No Excuses = No Relationship

Yesterday, I went back to the last school I taught at full time. I will be helping to train some NQTs soon about the Computing Curriculum – how untraditional of me but hey ho- it’s not all about using the spatula method (flipping things).

I went to say hello to one of my old classes. It was lovely to see them again. I almost got crushed in the spontaneous group hug that ensued. I evidently should have spent more time on the health and safety aspects of group hugs, or more likely it’s just because they are two years older now. A few of them are even taller than me now!!

The most exciting thing for me, however, was the fact that one of the children, who had joined late in the year – around April, and who spoke no English, is chirping away now!! “Miss Gill I can speak English now.”,” You were my first teacher here.” There is something quite magical about an EAL child morphing into an English speaker, the accent, the phrases they have picked up without you realising it, the confidence and fluency.

Their current class teacher is a good friend, as well as one of my old year group partners, another no excuses man. He also knew how much I adored the class and vice versa. Bless the new young TA though, he wasn’t sure how to react to his table of children running off!

I have promised them that I will, when I go back in a few weeks, have made a short video using pictures of my visit to Greece last year.  I thought of them often, especially while visiting the Parthenon, which that I had taught them all about. It was an absolute pleasure to teach the Ancient Greece unit with the focus on really acquiring knowledge and it is to the credit of the new curriculum that the history units can be taught with such rigour again.

Yesterday also made me realise that all the “you must be a heartless child-hating monster” spouted is harder to refute when one is not a full-time class teacher, unlike, for example, the Michaela teachers, Quirky Teacher, etc.  I do try not to wear rose-tinted glasses when remembering the classes I have taught but I do worry about if I am when responding to such criticisms.

So it was a necessary, as well as a lovely, reminder of what my relationships with the children were actually like. The idea that no excuses, traditional, formal teachers have negative if any, relationship with the children they teach is simply not true.

The only negative relationships I’ve had in the schools I’ve worked in were with parents and other staff members, who made excuses for poor behaviour and were unsupportive.

The children? The overwhelming majority accepted I was strict, met my expectations, followed the rules or accepted the consequences if they didn’t, and learnt lots. There is always such a fixation on the initial setting of boundaries, enforcing consequences, etc from those who believe no excuses is wrong but what they appear blind to is how much easier it is over the course of the year. How much trust there is, respect there is, the greater ability and time to build positive relationships with children, because one is not dealing with constant disruptive behaviour of the low or serious kind.

It doesn’t matter if some people feel the need to demonise teachers like me. Right now, I don’t care. I’m going to make the video, show it to my old class, feel proud of the lovely children they still are and hope that they might one day make the journeys themselves to connect with what remains of the Ancient Civilisations.

Oh and hopefully not be crushed in a group hug!!

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Harvey Webb says:

    Massive yep! One of my year 6s told me this week I am her favourite teacher BECAUSE (wait for it)… I
    I am strict and teach her lots. And the two clearly go together. Being consistently strict (and fair) allows for more teaching/learning. And children love that! They are naturally desperate to learn and so giving them the best conditions for that makes a positive environment. It’s the teachers who think it should work the other way round that get it wrong – that you make positive relationships first and then the teaching can happen. Because the whole time those teachers are trying to play games and doing team building at the beginning of the year, the children aren’t learning and start to mess around and that pattern gets set for the rest od the year.


    1. teachwell says:

      True. It’s the kind of relationships established too. Not all relationships are positive and the emphasis on just relationships of any kind is a worrying aspect of teaching right now.


  2. julietgreen says:

    It’s because it isn’t really quite about ‘no excuses’. It’s about ‘stop using excuses to get away with …’. Eric Berne’s game of ‘Wooden Leg,’ if you will. If you’re a compassionate, rational human being then you’ll be setting the boundaries, but you won’t be playing the officious, ‘them’s the rules without exception’ game. The kids’ll know exactly where they stand and be grateful to you. Like you, I’ve had almost universally good relationships with pupils, parents and staff. I know this through the greetings I get within the community 20 years on. The rare exceptions have always been those that will counter everything with an excuse, many of which are irrational and border on the deluded.


  3. Brian says:

    “you must be a heartless child-hating monster”

    Do you really think that some people see you like this?

    I tend to disagree with “no excuses” as it seems inflexible. If a child has a parent/grandparent die the night before then I tend to give them a bit of slack, this for me is about being a human being (me and them).

    If a child is dyspraxic, I expect great things of them but I understand that occasionallly things will go pear shaped.

    Sometimes there are valid reasons why a child will not live up to my expectations (and/or their own), no matter how they try at that moment.

    Sometimes there is a reason. If the argument is set up as “reason is valid” whereas “excuse in invalid reason” then I can start to agree.

    The fact that I don’t agree that there is never an excuse that leads me to deviate from procedure, could never result in the view that you are a child hating monster. By the same token I woulld hope that when I am sympathetic to a bereavement of a close family member you wouldnt regard me as a progressive apologist majority harming unauthoritative weakling..


    1. teachwell says:

      I was eight when my grandfather died. I didn’t see that as an excuse to behave badly at school. It was a time of grief and sadness and I am sure my mother told my teacher, although I don’t remember it, as she was responsible like that. I don’t recall thinking it was ok to start flipping over tables or screaming abuse at an adult. That reaction is learnt behaviour and one need not learn it in the first place.

      So your starting point for this ‘discussion’ is completely wrong in the first place as far as I am concerned.

      Human beings behave badly, there are reasons behind why they can’t cope with their emotions, there are things we can do about this.

      A responsible parent would mention a bereavement to you, so you as a teacher can keep an eye on them. It is possible if there is someone who deals with bereavement at the school to let them know (this happened at one school I taught in). It is also possible to tell the child what is the ‘right’ way of coping if they are feeling overwhelmed. None of this involves making excuses or the child behaving badly at all. Indeed, the first few days of teaching a new class at primary level is all about setting boundaries and reinforcing them. It is part of a teacher’s role to point out appropriate behaviour on a regular basis as a reminder.

      That is the difference between no excuses and people who turn reasons into excuses for poor behaviour. One is proactive in helping and supporting, the other is simply letting the behaviour go and acting as though there is no alternative to the behaviour being demonstrated. The former is about giving children some benefit of the wisdom of how to cope with negative feelings, the latter is a result of an adult who is still not able to understand their own or take responsibility for their actions.

      The idea that the child would be told off for being dyspraxic, when it is a known condition, by a no excuse teacher is a strawman argument. I would accept no excuses for a child avoiding or not doing their daily exercises to help them improve. If they are unable to then I would accept no excuse for them keeping this information from me. By going over expectations, the right thing to do and praising/reinforcing those who do the right thing, it is possible to have a class that does behave appropriately in this situation.

      Creating a culture of excuses, self-pity and taking no responsibility for ones actions is a choice that schools and teachers make – I do not have to replicate this folly.


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