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Teacher Role and Function

The teacher takes a role within the "enterprise." Dorothy Heathcote observed: "Now, the teacher functions as colleague of a high stature and low status."

She offered this advice for a teacher working with a class of 7 year olds  on a Mantle about a monastery. The teacher thought the class might need a bit of control.

At one stage, the children were choosing the jobs they would do in the monastery - by picking a card with a job title on it. Dorothy observed:

So I said that when they come to pick the work they do in the monastery, don't put the Abbot card up. Keep the Abbot card for you. That means you have just enough stature to gather people, to have matters of concern to bring to them, and to be dogsbody; ‘cos they need to stop their work, the geese need feeding, the crops need bringing in, the onions have to be lifted. “I'll run about and fetch, if you tell me what you need.” So the Abbot is high stature but low status, in that sense. So there's no importance in the Abbott; it's just the power to collect, that's all. And the power to go anywhere. That's the point of the Abbot, so the teacher can be everywhere. She can sort out a little argument that's going on over there, either in or out of role, and she can go and see that a kid is ready to try a quill pen, and go and fetch it, and say, the monk in charge of the scriptorium says, “Would you care to test this goose feather to see if it sharp enough?” That kind of thing, the Abbot can do. And that of course means the language.

Classroom Rules

It’s a good idea in Mantle work, to establish and agree a set of ‘rules’ with the class, early on in the process. You can do this outside the fictional context.

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Then, at any time, if anyone behaves inappropriately, you can stop the Mantle, and remind everyone about the rules once more.


The rules of Mantle of the Expert: Teacher-talk and Colleague-talk

Working in Mantle requires a shift in the language we use in talking to children. Within the fictional context, we have to talk to them as if they are staff in a team, rather than as children. As soon as you refer to them as children, they are back to being the class, and you the teacher - the "fiction" is broken and they are no longer an "expert" team. Dorothy stated:

The second law [of Mantle] is that the class must never be students or learners in the course of the action. They must be totally addressed as colleagues. Now of course, this demands a whole linguistic shift on the part of the teacher, and particularly the positioning of oneself in relation to the “colleagues” in the class. … [This] also means I function in restricted [language] code. People who work together do not talk like teachers. In fact, nobody in the world talks like teachers, like I am now. There’s never an occasion when they have to, and how teachers got into it, I have no idea. 

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(Quotes are from the unpublished transcript of training event for teachers at Eaton Hall, 1992.)

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