps even a drinking rule in class. I know it is archaic, but trust me on this, some schools still do not allow students to drink water in lessons! Why should a teacher be able to drink and students cannot? It happens!
- The kettle is boiled over a break or lunch time. The teacher arrives late to class and because of this delay, and is seen to be carrying the cup of tea down a very busy corridor whilst you – the busy colleague or middle leader – organise their students lining up at their door … (and not for the first time!)
- Worst-case: you share a classroom with a colleague and you arrive to the teacher-desk and find a half drunk cup of tea. Before you know it, you’ve knocked the cup of tea all over your student books!
- Worst-still: you arrive after half-term to find the same mug has grown a full-range of bacteria and fungi!
- Even worst-case scenario: you are teaching a health and safety lesson to students in a technology lesson and you accidentally spill over the boiling cup of tea onto a student’s arm! You call home to explain the situation …
Futile versus focus?
Why Drinking Tea in a Lesson, Doesn’t Work?
- Drinking tea during a lesson is simply lack of due care and attention.
- Professional standards. Would you accept students drinking hot-chocolate in your lesson? I know some teachers do. But in my comprehensive experience, low-level behaviour makes this luxury a very rare occurrence. It has happened, but it’s rare …
- What if… accidents! The mug falls over and burns you or the student? Damages the internal workings of a keyboard? Stains the text-book or student’s exercise book? A piece of coursework?
- What if… you were being observed? You should treat every lesson as if you were being observed. Have you watched someone teach a class with one hand holding a mug whilst they waltz across the classroom? It looks awful! I’ve never seen my dentist or doctor supping a cup of tea whilst they interact with me …
- Can you teach a consistently good lesson with one hand attached to a mug? And in a practical subject with 25-30 students? I know I can’t!
- To drink tea, or not to drink tea? That is the question here.
- How much time to drink a cup of tea during a lesson? Instead of drinking, what could you do instead?
- When last did you wash your coffee/tea mug? Look here! There’s nothing worse than arriving in the classroom and seeing a coffee mug after the school holidays covered and fungus! It’s disgusting …
- Some teachers do agree with me here and here (replacing tea with bottled water).
This will divide opinion I’m sure. What do you think?
You can read more here.