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Teasing children: do primary teachers do this selectively?

(22 Posts)
letsgomaths Thu 11-Jun-20 12:13:27

Not a teacher-bashing thread at all, but this fascinates me, as I volunteer in a primary school. I don't usually tease children myself, because it's not my way of doing things, but I see that some teachers (especially the older ones) tease and make little digs at individual children all the time, sometimes with a smile, and sometimes totally deadpan, whether they're doing right or wrong; saying things like "Oh, Alex thinks he knows better than everyone else!"; and another time, when Alex wasn't concentrating, the teacher made him run round the classroom before returning to his seat, which Alex did, while sheepishly grinning his head off, probably enjoying being the centre of attention for one minute.

I'm curious: do the teachers who like to tease and jokingly humiliate children consciously pick who they do this with, is it a deliberate strategy? I would imagine that some sensitive children (including me at that age) would cry at being teased like that, but teachers know which ones they are. Is the general view that a little teasing and sarcasm by the adults is good for children? In this climate of parents complaining at the drop of a hat, before I started volunteering I had imagined that teachers don't do it at all; I was almost relieved to see that they do.

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minisoksmakehardwork Thu 11-Jun-20 12:40:47

You have a very different relationship with the pupils to what their teachers would have. Teasing which is designed to highlight a flaw would generally put me off a person, but I have worked with students who need a more subtle reminder of who is the teacher in the room to avoid escalating their challenge into a confrontation. Similarly, a 'brain break' of running round is a useful strategy when dealing with children with behavioural issues such as ADHD. If they aren't concentrating, don't let them get to the point that they are distracting their classmates and end up in trouble. If you see their concentration is wavering, switch to a more physical activity before resuming the expected work.

I would expect the teacher to know their audience though and not 'pick' on pupils more sensitive to perceived criticism. The more time you spend in the school, the more you will learn about the students which may or may not reflect my comments upthread.

drspouse Thu 11-Jun-20 14:11:39

My DS needs regular brain breaks or possibly "do an errand" breaks, but I don't think his teachers would frame it as "punishment" or "making him run round" or "making him do an errand", though it might be framed as "lend me a hand and take this to Miss X" where the true purpose is "get you off your chair where you are fidgeting".

Whitestick Thu 11-Jun-20 14:55:35

"Jokingly humiliate" is not teasing surely.

letsgomaths Thu 11-Jun-20 19:44:30

Thanks for your replies. Thinking of teachers doing it when I was at school, there were certainly times when I saw other children being berated for some minor misdeed, and I remember thinking "I'm glad that's not me". For example, having been given the exercise of finding four coins to add up to 10p, the teacher said dramatically to one girl, loud enough for the whole class to hear: "Louise. Oh, LOUISE!!! Shame on you. FOUR PENCE PIECES!" I suppose that sort of thing is normal?

Having said that, I do also remember some teachers who humiliated any child who got on the wrong side of them. One such wrote "kitten" on the board, and more the half the class wrote it in their books. The teacher then did a Trunchbullesque march round the classroom, picking up exercise books, and throwing them on the floor; she then sent those children to pick up their books, stand at the front of the class, and hold them up. Their crime was that they had written the word "kitten" without being told. Our usual teacher was visibly shocked to hear about this.

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Whitestick Thu 11-Jun-20 20:18:27

So you want to rehash your childhood? This is a weird thread. Noone can tell you if Louise took that as banter and it mad her feel good or if she cried herself to sleep. We weren't there.

letsgomaths Thu 11-Jun-20 20:41:29

No I don't want to rehash my childhood (and don't think you're going to make me cry myself to sleep with your acidic reply wink ); I just happen to remember my own childhood vividly. I wasn't asking if Louise (not her real name) took it as banter, more that I'm curious about if teachers do or did this sort of thing consciously, if it's all part of the strategy.

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BlessYourCottonSocks Thu 11-Jun-20 21:10:00

I don't know any teacher who does this kind of thing, to be honest. I've never met one who humiliated a child, but I know Mumsnet hates teachers and loves a bit of a dig. We don't usually get it in the staffroom, but Hey ho.

Whitestick Thu 11-Jun-20 21:58:41

But you haven't explained this well - is it part of the "strategy" to have banter with confident kids? Is it part of the strategy to have a laugh at someone else's expense? These are very different things.

letsgomaths Thu 11-Jun-20 22:43:32

@Whitestick The former. Part of strategy to have banter with confident kids, while being more "straight" with those who might not receive it well, and the teacher knowing which kids would receive it well, and which would not.

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Whitestick Thu 11-Jun-20 23:31:28

Ok but you've talked about humiliation. I never see that as banter, it is not a positive thing. With regard to do we choose, yes we alter what we say dependent on the personality of the person you talk to, just like we all so when talking to adults.
But we can get it wrong - I have made a joke with a pupil who blushed rather than laughed and I was mortified - I've been trying to (subtly) make it up to him ever since.

catatemymind Thu 18-Jun-20 18:11:54

I mean, it's knowing your audience really! I would never humiliate a child or purposely try and make them feel bad, but making jokey comments to children with more 'challenging' behaviour, who you know will find it funny, really helps to develop that positive relationship and get them on your side. If they know you can joke around and gently take the mickey then they're much more likely to see you as friendly and approachable, than just another adult telling them off all the time. I would never do it with a child I didn't know well or a child that I knew would find it upsetting. I have taught some tough cookies and it has always worked well.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 18-Jun-20 19:42:21

I’m a bit of a sarcastic bugger but 99% of the time pitch it right and at the right kids. Some boys respond well to a bit of mickey taking because they feel you’ve noticed them and given them attention-it can be a way with some to give them the spotlight before they act out to get the spotlight itms?

