“Eyes on who?” “Is that the best you can do?”: Busting My Pavlovian Moves in the Primary Classroom

“Eyes on who?” Oh, God help me, is this the best I can do?!

This opening line is the bread and butter of primary classroom management, especially in the US. I have used it in Years 3, 4, 6 and even, ironically, in Year 11. The Year 11’s looked at me in an instant and let out an involuntary “Eyes on you!” They were watching their own mouths, startled, as the words floated from them like newly-awakened, previously dormant spirits.

As a social constructivist (I love dropping that in from time to time – don’t know what it means), I strongly dislike anything that smacks of Pavlov. These call-and-response techniques are one such example. If only I could make them more post-ironic (don’t know what that means either). Then at least I wouldn’t feel so guilty about their effectiveness.

I thought, then, that I would try to concoct a bunch of “alternative” call-and-responses. If only to give myself a laugh.

So, here is a list of possible call-and-responses for me to trial in class, and see what sticks…

The techie one:

Call: “Eyes on who?”

Response: “iPhones on mute.”

The cinematic reference one:

Call: “Are you talkin’ to me?”

Response: “I don’t see anyone else here.”

The melodramatic, soft-rock one:

Call: “Turn around, bright eyes.”

Response: “Every now and then I fall apart.”

The obscure 80’s UK Saturday-morning children’s TV phone-in one:

Call: “Matt Bianco?”

Response: “W£nkers!”

Now, I know what you’re thinking: none of these is any good as a replacement for “Eyes on who?” However, I have had a little chuckle, feel human again, and can stomach going back to using the old chestnut for another term or so.

The next time you’re looking to get the attention of your class and are jaded with the tried and tested call-and-response, just bite your lip, think of Matt Bianco, and say it anyway. There really is no alternative when it comes to the Pavlovian stuff: there’s either ringing little bells, “Eyes on who?” or the postmodern flotsam of Matt Bianco.

I’m saving the latter for my spectacular nervous breakdown. In the meantime, it’s back to the anodyne rhyme that is locked into the autonomic system of many a child and near-adult in our classrooms.

“Eyes on who?”

“Shame on you.”

PS: For the uninitiated, click here for Youtube footage of Matt Bianco’s infamous phone-in.


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