This article originally appeared in the magnificent Teach Primary 3-7.
“Hi, what do you do for a living?”
“I’m a primary teacher,”
“Oh! What age?”
“I teach year two,”
“That…is…..SOOOO cute. Oh my gosh how old are they? Six? Adorable.”
“Yeah I know…” is what I say.
It’s not what I mean. Look at these grey hairs. Look at them. Does adorable cause that? Any adorableness, I’ve learnt, is in fact a very cunning disguise that these tiny whirlwinds of terror have adopted to lull unsuspecting adults into a spider’s web of carnage. Perhaps they have trapped you too. Perhaps, in a thoughtless and utterly regrettable ‘adventurous’ spirit, you agreed to take charge of a class of very small people.
Fear not! Follow this bluffer’s guide and you might just make it to July with some sort of sanity in tact. I’m kidding, of course, you have no chance of retaining sanity, but follow the steps and you should go the right kind of crazy.
You can’t control the chaos, but you can channel it.
You’ve done everything you can to sculpt your classroom into a bastion of tranquility, with calming colours and Chopin twinkling in the background. But do not kid yourself for one moment that this will provide any sort of defence against the blitzkrieg onslaught of 30 whirlwinds of pure energy and enthusiasm. Any attempt to stabilise and control the mayhem will leave you dashing around the classroom like a clown in a suit, desperately trying to keep dozens of plates spinning in some sort of unison.
Instead, you must embrace the disorder, find your inner zen and masterfully direct small groups into contained activities. Deploy your TA like a platoon commander to the ‘hottest zones’ of the classroom, triage the rest by temporarily distracting them and then focus their glorious curiosity on something resembling a learning intention.
Entertain yourself and your colleagues with high brow reprimands
The luxury of being able to reprimand a child by using logic, reason and an appeal to socially accepted norms is no longer an option for you. Gentle, regular reinforcement of what is and isn’t acceptable can become tiring and dull, so keep it interesting by referring to topical political developments and historical events.
Strike a solemn face and a serious tone as you declare that ‘you’ve walked into this classroom like you have no regard whatsoever for Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and I know that’s a document that you really respect.’ Or ‘You can’t just wander around the classroom like Caeser crossing the rubicon because we all know how that story ended. *Shaking your head* What would the senate think?’ They’ll be so confused that they usually just comply with your general instruction of ‘stop that’.
Don’t touch that liquid.
I just don’t understand how so much snot can emerge from such a tiny person. They must have lost half their body weight with that sneeze. Keep calm, and remember to smile as you remove the thick brown-green sludge from your face, then cheerfully remind them ‘Oh, don’t forget that we put our hand over our mouth before we sneeze(/release the kraken.)’ Snot, unfortunately, will not be the only suspect liquid that you come across. Under no circumstances should you come into physical contact with a UBS (Unidentified Body Spillage), but instead order whoever has joined the staff most recently to mop it up. And if you’ve just joined, pay your dues. Also: alcohol gel, my friend. Bathe in it hourly.
Learn from the masters
It was with a deep sense of embarrassment and helplessness that I was first observed by a senior member of the team whilst in infant school. My classroom could most accurately be imagined by picturing the scene in Fantasia when Mickey Mouse puts on the comically large sorcerer’s hat, and is soon overwhelmed by multitudes of tiny axe-wielding broomsticks reaping devastation on all in their path. Then, like the wizened sorcerer of the story, my headteacher quietly slipped into the room, subtly waved their hand and restored peace and order in seconds. With time, you too will learn this magic. Watch closely and add any technique deployed by your more experienced colleagues to your growing arsenal.
Follow these guidelines and you may just survive your move into the lower end of schools. Sure year six may moan that they have the pressure of SATs, more content to cover and children beginning to understand the true meaning of the word defiant. But anyone who has worked in both knows that teachers of young children are the SAS of primary schools. Welcome to the club.