Friday, 26 August 2016

Public displays of affection, floating students and roboteacher on results day

Another GCSE results day has gone by. And, the longer I teach, the more I feel uncomfortable about how we deal with results day. The media will always use the day to create drama and sensational headlines. Head teachers will always use the day to publicise the school to local community to increase numbers, knit the school community together and praise the students. But, what I ask you should teachers and Heads of Departments do on results day? Should they be gushing with praise? Or should they be doing something else?

I have several year’s experience of GCSE results. I have seen it all. The sad. The happy. And the thoroughly depressing. But, over the years I have seen our reaction, as teachers, to GCSE results change to something unrecognisable.

Now, it is become incredibly masculine and cold. What do you mean ‘masculine’? Well, it gone a bit of phallic and become about the size of your percentage. 50% increase. 79% got A*. It is all about the size and not about the person attached to the figure. People only use percentages to show off or impress.

Now, it has become very emotional. Show me a teacher who isn’t proud of their students and I will show you schools and departments so proud of their students the students know it without it being advertised. I don’t need to express my pride in a comment, yet I have seen endless comment of how proud people are with their students. Students know if I am happy, sad or proud of them. Are we really that insecure with our emotions and how we communicate emotions that we need grand gestures of emotion?  I can show pride without opening my mouth and using the words ‘proud’ or ‘pride’.

Now, it has become impersonal. Big wide messages are broadcasted rather than small, personal comments of praise.  A thumbs up. A smile. A handshake. These are all important than a big banner with a comment including all.

Now, it has become more about what the teacher did.  Don’t get me wrong the teacher has an important part to play with the education of students, but it is the student who sat the exam. They were tested not the teacher. Yes, some might make inferences about your teaching based on the results, but ultimately the student sat the exam not you.

I was asked numerous times by people yesterday, if I was happy and proud at the department’s results. I was. But, my face struggled to crack a smile, my joints refused to jump in excitement and my hand couldn’t open to give people a ‘high-five’. Why? Well, because I have been at the complete opposite end of the spectrum and how I handled that taught me how to handle the experience of all results days. I was too emotional when it went bad. I was that upset that I couldn’t see clearly. I lost all perspective. I personalised the whole thing. I made it all about me. And, sadly, I forgot the students. I made it all about me, me, me. When, it should have been about them, them, them.

This year, it was commented on how British I was. That I had a ‘stiff-upper lip’ –which I think is partly due to a beard I am currently cultivating- and that I rarely show my emotions. My happy and sad face for results day is the exactly same.  If we are overly emotional, gushing with praise and positivity when it is good, then it only means we are depressed, suicidal and bleak when it is bad. I think we forget that we are influenced heavily by our emotions. You cannot be overly happy without being incredibly unhappy. You can’t have tragedy without some comedy.

On results day in the past, I was that student who jumped for joy with success.

On results day in the past, I was that student who slouched off silently with disappointment.

On results day in the past, I was that teacher who jumped for joy with success.

On results day in the past, I was that teacher who slouched off silently with disappointment.

Results day is about the students.  It should only be about the students. A big clue about this fact is that it we have results day when teachers are on holiday. What bigger message do you need that we need to place the students at the heart of things? Students mirror and copy our emotions. If our reaction to the results is over-the-top, then what is stopping them from copying our emotions seeing the whole thing as success or failure, life or death or the beginning or the end? On a difficult day we want students to have clarity, perspective and thought and they will get that from the teachers and staff around them.

There will be no jumping in the air from me.

There will be no public comments to all students from me.

There will be no visible emotion from me.

I will show my pride, happiness or disappointment through the art of telepathy and silence. But, I will be there to help, support and talk.

In disaster films, you have different types of people trapped in a dangerous, hopeless situation. However, there are two character that stand out in that life-threatening event. You have the calm, rational, logical hero who will save people. Then, you have the emotional, irrational and nervous person who will cause further calamity if they don’t calm down and control their emotions. The hero usually slaps the irrational person so they see sense and think logically rather than emotionally. Take this blog as a metaphorical slap! Find a happy balance in the middle.

Thanks for reading,



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