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?