Not big, not clever

15th December 2006 at 00:00
Have you ever sworn within hearing of pupils? Let's hope not but it does happen, especially at this time of year when your guard is down and you're totally exhausted. Children are even harder to manage in the run-up to Christmas, with wet breaktimes and all the festival events that whip them into a frenzy.

Swearing at or even in earshot of pupils or parents is a no-no for teachers. Not only is it contravening the assumption you are a pillar of society but also the QTS and standards which you have to meet to pass your induction period. It's covered in the first section of the standards, professional values and practice, which is based on the General Teaching Council's code of conduct for all teachers. You have to demonstrate and promote the positive values, attitudes and behaviour you expect from your pupils. Because we're always reminding them to speak politely and treat people with respect, we need to make sure we behave impeccably.

But we are human, too, and sometimes it's hard not to swear. As part of your teacherly persona, you will have probably already invented a range of expletives such as "sugar", "shoot", "dash it all" or "flip", which make you sound like a Famous Five character. But what should you do if something closer to a real swear word escapes your lips? It's unlikely to go unnoticed - young people have finely-tuned antennae for such lapses. With a wonderful show of double standards, it's often the serial cursers who most delight in loudly and publicly shaming others who swear. The safest thing to do is apologise straightaway to anyone who heard, saying you realise how inappropriate it is. Then let the head or deputy know in case anyone tells tales or complains.

More difficult is where people take offence at phrases which aren't actually swearing. Things like, "stop acting like a prat", "God!", "Gordon Bennett", "get off your arse" or "shut up" should be avoided because they're not phrases we'd be happy hearing pupils say. Going from being a student to a professional is tough but it's a role change that's absolutely essential if you're to command respect

Sara Bubb is an education consultant specialising in induction

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