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Crows and Hummingbirds: A Playground Tale

During my role as an Assistant Principal at a public primary school in Sydney, my two boys attended the same school. Upon leaving, they shared an intriguing story about the teachers, each bestowed with distinctive bird names. Among them were the “Crow,” denoted for a teacher with sleek, straight black hair, and the “Hummingbird,” assigned to a teacher with mousy brown hair consistently pulled back in a ponytail. The students, when heading out to the park, developed a clever communication system. A specific bird call served as a signal to identify which teacher was on duty. This not only informed the students of the supervising teacher but also conveyed the type of teacher and the permissible behaviours.


The Crow, characterised by the teacher with unwavering expectations, addressed every behavioural concern with consistency. From hat wearing to tree care and the nuances of touch footy, the Crow ensured a safe environment. When her distinctive crow call echoed across the playground, students knew the expectations: no tree climbing, no tackling, and sun safety with hats.


On the other hand, the Hummingbird, embodied a more laid-back approach. This teacher strolled past incidents, prioritising conversations with students over vigilant supervision. The soft tweet of the Hummingbird’s call signalled a set of behavioural expectations quite distinct from the Crow’s. Under the Hummingbird’s watch, students felt free to climb trees, engage in full-body tackles during footy, and forego hats without consequence.


Several points deserve consideration:


  1. The boys adhered to the unwritten playground code of commitment, revealing these insights only after leaving the school.
  2. Students under the Crow’s supervision returned calm, regulated, and safe, ready to learn. In contrast, those under the Hummingbird’s watch returned in a chaotic state.
  3. The act of walking past a behaviour implies acceptance and communicates to students that it is permissible.
  4. Consistency among all teachers is crucial for a firm and fair approach. Whether consistently firm and fair or consistently lax, what matters most is the uniformity of approach.


When asked whom they respected most, my boys unequivocally chose the Crow, highlighting the impact of consistent expectations and a firm, fair approach on students’ perceptions and behaviour.


Are you a crow or a hummingbird?


Check out other articles Sheila has written here.