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The Bartering Involved in Teaching

Siobhan is a primary  teacher from Sydney who decided to move to the UK after university to teach in schools in London through Protocol Education. Today's post reflects on the use of the bartering in primary schools...

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Barter is the act of trading goods or services for other goods or services without the medium of a currency.  Barter is believed to have been the main way societies traded before official currency came into circulation.  Although it exists today, it is not as popular, as money is the more formally and widely accepted medium for exchanging goods and services.  However that doesn't mean that bartering is non existent - not by a long shot.

In a primary school, whether Australian or English, big school or small school, bartering exists as a form of currency between a variety of people. 

Firstly, it exists as a form of negotiations between students: "I'll let you have some of my roll up if you let me have some of your chips" or "If I can copy off you in Literacy, you can copy off me in Science" or even the old Aussie favourite "I'll swap this big, shiny, new silver coin of mine (50c) for your small, dull, dirty coin of yours($2)".  There are, of course, many more examples of this form of inter-child bartering and it doesn't seem to matter which country I am in, all children do it.

Secondly, it exists as a form of coercion between teachers and students: "If you finish all this work, we can play a game" or "If you waste my class time, I will waste your lunch time and you stay in for that".  As a teacher I have discovered that most forms of behaviour management are actually forms of bartering.  Anything to do with behaviour books, visual prompts, stickers, stamps, certificates, letters home to parents (good and bad), house points, table points, game time, golden time etc. is really bartering and at its core the currency is time.  If students can get through their work in time, then there will be time for a game.  If students cannot, then their break/lunch time will be compromised.

And finally, there is bartering with yourself.  I hate marking.  There, I said it.  So to try and convince myself to mark, I will barter with myself: "If you can mark the maths, then you can go home early when you finish" or "I am allowed to read one chapter of my book for every hour of solid work planning/marking/assessing I do".  As you can guess, I don't hold myself accountable nearly as well as I hold the students (It's got to be an irony that I am the worst student in the world!  I am a teacher telling the students the best way to study and it’s always the way I DIDN'T do it!)

There are, of course many other levels of bartering in and around the school, e.g. between the teaching staff and the lunch staff (this mostly involves exchanging behaviour management for free/reduced price food), between teachers, between teachers and TAs and between teachers and management. 

Whilst one could argue that we are successfully demonstrating the necessary skill in life of give and take, sometimes I honestly just think we're as bad as the kids!

Read more of Siobhan's blogs on her personal blog page, Travelling Teachers

Tags: Siobhan, Australian Teacher, Supply Teacher, Teach in London, Bartering, Primary Schools, OTT, Protocol Education

Category: Australian Teachers

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