by Joy Faulkner December 8, 2014 A

Mike Stuchbery a teacher working in Great Yarmouth wrote a blog post wanting to ban the word banter from his classroom because he felt his students sometimes used it as an excuse for bullying. His post got picked up by the mainstream media and came under quite a lot of criticism, leading him to feel pushed out of his job.

As I read Mike’s blog post I could see what he was saying. Only in the last few week our team has been talking about a shift in how the word banter is used by young people. Calling your friend ‘fat’ every time you speak to or about her, or making homophobic comments about the boy who loses at fifa isn’t the same as,

‘the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks’

At Urban Hope we’re all about banter! As a tool to help with the building and maintaining relationships with young people a little banter goes a long way. I think our role as youth workers is to help them navigate the boundaries that come with relationships, naming bullying when we see it and making it clear that it’s different from teasing your friends.

Most sessions deliberately don’t have lists of rules on the wall; all we ask is that people respect the building and other people. This means that young people have to figure out the boundaries through their relationships. Throughout life, many other contexts have different written and unwritten rules and we think it is important to prepare young people for that, by modelling that at Urban Hope.

In the classroom context, I think that it’s appropriate for a teacher to decide where their boundary is, and if that means no banter then that is fine. There are other spaces and places where banter is acceptable, and I’m not entirely sure if it is an issue that one teacher wants to ban the use of the word so that he can get on with teaching history.