It can also be a way of bringing in the quieter kids by us rolling our eyes together and then they feel noticed and connected with too.

After nearly 20 years as a teacher and aunts then mum I don’t consciously think I’m going to have a little joke with noisy boy b to beat him to being the class clown before he becomes inappropriate whilst making eye contact with girls a d and z to let them know I know they’re there and appreciate their ever good behaviour and ensuring the whole class knows I’m on my toes and remember their classes quirks from one week to the next. It just happens.

Your question has made me analyse it. I try not to be darkly sarcastic but can’t say it never happens when dealing with horrible abuse repeatedly from the same 16 year old boy who’s been destroying the lesson for everyone for months on end. I’m human. I speak to them privately and explain my frustrations and feelings and apologise for being rude when that happens and strangely that too can be a breakthrough moment with some kids.

Teaching is an art not a science and when it flows it’s great. Try as they might they haven’t managed to come up with a one size fits all McDonald’s teaching style yet.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 18-Jun-20 19:53:45

Sorry! I’m secondary. Didn’t read the title properly. Maybe some of it translates though?

My year 7s tend to be really grateful you remember something about them even if it’s something silly they did/said in their first lesson or the fact that they always say ermm before yes miss when you do the register. I give them all a talk at the start of the year about how we teach so many classes and how even though they’ve only got one science teacher I’ve got 120 new year 7s so if I don’t remember your name right away it doesn’t mean I don’t care I’m just old and not very fast at remembering etc.

I’m nice as well as a sarcastic bitch lol

letsgomaths Fri 19-Jun-20 08:01:07

Thanks for your replies so far. @TheHoneyBadger I'm interested in secondary as well, but by then you would expect most pupils to take it well.

One reason I asked the question was that in general, I didn't respond well to teasing when I was a child, by adults or my peers. It was rare that teachers were sarcastic with me, whereas I noticed they often were with others; perhaps they could tell I wouldn't enjoy it as much as others might.

The same teacher I mentioned above who threw children's books on the floor had ways of dealing with low-level naughtiness which were quite inventive, looking back, but I'm not sure how they would be thought of today. I never saw a child getting upset by them, perhaps she knew her audience, or kids were tougher. Some of these were:
- Making children stand on a table, but she once did this when she was passing through another teacher's class, with the words "you horrid little boy", loud enough for all to hear. I didn't even see what the boy was doing.
- When some naughty boys were laughing, she made them laugh in the mirror.
- When two boys were messing about in assembly (perhaps she didn't like boys!), she wheeled out a pushchair, and cheerfully offered the offenders a chance to sit in it, and be a baby.
- When she was on playground duty, she would ring the bell, and her rule that everyone would stand "stock still", which she would hold for a while, before sending the classes in one at a time. Any dissenters would hear their name, followed by the cry of "IN", so they would have to make the walk of shame across the playground, in front of everyone else, before missing their next playtime.

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ohthegoats Fri 19-Jun-20 10:04:23

Depends on the relationship with the children, completely. They are all individuals, and you get to know them really well. In primary especially, where you work with 30 kids for 5 hours a day for a year.

I take the mick out of children, but only the ones I know can cope. Sometimes I'll ask them in advance if I can do it.

Remember on Educating Essex when a teacher said something like 'off you go scumbags' to a class and there was uproar? You can totally get away with that sort of thing if you know your class well.

I think teaching them to deal with a bit of pisstake is part of life frankly - it's about resilience building. Wouldn't do it on the first day.

sydenhamhiller Tue 23-Jun-20 17:00:08

I trained as a secondary school teacher, and currently work as a TA in a primary school. I have also been a childminder, and worked in a nursery. I have 3 children aged 8-16.

I tease a lot.

And it is teasing, not humiliating. I know which kids can take it and respond, and which can't. That's the art of being a good teacher, despite the increasingly cookie-cutter format expected. TheHoneyBadger has expressed how I feel more eloquently than I can.

The kids respond well. I make sure it is always laughing with, not laughing at - and it helps to build up a positive relationship. And I let them be funny/ tease back. They also know - because I remind them - that "there is always a line between being funny, and being rude and disrespectful - and you are just about to cross it'. Kid can't be expected to just know this stuff, it needs to be taught.

TheHoneyBadger Wed 24-Jun-20 09:04:10

No, you’ve put perfectly some things I do but hadn’t thought of syd. Letting them be funny and helping them learn where the line is. I also role model being able to laugh at yourself (along with making mistakes, not knowing everything and sometimes writing a word on the board to see if it looks right before committing to the spelling). Maybe that’s part of why it works

TheHoneyBadger Wed 24-Jun-20 09:13:35

I see the inconvenient bit of my job as having to get knowledge in their heads for tests and exams and the worthwhile bit that actually rewards me as helping them be ok with themselves and each other and able to laugh, question, think, realise adults can be playful and human and that life is hard but we can all make it through.

Very old fashioned of me no doubt. I’m sure ofsted will manage to stamp out that kind of frivolous nonsense at some point wink

letsgomaths Wed 24-Jun-20 10:13:39

@TheHoneyBadger Thanks for that. Out of interest, would you consider what I described above from the 1980s (the teacher throwing children's books on the floor because they'd written "kitten" without being told) undue humiliation? As far as I remember she did it in total seriousness, with not a hint of a smile. In fact, I remember lots of children being told off for "doing something without being told", even if it was something quite sensible. "How dare you pack away when I haven't told you to!" Did it breed children who would hesitate to take initiative?

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TheHoneyBadger Wed 24-Jun-20 10:42:20

She sounds psychotic to me.

TheHoneyBadger Wed 24-Jun-20 10:44:50

I had some extremely dodgy teachers at school. My school seemed to have more than it’s fair share of perverts and people with major anger management issues.

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