It’s rapidly approaching the hectic part of the term again and there is very little I wouldn’t try to gain a few minutes of tranquillity in my teaching day. Often, though, the classroom activities I hope would give me some breathing space are the most challenging to manage. For example, for my year 7 English class to spend 10 minutes reading a book of choice at the start of the lesson should, in theory, be an easy and stress-free start to the lesson, but I have rarely found this to be the case.
“Miss, I left my book in my locker. Can I get it?”
“Miss, I need to re-borrow my book. Can I go to the library?”
“Miss, can I read on my phone?”
There are always a few minutes where it’s all going well. Kids are reading, I’m organising things for the lesson that will follow and I feel a sense of satisfaction that I am promoting reading to my class and they are loving every minute of it. Yes, these moments really make you feel as though you are kicking teaching goals — and they don’t tend to last very long.
“James, put that away please.”
“You don’t need your pencils out for reading, Liza.”
“Stephanie, I can tell you’re not reading your book because the book is upside down. Stop chatting to Luna and concentrate on your book, please.”
“Liam! Stop playing a game on your phone under the desk and whispering to your friend. Liam! Put the phone away!”
“No, there’s not enough time to go and swap your book now, Mitch. You should have done that the start of the lesson. I know they haven’t come back from the library yet. They’ll be back soon.”
“What part of Silent Reading don’t you understand? You are supposed to be READING. SILENTLY. Come on, 7G! This is getting ridiculous!”
Silence. Blissful silence. Pages being turned, minds being filled with vocabulary and plot lines and characters. The only sound to be heard is the distant chatter and laughter of students in the corridor. It is getting louder and louder. It finally dawns on me — those are my students on their way back from the library. They are getting extremely loud. I stand to meet them and calm them before they get to the classroom ... it’s too late.
The door is flung open; books are abandoned.
“Miss! Guess what happened to Danika on the way back from the
The students at the door can barely breathe for laughing.
“A bird shat on her head!”
The class erupts, squealing with laughter and slamming their hands on their desks.
“Come on, 7G. It’s not that funny. Let’s get back to our reading.”
“On her head, Miss! Like, literally in her hair!”
“She’s gone to the bathroom to wash it out, Miss. Jade’s gone with her.”
Once again we have silence. All is good in the world, or, at least the classroom.
Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian