It can be an awkward moment: when, unexpectedly, personal emotion overtakes a teacher in the classroom.
But, for one 6ft 6in English teacher, shedding a tear in the classroom offered an opportunity to teach pupils a valuable lesson.
David Alderson, a Nottinghamshire head of English, tweeted the following:
Thread: Today I did something I have actively tried to avoid for 11 years. I cried in a lesson. I taught a poem called 'My Grandmother' to year 11 and knew if I talked about my own experience of loss I would tear up and struggle to talk. I even knew the line that would get to me.— David Alderson (@MrAldersonTeach) May 20, 2019
Mr Alderson went on to say that he is a bald, bearded strongman who pulls trucks in his spare time (his Twitter profile shows him doing exactly that). He therefore believes that showing emotion in the classroom provides a valuable lesson to pupils.
Today I showed the boys in that class (boys that like the gym, like boxing, like to be 'men', that it's good to have these emotions. We should let ourselves be 'vulnerable' because that kind of honesty is where strength can actually be found.— David Alderson (@MrAldersonTeach) May 20, 2019
Several other teachers expressed approval at the idea of chalkface emoting. One newly qualified teacher said how important it was that boys saw men talking about their feelings in the classroom.
So important that boys especially see men showing emotion and talking about feelings. By braving it and teaching what/how you did, you’ve made more difference than you know!— Emma’s UK adventures (@EmmaUKAdventure) May 21, 2019
Good for you. Crying is nothing to be ashamed of, any more than laughter is.— What are you reading for? (@wayrf) May 20, 2019
Others, meanwhile, offered their own experiences of timetabled tears. It was English teachers, in particular, who found that classroom declamation could bring a catch to the throat and a tear to the eye. Between them, they offered a reading list of surefire tear-jerkers.
Did this with ‘Long Distance II’ about a week into my new job as a HoD, and about 9 months after my mum had died. Year 11 class were lovely.— Helen Foers (@helen_of_troy67) May 20, 2019
Shed a tear on Friday when I finished reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" with my Nat 5 class. It was the bit about Boo and "his children" 🤷♀️— Sally Davidson (@DavidsonnSally) May 20, 2019
I teared up at Poppies, Animal Farm when Boxer died, and at a discussion about drug use with Jekyll and Hyde. All classes were lovely. I think they were surprised, as I am pretty tough the rest of the time. It's odd though as I felt I had to justify to myself that it was okay.— Carrie T (@t_andbiscuits) May 21, 2019
I taught the end of Of Mice & Men after we had to withdraw meds’ from my mum. A real struggle to read.— SMP (@SarahGi78263526) May 20, 2019
But it is not only English teachers who found that a well-planned weep could prove more effective than any number of revision sessions.
I’ll always remember the lesson when our history teacher, Mr Fisher cried while teaching us about the holocaust. He was one of the best teachers I ever had. Years later I can still remember his exact words.— Emmaface (@emmaemma53) May 21, 2019
I teach a unit on antibiotic resistant bacteria in biology. My mother passed away from such a bacteria. I cry at various points through the unit...it’s okay! Ss need to know we are people too!— Lisa Bastedo (@lisa_bastedo) May 20, 2019
And Mr Alderson’s pupils seemed comfortable with the idea that their strongman teacher could have an occasional weep. Asked how they responded, he said:
Lots of 'oh, Sir' looks of sympathy and a few of them welled up, too. It was a lovely moment.— David Alderson (@MrAldersonTeach) May 21, 2019