Practise Teaching, Teaching Practice: Queues

“Practise Teaching, Teaching Practice” is a series of tips and observations about fundamentals for great teaching based on my experience as a teacher for over twenty years and also as a trainer of teachers for much of that time.

There is a mathematical theory based on queuing, this is not it.

It is, however, something teachers should be taught but never are: how to make a great queue! Whether it is fair or not a teacher’s reputation with pupils and some fellow teachers can be enhanced or diminished by how they manage a queue. Hopefully it is something that in many schools is passed down from older experienced teachers to wet behind the ears enthusiasts who see queue upon queue disintegrate before their eyes. Face it, once a queue is lost it is quite a challenge to get it back again!

A teacher usually comes across the art of the queue if they are asked to ensure that their pupils line up before entering a classroom, this is a simpler task than the challenge of a queue for dinner, school nurse, bus stop, fire drill, or going into exams. All, however, if done correctly can be simple to manage especially if you observe the first rule: get there before the kids! If you don’t then you will need to go into ‘operation quick queue’; I will go into this later.

Children, whether they arrive in dribs and drabs or remarkably quickly, understand the cues for queuing and the knowledge that they will know that they are expected to queue will help you. If they are finding it difficult to queue it is because they are testing your nerve and you need to win. The first few children are the most important, once you have got them in to a queue the rest will tend to follow. Insist on single file and also straight lines where possible! Children should not lean against the wall or each other. The teacher should place herself near or at the front of the queue and be willing to move along the queue. Do not place your self in a doorway or wall side of a queue, always be on the side that affords you a view of the whole queue. Do not let anyone push in or let anyone ‘let someone in’. If anyone does push in they go to the back of the queue and if anyone ‘lets someone in’ they go to the back of the queue too. It is not a good idea to shout unless you have to, ‘raising your voice’ (projecting) is okay and hand gestures are very useful to use. Pointing, gesturing ‘get out go to the back’, and an outstretched arm signifying straighten the queue, can work wonders.

Try to jolly along the queue as much as possible, smiling and chatting whilst keeping an eagle eye on what is going on. Try to ensure children are not kept in the queue too long, although this can sometimes be unavoidable, if it does happen show some sympathy but don’t let the rules slip. If it looks like the queueing will go on ‘too long’ ask them to sit if possible.

‘Operation Quick Queue’: On some occasions a teacher has to fashion a queue from mayhem, this is what to do. Stand where the front of the queue should be, project/shout “Queue Here! Quickly!” and gesture with your arm in a way to signify where the queue is to be formed. Loudly insist on: “Single File!” and point children out who have not yet queued up. Be aware that some might take the opportunity to ‘bundle’ into a quick queue so you might want to instruct these children to get into the queue quickly and carefully. In all these instances it is better if you know children’s names but this is not always possible, especially if you’re a supply teacher.

A great queue will always take its cue from you.

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