Lesson One: For beginners…What is a teacher for?

The great teacher who said nothing.

You’re a trainee teacher…It’s the first day of term. Whoever you are, you are anxious:
  • Have I got my pen, pad…new pencil case
  • Will I fit in?
  • Will I be “clever enough”?
  • Will I say something stupid?
  • Will I understand the subject?
  • Will I be brave enough to ask questions?
  • How do I look?
  • Will I make friends?

But above all, you probably have two overriding preoccupations:

  1. What will my teacher be like?Empty-Chair
  2. Will he or she like me?

Your ‘senses’ are working overtime

You arrive. You find the classroom.You make a mental note of the other pupils; check out the surroundings. You sit down.

You take out your new pad – you are going to do your best writing, a new pen, maybe even a new pencil case. This is a new beginning, the spine of your new pad ‘cracks’ as a fresh blank page opens up in front of you.

The door opens…and in walks your new teacher.

You check her out from head to toe, very quickly. You look particularly at her face. Does she look ‘kind’, ‘serious’,’clever’,’angry’?

She looks up and around the room. She takes you into the searchlight beam of her gaze. You’re already deciding whether you like her, whether she likes you. You feel your back stiffen, you shuffle back into your chair. What should your attitude be, what ‘face’ should you wear for such an important meeting. You’re trying to think clearly but in this moment it’s difficult.

You might feel defensive and criticize the clothes she has chosen or the way she walks. You refocus; try to take charge of yourself.  You take up a position of ‘polite readiness’ and let a relaxed look play across your face.



……………………..She sits down…She looks around…but She doesn’t speak.

A few seconds go by. Still nothing.  Then a few more. Then a minute. Another minute. And another. You look around the room. There is a look of uncertainty on your class mates faces. You feel lost. Some people are smiling. Others begin to look puzzled, then angry. More minutes go by. Still nothing. This is too much to bear. What do you do? What do you think other students would do?

Eventually an hour passes.

The silent teacher looks around the room. She picks up a pile of paper and gestures that they should be handed round. When everyone has a sheet of paper gets up and leaves the room. The door closes.

You look down, at the top of the otherwise blank sheet of paper is a question…

“What have you learned?”




More for Beginners here…



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Steve Carr

Good Relationships equal Great Progress When students (and teachers) feel safe they will risk everything in the service of their education. These ideas and theories are grounded in 6 great years of MA research into the link between child development and life-long learning and many years creating great relationships with literally thousands of students. The greatest complement I ever heard from many of those students was that my classrooms were the 'safest place to be'. I now run accredited professional development workshops for teachers, teams and school leaders to help them create safety and put the power of positive human relationships at the heart of progress. To find out more email: steve@stevecarrtraining.com or subscribe to this blog

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