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Hands up for pupil interaction

Paul Ross discusses how he has increased interaction with his pupils through a unique approach.

Physics Teacher, St Columba's High School, Dunfermline, Fife

Before I proceed with this cautionary tale, a personal disclaimer is needed. I know and believe that there needs to be a clear barrier in the relationships between teachers and pupils.

Yes, be friendly and interested in their lives but, no, do not try to curry favour, be "cool" or start friendships with them (I have enough friends I already don't like without involving my pupils).

Why the disclaimer? Well, I know how it looks; "new teacher high fiving pupils wherever he goes. Does he think he's "one of them"? The answer is no (all my clothes cost less than those ubiquitous Mackenzie striped hoodies) and, yes, that is my problem: the high-five.

Hands up

Maybe it's because I am married to an American or because I was raised on hand-slapping movies like Top Gun and the Breakfast Club, but I cannot leave someone hanging with their hand in the air.

It started innocently enough when some pupils (obviously having just watched Borat or something) came into class with hands up, poised, and it would have been rude to leave them unfived. Besides, a wee bit of camaraderie doesn't mean you are trying to be their pal.

The problem came when other people thought they could join in and there became a progression of hand slapping. Which, then moved onto the stairwell. And the corridor...

Don't get me wrong, it's not like people are queuing up, and I haven't developed a repetitive strain injury, but it does seem like I have created a rod for my own back, especially when I am speaking to senior management and a hand suddenly appears in front of my face, remaining there despite me ignoring it.

A quick slap followed by a "tcht bairns today eh?" comment seems to work but you can never be certain what they are really thinking.

Of course, this is nothing compared to being left hanging yourself by a pupil who pulls his hand away at the last second (quite a skill though). Never a nice feeling but worsened by the fact that it is 13 year old sniggering at your duping.

Doing well

Why am I telling this story? I was asked to write something about my probationer experience and this leapt to mind. Everything else is just dandy, I feel like a teacher and feel at home in the school I'm at. Not much else to say, I hope it is the same for everyone else.

Yes, I'm worried about getting a job and yes, I'm worried about getting a job somewhere other than here, because then I'm back to square one. But one thing is for certain I will be thinking twice before I high-five a pupil there.

Och, who am I kidding? Gimme five!