Is making a fool of oneself an essential part of teaching? No, I don’t mean when the lesson goes wrong – I mean doing it deliberately.
My school (like others I’ve worked in) has events organised by the kids to raise money for charity. You can guarantee that they’ll almost always ask the teachers to do something daft – the whole school will pay out money for that!
Following my latest effort in this direction, I was looking back on all the other occasions in the past when I’ve undergone such ritual humiliation in the interests of charity. The most common one requires an attempt at dancing – great if, like me, you dance like a particularly ungainly hippo! At some point in most years, I find myself on stage in a stupid costume with a group of similarly talented colleagues – from imitating John Travolta to the “Grease Megamix”to being a naughty schoolgirl performing strange moves with a labcoat (don’t ask!) to “School’s Out”. Despite the fact that the general point is that we’re rubbish and laughable, we still always put a lot of time practising for our moment in the spotlight!
Another favourite is fancy dress. That’s easier – but you have to actually teach lessons while dressed up! I tend to give in to the inevitable and have a fun lesson – though I know some stronger-minded colleagues do manage to teach normally. Highlights there have included dressing as a Victorian schoolmarm, as a Christmas pudding (my shape is a natural for that) and as a mad scientist (so no change there then!). Our Sixth Form also do a great line in fancy dress – before now we’ve had complete sets of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Flintstones and Scooby-Doo characters, not to mention Cruella with dalmations.
Then there’s the quiz. I think it’s the best of the options – no dressing up, no advance work and I am a bit better at quizzes than dancing. Have done a “Have I Got News For You” style one in the past, which was great – just insulted all my classes and got loads of laughs. The one we did this week was a departmental “The Weakest Link”. The sixth-former being Anne Robinson did a pretty good impression, I have to say! Succumbed to my worst instincts by deliberately voting off a department in the first round because (a) they’re good at it and (b) I fancied winding up a friend of mine who was one of their team – what a bad role model I am! For some reason, this inspired me to suggest a competitive quiz against the staff of the neighbouring boys’ school – now the stakes really would be high there – why do I say these things?
Not all my colleagues join in these sorts of things – which is understandable and fair enough, and I wouldn’t want anyone doing it who didn’t feel comfortable. But even if the kids can be a bit riotous when you’re teaching them dressed as a Christmas pudding, I don’t think being prepared to be daft has any long-term adverse effects – I think most of them respect you more for risking it and being a good sport. Oh, and I secretly quite enjoy it too!