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Advice needed about an ill-thought joke

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by ComputingPunk, Apr 20, 2019.

  1. ComputingPunk

    ComputingPunk New commenter

    A maybe insignificant incident has been playing on my mind over the easter break and I'm just looking for the opinion of more experienced teachers.

    I'm a student teacher on my second placement. On my last day before the easter break, I made something of an ill-thought joke that I'm now worried could lead to the termination of my placement.

    I can't remember exactly how it went, but in the staffroom, someone picked up a large porcelain dish and said it would be good for hitting someone over the head with it. I jokingly named a pupil. There was a bit of laughter and someone said "that's a little harsh". I justified my comment by explaining how annoying I found the pupil and the conversation trailed off. That was the extent of it, but I'm now worried someone could see it as threatning behaviour and approach SLT.

    Safe to say I'd never make a comment like that again. But is it something I should be worrying this much about? Would it be grounds for termination of a placement? Any advice is gratefully received.
  2. GirlGremlin

    GirlGremlin Occasional commenter

    At my place of work, a statement like this would be laughed off. The head has said similar in jest at briefing.

    At my former place of work this could have resulted in disciplinary. There's no right or wrong here, I would advise that it will depend on the culture of your school.
  3. Robfreeman

    Robfreeman Occasional commenter

    I'd have probably suggested other objects which would have been more appropriate and joined you in the disciplinary.

    Some places understand professionals sometimes have warped humour sonetimes you get the oh my god they might do it this must immediately be reported as threatening behaviour you tend to learn which is which after a term
  4. shamandalie

    shamandalie New commenter

    Everywhere I worked so far, a comment like this would have been laughed off. That's just a way to express frustration.

    As a PGCE student, the worst that can happen is a strong word from your mentor, but more likely it will all be forgotten after easter.

    Next time, suss out the environment and don't comment on any kid unless you're REALLY GOOD FRIENDS
  5. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    I hope @shamandalie means friends with a colleague, not with a pupil!;)
    Don't worry, I would be surprised if this came back to bite you. If it does, take it on the chin and learn from it.
    Enjoy Easter.
  6. HolyMahogany

    HolyMahogany Senior commenter

    I am of the view that 'what is said in the staffroom stays in the staffroom'
    Of course any really offensive or unacceptable behaviour cannot be included in this category.
    The staff room is where you should be able to blow off a bit of steam and a good HT and SLT will recognise this.
    You made a joke not a threat, it would be a very petty colleague who would report that.
    Please do not worry about this any more, if you are still concerned at the start of term then speak to your mentor.
    Believe me - any experienced teacher will have heard and possibly even said far worse in their time.
  7. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    Speaking as someone who has been in trouble before because of backfiring jokes I would just say that it's best not to try and be funny sometimes and just shut up.
  8. Flanks

    Flanks Senior commenter

    I would say this can be a common sort of conversation in a staff room, so in one respect do not worry.

    The area I would reflect on is that when a staff member gently pulled you back you felt the need to justify the statement. This is the thing to think about, as if you were obviously joking it is a gentle way to draw the topic to a close. By potentially defending your initial joke it has the chance to be taken more seriously.

    Don't worry about it overly, the staff room is a place to let the mask drop for a few minutes in between lessons. I wouldn't expect any disciplinary situation to occur.
  9. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    Not true - in some schools (I've been in one) where even in the staff room you have to be very careful what you say as there may be people who hear things and pass them on.

    My advice is just to be discreet.
  10. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    Just be careful. TBH I think you're worrying over nothing, but there are those who may think that as you've only been there a couple of months, you are overstepping the mark by making these comments. Schools have a peculiar culture where teachers moan about students, but many can become highly defensive when a perceived outsider or newbie is critical. And some cannot take a joke. As others say, suss out the culture of your school and don't join in unless you're sure.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2019
  11. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Nothing will happen but you should have backtracked on it at once!

    I don't really like the fact that you bothered to try to justify it. Not as a student! Your colleagues are going to think not that you're potentially violent but that you have rather a high opinion of yourself. You have to earn your spurs. Don't complain about behaviour at this stage. You're still learning. What do you think the students are saying about YOU?!

    You're not going to be reported but you may find some colleagues cool towards you a little. It really isn't up to you to say that kind of thing. Not yet. And why risk it? Ever? Just keep your mouth shut in future.

    Sorry, but I'd be shocked not by your "threats" but by your audacity. Maybe I'm too old-skool but I favour students keeping a low profile. I'm not really that interested in your opinion on behaviour as I don't expect you to be much of an expert on it. Ask me how to improve your behaviour-management? Yes, I'll help. But moaning about kids? Don't do that.
  12. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    So here is the disciplinary meeting as a result, it runs like this-
    "So, ComputingPunk, I hear you stated that smashing a porcelain bowl over the head of bibbledybobbledy would be a good idea. Is this correct? Can you offer any context"
    "Yes, it is correct. At the time, colleague PlinkyPlonk had the bowl in their hands, and suggested it would be a great weapon for smashing over somebody's head. The reason I suggested bibbledybobbledy was because I actually thought Plinkyplonk was contemplating hitting it over a colleague's head. I had to think quickly, so I suggested the first student who came to mind in a bid to divert their attention to somebody not actually in the room. I was concerned for the safety of all colleagues in the room who were not actually holding the bowl"

    My point here is that should you get into trouble for it (which you wont, you really wont), it is pertinent to mention that the suggestion of using the bowl as a weapon was not actually yours. You took somebody else's words at face value and extemporised on their idea.

