Monday, May 19, 2014

Surviving a Student Encounter Outside of School

Strolling the streets after school via http://commons.wikimedia.org
Running into a student after school - What to do? 

Half-term breaks during the spring and summer are meant to be exactly what they state: A break. Teachers spend most of their time at school, planning and delivering lessons, helping young minds grow, followed by endless marking. You come home, you change out of your work clothes, head out to meet your friends and enjoy the finer things in life. Whether that be going to the cinema, or a show in the West End, or your local pub. It's all about your free time. A time to recharge and refresh yourself.

However, we tend to forget that students are not restricted to the proximity of the school or their own homes. Yes, they too have friends and family and have a desire to catch a movie at Marble Arch cinemas or stroll down Oxford Street, shopping for new clothes. They have a life outside of school as well. For many teachers, the last thing they want to do is run into one of their students while out and about, doing their own thing.

It may seem like a silly, small thing, but the reality is that many teachers are terrified with the prospect of running into students in situations or places where they are more likely to be themselves, at ease, comfortable and with their normal professional guard down.

We need to keep in mind, though - as a post (Tips on surviving a student encounter in summertime) from the TES Behaviour blog so deftly mentions - that "students (for the most part) don't bite." I remember one time running into a Year 7 student of mine at Westfields shopping center. Did I have my shirt and tie on? Nope. Dress pants and shiny shoes ready, dressed to impress? I don't think so. A short-sleeved shirt and shorts were the order of the day, and I was buying a new shaving razor. It happened so quickly that it amazed me that I even saw the little, petrified boy. Suddenly, there he was, looking up at me, barely muttering, "Hi, sir", as I inquisitively asked him, "Hello! What are you doing here, just standing?"
"Oh, just waiting for my mum."

And that was it, the briefest of encounters. Off I went, back to the personal hygiene aisle, and him to, whatever it was he was doing. Of course it was the quickest of surprises as I found myself outside my comfortable classroom setting with one of my good students. There were no desks or lessons, no classroom etiquette. But I found the encounter very respectful and not at all terrifying. Of course, this varies with each situation, depending on how you, as their teacher, handle it.

The three simple tips that the blog post from TES I mentioned provides are:

1. Keep cool - As in, don't freak out when you see a student, ignoring them, or conveying body language that may seem odd. In a way, it's a good opportunity to make a connection with your students as a simple human being who has interests and a life outside of school and books.

2. Don't run away - Of course the encounter will be awkward is some way or other. You see one of your students in the row of seats in front of you during the next show of 'The Lion King'? Who cares! Go about your business.

3. Keep your powder dry - "Most kids will either be paralyzed with embarrassment...or possibly even polite and courteous towards you." Nevertheless, there will be the odd student who thinks that since it is outside of the school setting, they can have a go at you. Don't fume or get worked up. Dealing with them when you return to school is always the better option. At the end of the day, students need to show respect and a certain standard of behaviour outside of school in the community.

Sound advice from TES if you ask me. We've all had the student encounter outside of school. Like a lesson observation, it is inevitable, no matter how big the city you live in is...especially London! So next time you run into a student while shopping at Tesco, give them the calm nod and keep calm, move along.

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I highly recommend you check out some of the comments at the end of this blog as there are some very humorous and, dare I say, scary stories to be read!

2 comments:

  1. I live very near my school, so I run into kids all the time. I kind of enjoy it; they get a big kick out of seeing me outside of the school environment.

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  2. I completely understand! I had a colleague who also lived relatively close to the school he worked at. He would always frequent the local KFC, where students would see him daily. He has a great attitude with students, so situations like these never bothered him. I think students enjoy seeing teachers outside of the classroom setting. It helps them feel more comfortable with teachers, being able to communicate with them in a non-academic, normal way.

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Thanks for sharing your two pence!

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