This year as part of my professional development I thought I would do something a little different. As our sports department was short on rugby referees I decided to volunteer to first train and then referee some fixtures for my school. As a Physics teacher I thought this would give me an opportunity to see and get to know my students in a different way and I was absolutely right!
Seeing the students in a different light
Firstly I should point out that being a referee is no easy task. I have gained a lot of respect for referee’s over the past few months. But what I have gained as a teacher is something that no other professional development has been able to. After successfully completing my level 2 rugby referee course it was time to ref my first match. An under 15 A team. As a new referee I was anxious about my first game. This was made worse as many of the students playing were some of the more difficult students that I taught for Physics. Manageable but difficult. This time however, I had less confidence in my ability. I was after all the beginner in this situation. But my anxiousness was completely unwarranted, the boys were highly focused and determined, a trait I had rarely seen in some of these students. The boys were also highly respectful of me as the referee. They attentively listened to all instructions given before, after and during the game. Another trait I was not sure a lot of them had!
Consistency really is a teachers most valuable tool
The thing I found most surprising was the way all of the students immediately responded to any decision I made without question. There was certainly some students in this game with short fuses however, any foul I gave was immediately accepted. In a game of rugby the players know that the referee’s decision is final. There is set rules and if these rules are broken, punishments are given out.
When I compared this to my own teaching I realised this was not what I was doing. I would give students warnings or if a student was doing low-level disruption I would not act on it as much as I perhaps should have done. In contrast to the rugby game I immediately punished players for any infringements, no warnings, no leeway, just decisive and consistent decision making. The result was a game which ran perfectly with both sides being competitive while still enjoying the game.
Bringing refereeing into the classroom
Since becoming a referee and discovering the benefits of it, I have since trained as a rugby coach and football referee. I have learnt to be much more consistent and decisive with my behaviour management. My students have got to know me in a different environment. I have got to know my students in a different environment. The final result is I have become a much better teacher. If you are looking for professional development that actually makes a different and gets you outside of the classroom more, I can’t recommend being a referee more.