    I have to say, the colleague who suggested the use of the bowl as weaponry is an odd sort, no? They would no doubt fail that psychology experiment of placing somebody in a room with an empty saucepan and filming them to see how long it takes for them to put it on their head. I imagine this colleague would instead simply lurk behind the door with the saucepan until somebody attempted to enter...Kablooie.

    Any other person who sees a large empty bowl in the staff room is more likely to wonder in disappointment who snaffled all the crisps,rather than how to use it as a weapon.
  13. steely1

    steely1 Occasional commenter

    Personally, I would say you're worrying too much - though I only base this on my own experience, as in all the schools I've taught in, I've been fortunate to work with colleagues with a sense of humour! The context, surely, would have been clear to anyone that you were joking? You would hope, at least.

    I do agree with the advice above - just be careful about what you say and who you say it to / who can overhear you. I personally think it's easier to get away with such light-hearted comments when you're an established member of staff - not that I'm suggesting student teachers should walk around constantly in a serious disposition! When I was doing my PGCE, I tended to share such jokes with fellow trainees rather than the permanent school staff.
    agathamorse, jlishman2158 and ATfan like this.
  14. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    In a previous school I was talking to a friend and colleague once in the staff room about another teacher - I'd never talked about that person before to anyone but there was another member of staff within earshot and heard what I'd said.

    Within an hour of leaving the staff room I had an email from the HT (who I really liked) to go and see her at break. When I got there I got a real strip torn off me and she mentioned a couple of the things I'd said (word for word). The head thought the remarks were about her - I told her who they were about and I got off with no more than that bollocking.

    I knew the person I'd spoken to would never have said anything so you didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out where it had come from.

    I never mentioned it but I also made sure I never said anything when that person was around.
  15. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    But that's a complete viper's nest. What HT responds in that sort of way? And (sorry, but...) who stands in the staff room talking about other staff? Not to mention the rat in the room.
    Shame on the lot of you, all fueling the toxicity in different ways.
    jlishman2158, GirlGremlin and ATfan like this.
  16. ATfan

    ATfan Star commenter

    I agree with everyone else. We've all had times when we've said things we shouldn't. As long as you've learned from the mistake and realised that your meaning could have been misconstrued and will therefore think more carefully next time, there is no problem. The worst that will happen is that the safeguarding officer or your mentor will have a strong word about it. If this does happen, follow the excellent advice of @sbkrobson and others on here (sorry, was carrying on the joke started by someone else. No offence intended. Now realise how it sounded and won't say this again). Btw, I have heard far worse than this said about students which I find far more concerning. I once overheard one colleague say that our students (where I was working at the time) were a waste of oxygen. Other colleagues who heard this comment agreed with me that it was inappropriate and untrue, so when he made similar comments after that (I wasn't present but was told afterwards), other staff members discreetly made it clear to him that they didn't want to hear such inappropriate comments and changed the subject. After that, he was more careful when making these types of remarks.

    Finally, I've also accidentally said things to/about students that could be misconstrued and then hastily explained myself as soon as I realised this. E.g. On one occasion, I forgot the rule about criticising the behaviour of a student not the personality of the student when telling them off and told one particular student who kept disturbing the class during a test that he had been nothing but lazy, manipulative and time wasting since I started teaching his class (I was offering extra revision workshops on a temp basis which later became a maternity cover post) because I'd got so fed up with his behaviour that I forgot to guard my tongue as I normally do. He went quiet for a moment then said have I? Then said, I'm sorry. He was less of a pain after that. After the class, I was mortified and straight away explained the situation to my colleague and line manager. They both smiled and said that I was right! :)

    Just put it down to experience and don't do it again! :)
    Curae, agathamorse and steely1 like this.
  17. ATfan

    ATfan Star commenter

    @sbkrobson I totally agree with you! Unfortunately, I once found out the hard way that this can happen and that some managers encourage it! :)
    annascience2012 likes this.
  18. GirlGremlin

    GirlGremlin Occasional commenter

    Exactly this. Schools are ruined by continuous backstabbing AND grassing.
  19. purplecarrot

    purplecarrot Senior commenter

    They are. Some people act like the workplace is a viper's nest and there's a lot of stirring and selective reporting to get their own way or to make themselves look better

    I wouldn't worry about a student making that sort of joke. We've all done it.

    The only thing that would maybe raise some eyebrows is if a student teacher was routinely getting into those conversations as it might (as another poster said) suggest that the student thinks too highly of themselves and is overconfident.

    As a general rule, assume anything you say in a staff room is potentially going to be passed on and keep your counsel to those you can trust
    strawbs, annascience2012 and steely1 like this.
  20. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    Totally. There are some weirdos out there who seem to enjoy causing trouble.

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