Embarrassing School Moments

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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How often do you have a ‘Miranda’ moment?

We have all suffered ‘Miranda Hart’ -esque mishaps at school. Teaching is littered with embarrassing moments and unfortunate incidents.

It would be nice to think that we look the part and portray a calm, professional front to the outside world but this just isn’t the case. At least not for us Miranda types where things just go ‘wrong’ on what feels like a daily basis.

Laugh at yourself

Bodily functions seem to score highly along with mispronouncing words that always come out as an obscenity.

Then there is an uncanny ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with a fair amount of tripping up or just generally looking an absolute fool.

You know the sort of thing: telling someone off but speaking so fast that your words end up crashing into each other so you end up in a tizz, blowing bubbles of saliva like a baby, until your mouth stops working – great behaviour management technique that one.

Mistakes are brilliant opportunities for us to laugh at ourselves and for others to celebrate our vulnerabilities as normal human beings struggling to get through the day. Ask Mrs Jennings, my mentor: she managed to leave the Ladies with some loo roll hanging from the top of her skirt and walked round the playground with it there, completely unchallenged. She was mortified when she realised.

My ‘Miranda moments’ tend to happen without warning and normally in front of the whole school for maximum impact. I cringe and shudder at the thought of them – some I’ve never got over.

Is It Just Me?

I was once talking to the whole school about something important – I can’t remember the ‘theme’ but I do  remember I was addressing all the children and all the staff. I was holding a piece of paper which I dropped.

As I bent over to pick it up I heard (as did most people present) an almighty tear of magnificent proportions and in that excruciating freeze-frame moment of ‘what the hell do I do now?’, I vowed never to buy a ‘cheap pair of trousers for school’ ever again.

Giggles and laughter erupted from all those assembled and I had to finish the assembly sat on the stage, legs firmly pressed together as my hapless colleagues got everyone out desperately trying not to laugh themselves.

Moral: always take a spare pair of trousers to work and make sure they cost well over £29.95.

This actually doesn’t beat doing a whole school assembly with my flies undone. I spent the next term worrying whether the Police and Social Services were going to come knocking.

Moral: check, double-check and triple-check before exiting the house.  

My top five Miranda Moments

1. Staff meeting

I once ‘felt myself going’ half-way through a staff meeting and fainted into the lap of Mrs Burrows. I ended up on the floor with Mr Saxon fanning my face with some Year 6 assessments. Hugely embarrassing – I’ll do anything to get out of a meeting.

Moral: always have a window open, don’t sit next to the heater and sit ‘at the end’.  

2. Parents evening

Spilling hot coffee all down the front of my crisp white shirt and best M&S tie about 20 minutes before parents evening was due to start. No access to a hand dryer, parents evening was conducted in a wet shirt covered by a flowery cardigan I borrowed from Miss Featherstone. I got some looks.

Moral: always take a spare shirt and tie to work.

3. Outside learning

I took a class outside to do some pond dipping. They were excited, I was excited. I gathered them round and was just about to go through my health and safety spiel and ‘interesting facts about water boatmen’ when I felt a splat on my head and wondered why one of my glasses lenses had turned white – a pigeon downloading on me had the class in hysterics. It even went in my mouth.

Moral: don’t go pond dipping without a hat.

4. Whiteboard washout

Having a dreadful cold is no excuse for staying at home if you are a teacher as you will drag yourself in regardless…even if Ofsted are in. I couldn’t stop sneezing on the day in question and whilst standing facing the whiteboard I sneezed so suddenly and so violently I ‘Jackson Pollocked’ the whiteboard in slime. The class bleated ‘Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh’ in unison and I wiped it off only for it to smear and a visibly disgusted inspector scribbled a note into his black book.

Moral: if you are ill, stay at home and don’t be a ‘soldier’.

5. Parents evening 2

Speaking for the allotted 10 minutes to Mr and Mrs Henshaw about their son Michael and his brilliant progress only to realise that I had been using my notes for Andrew Armstrong. They left delighted. I went home ashamed, knackered and confused.

Moral: never try and cram 25 appointments into one parents evening as you start to go delirious and forget your own name half-way through.

Every day is a school day.

Let us know if you are not too embarrassed! Such fun!

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