Classroom Story

Jasmine Rhamiepost by JASMINE RHAMIE
University of Roehampton

William dropped exhausted on his bed. He hadn’t realised how hard it would be to train as a primary teacher. After relaxing for an hour he carefully reviewed his teaching and marked children’s work. They had done very well and it was rewarding to note how well they had understood and progressed in maths. He thought about how he would move them on to the next concept and amended his planning in light of his marking and reflections.

He recalled the first day he arrived at the school feeling a little anxious about how he might be received but excited at the prospect of teaching and inspiring children.  The receptionist didn’t really give him eye contact and thought he was a parent. She had prevented him from entering the school and sitting in the waiting area insisting he waited in the doorway until the deputy head was available. He saw the thinly veiled surprise on the face of the deputy as he introduced himself as William Jones, the new student teacher. Although they had spoken on the phone he knew his voice would generate a particular image in her mind that would be shattered when they met.

He had received excellent feedback from his university tutor on his teaching but his class teacher seemed less impressed. When he asked for feedback on his teaching she had little to say ‘…it was alright’ was the most he could get out of her. Despite asking for comments on his questioning which he knew needed work he could almost see the ‘fear in her eyes’. She really was scared of him!

But the children were great! Except one boy who said his mother told him he couldn’t be training to be a teacher but was just a helper. He gave him a hard time. He was relieved that he was a mature student and had worked in industry before changing careers. He was confident and felt secure in who he was and his capabilities well at least he did at the start of the placement. But it was difficult being viewed with suspicion as he entered the staff room and being ignored when he said a cheery good morning. He found that he had to really muster the emotional strength to keep a smile on his face and remain positive despite the isolation that he felt.

Sometimes he would go into the men’s toilets just to compose himself and remind himself that it wouldn’t be for long.  The placement was in its final weeks and he would soon be finished. He had already secured a job in a school where he felt accepted and safe. But here… he remembered the beautiful, colourful game he created to help children with their fractions.  The maths coordinator told him it was inappropriate and would only confuse the children, yet just a week later wanted to borrow it to use it with her low ability group when she was being observed.  It was so difficult especially as the other student received so much more feedback and help from the class teacher. It was as though she went out of her way to support her.  But William he was the stereotypical threat, the mugger, drug dealer, the gang member, the rapist, the one whom all White women should fear. Is this what it would always be like for him? When will he be seen as just a person, a man, a teacher? Why does being Black set alarm bells off in the minds of people he meets?