Little_Mavis' rants and musings

Tracking the teacher


This seems to have caused a bit of a stir on Twitter recently so here is my two penn’orth.

As usual, I see two sides (maybe).

First one of those anecdotes that are disliked as evidence but, I assume, are fine as an illustration.

When I was in the first form of secondary school (no such thing as year 8 back then), I was doing my usual type of doodling in an English lesson. Suddenly the teacher said, loudly “Mavis Wombat, what have I just said?” I was young, I was naive, I took this at face value and dutifully reported, word for word what she had just been saying. I’ve forgotten now, obviously. Anyway, it turns out this was the wrong thing to do, and definitely not what the teacher wanted. In hindsight, I realise what I should have done was look suitably contrite and apologised. For the next week or so I had to move my desk, actually move it, to the front of the classroom right in front of her, not fiddle, not write, not draw and look at her. I don’t think it helped me to concentrate. I did notice her hair, her make-up, her fingernails.

As a teacher, I began to see the other side of things. I was constantly checking to see if the students were paying attention, and their not typing (IT lessons so PCs always available), not fiddling with their phones, (not a temptation when I was at school) and generally looking in my direction. I did explain that the problem was that I needed to see them looking and listening and I needed not to be distracted by their fiddling. I persisted, they got the message. Now as a TA, I often remove pens, pencils, rubbers, rulers etc. from children while the teacher is talking. I’m not, honestly sure they aren’t listening when they’re doing that but I do know that it distracts the teacher and the other children. It’s interesting what you see sitting in a classroom with the children, (or if you do peer observations),

So in summary, my view, for what it’s worth. Insisting on tracking the teacher is overly controlling and will possibly hinder some children because they focus on that rather than absorbing what is being said. What I would, generally, ask is for is a lack of fiddling, especially those girls who play with the hair of the girl sitting in front of them (shudder). What I’ve been trying to decide while writing this is how I would handle those children like me, who doodle while they listen and honestly, I don’t know. Because of the subject I taught it was never an issue. Can you allow one child to do it and not others? Would permission to do that be abused? I’m honestly not sure. Maybe it could be sorted by agreeing class rules with the children? (Though I realise that many consider that to be a huge mistake).

What are your views?


Author: littlemavis

Retired teacher. (also Information Scientist, Export Sales Assistant, Sales Administrator, Computer Programmer, Software Support Specialist) Worked in Sixth Form college and recently as support in a primary school.

5 thoughts on “Tracking the teacher

  1. No fiddling, look up at the blackboard (with occasional looking at one’s notebook). That’s only way for everyone to get along and learn. Don’t forget fidgeting is bad for other children too.

    • …Which was what I was saying. It was prompted by this. Some teachers keen. Others less so. I was putting it in a wider context. Also referring mainly to small children.

      Also. Hello

      • Hullo m’lady of the Wombats. Yes, quite right. Hurrah for you! I don’t see how anyone could object. I know I’d be annoyed if no one paid attention when I was talking. That’s the lesson they have to learn in life too.

  2. I confess I used to use the catch all, “Good sitting”, when children fidgeted (they knew what was expected and could recite the elements). I think it is out of fashion now. And I often wondered if sitting still with legs crossed was good for the children’s backs. But it was policy. I taught the very small and had to put up with hairdressing, various nose-picking and hair-sucking procedures and Velcro shoe adjusting (not to mention shoe licking) alongside general fidgeting.

    Obviously it is important that children pay attention. You get a second sense when talking to children. You can feel the spongy wall – children sitting nicely etc. but taking nothing in : what is being said is beyond their interest/understanding. The content bounces back to you off the sponginess of their rapidly dropping attention levels. I experienced this at times and knew it was a teaching issue. Time to wake the lesson up, abandon the teaching objective, read a different book, go back and approach from a different angle.

    Tracking the teacher? But are they paying attention or following an instruction? Maybe ‘good sitting’ had some of the same issues: children learn good sitting but don’t pay attention. I hope not! I hope good sitting simply ensured a general preparation for listening. It was code for ‘it’s time to listen to the teacher ‘.

    What is the real intention of the teacher? That children learn, not that they can do ‘good sitting’ or ‘track the teacher’. Most teachers practise judicious ignoring: ignoring a touch of bad sitting in the interests of learning. Hopefully some do the same with the wretched tracking thing. I don’t think I would learn much if I was making my eyes look at the teacher all the time. I don’t think I always look at the person speaking – in social or learning situations. I forget about what my eyes are doing in order to listen and think. To me it seems an unnatural action, an impediment to learning. And what about the teachers? Doesn’t it make them feel vaguely ineasy to have those eyes following them at all times? In normal conversation it would be rather off-putting, even threatening. Is the use of tracking evidence-based, or just another trend?

    • Thanks for this. Today, I was watching a video as part of an on-line course. There was nothing important in the visuals, just the presenter talking. I found I needed to close my eyes in order to concentrate on what was being said. I have no idea about the evidence but it feels like part of the continuing trend to control children as much as possible and just for that reason alone it makes me uneasy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s