My first English teaching job was in a primary school. I still have nice memories of that time as I learnt a lot there – including the lesson from the incident that I’m about to tell you about.
It happened in the spring of 1990, my first school year there. We were doing a speaking activity; the kids were in pairs – I don’t remember the exact details but it was something in connection with a picture (I’ve always liked using a lot of pictures). If you’re an English teacher, you can easily picture this familiar image: pairs of kids turning towards each other talking, with a teacher crouching over one pair, listening on. I must admit I was pretty pleased with the way things were going as it was our first year together and it was not that easy to get them to talk, but this task seemed to be working very well.
At this moment, the principal entered. I didn’t notice him; neither did the kids. We only looked up when he said: “I thought there was no teacher here.” I assured him I was there – then he asked me to see him afterwards. Later, in his office, he said: “I heard a lot of noise coming from your classroom when passing in the corridor, that’s why I went in. Can’t you keep order and have them remain silent?” I think my response surprised him: “I’ve been working hard for seven months to get them to talk and I’m glad you noticed the result, thank you very much.”