Although to many outside of the profession we are all lumped together as simply “teachers”, I am certain that it is the many variations of character working under the same roof that make my school such an interesting place in which to learn my trade.
As I enjoy the luxury of a coffee at breaktime, I look around the staffroom and see these characters staring back at me as we work each other out – the new and the experienced. I begin to wonder whether I have perceived them correctly...
Mr Strict – the one you always hear shouting at children across the corridor and who many parents complained about on target-setting day. The children seem to come to my lesson in a foul mood after having him for the previous period.
Miss Gossip – “that” staff member who knows everything about everyone in every department and takes great delight filling me in on everything I have missed in the last 10 years. Even about people that have left, and who I will never meet.
Mr Cool – the teacher that dresses sharply and you imagine to wear sunglasses constantly once out of the school premises. The boys want to be him, the girls have inappropriate crushes on him, and he seems to divide the teachers like Marmite.
Mrs Know It All – the person who knows the answer to everything about the school, however trivial it may be.
Mr Hard Worker – the member of staff who is seen working away every break and lunchtime without fail, not looking up for coffee or conversation.
Miss Best Friend – the teacher who tries to be the student’s buddy before being their teacher. I find these to be usually young teachers, like myself, who haven’t been around long enough to realise how hard you need to set the ground rules before you can soften up (we’ve all heard the phrase “don’t smile ‘til Christmas!”).
Mrs Negativity – the one that won’t smile all year round, never mind saving it ‘til Christmas.
As you mooch about the staffroom at your establishment (if you’re brave enough to step inside) I am sure a few faces will fit into these teaching stereotypes, along with plenty of additional characters that I am yet to discover.
While watching these characters interact, it hits me suddenly that the correlation between teaching and acting is very strong. It does indeed require a certain level of performance. Your audience is awaiting – a class of 30 – with it being our job to draw every student staring back at us into our every word, to express a message with purpose and, most importantly, to educate. The only difference? For us there are no dress rehearsals. You plan a lesson and go straight into delivering it. It is this that was the most daunting thought while on the PGCE, but which now becomes exciting as we are encouraged to take risks, experiment and work out the ways to communicate with each potentially different audience.
So by opting for performing arts teaching and not becoming a professional actor or dancer, many would say that I “sold out”. To that, I’d say that teachers are some of the best known performers on their own stage – once we have decided which character we want to portray.
Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.