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Poker Face

Gareth is a Secondary Teacher from Australia who is working in West London schools through Protocol Education. Today he points out that his students are capable of seeing through his "poker face", no matter how "consistant" and "predictable" he tries to be!

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If you ask me, there are so many dummies that about a quarter of the class should be kept back, but teachers are the most unpredictable creatures on earth. Maybe this time they'll be unpredictable in the right direction for a change."

This is a quote from Anne Frank's diary; a document that her own father said led him to conclude "that most parents don't know, really, their children". As a teacher it grabbed my attention, because we are told to be ‘consistent’ and ‘predictable’. However the very thing we are supposed to be, children think we are not.

The diary is a perfect reminder of the insight we have as children but tend to forget we had the older we become. Yet if we sat down seriously and thought back, even to when we were five years old, we can remember astonishingly profound thoughts we had about ourselves or others. I remember my brother at six years of age making very acute observations about the teaching staff at our school and their approaches to discipline, appropriate clothing and alphabet lessons.

There are other occasions I remember, adults acting strange or slightly unhinged around me, with I knowing at least half of what was going on at the time. Their secrets were not really secrets. As we become adults we have an expectation that children won't be able to handle the realities of a situation. We are focused on protecting them with stability through this so called ‘consistency’. Consistency of what? Of our personality?Even if we try to self monitor, children see directly through the transparent veil of poker face-edness.

One particular morning, after having broken up with my girlfriend, a student spoke out halfway through a class, "What's wrong sir?”. Another responded, “He probably had a fight with his girlfriend". How did they know? They're not idiots – that's how they knew. And no consistency was going to hide that fact on that particular morning.

Children will call you out on things, so it's not particularly worth suppressing too many of your emotions. If a class is genuinely upsetting me I will stomp my foot in frustration; If they genuinely say something funny, I will laugh (but never before Easter); If they try to outsmart me I will publicly humiliate them, at school assembly, displaying pictures from their Facebook on the projection screen. (The last one is a joke, in case you can't read sarcasm - my students can though).

So better we give the younger citizens of the world credit where it is due. Who needs consistency when we can display our real emotions? Who needs to stick to the plan when we can move off track and keep people on their toes? Why maintain a steady composure when it's going to create more excitement rapidly switching between personalities?

The "unpredictable" part Anne Frank wrote about is the very point. The only thing we should presume is going to be predictable as adults is the very fact we are going to be unpredictable.

Tags: Gareth, Secondary teacher, Teach in London, Poker Face, Australian Trained, Protocol Education

Category: Australian Teachers

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