I’ve noticed that what I have written in the past about new teachers emphasises the worst case scenario about how bad training and support in schools is:
- FAQs for NQTs
- Is This Normal?
- How to Destroy NQTs
- Lies, Damned Lies and Things You are Told During Teacher Training
However, in this post I will give as many quick tips as possible for those getting started.
1) Don’t undermine yourself. Don’t negotiate rules. Don’t let kids tell you what is allowed. You set your rules. If necessary put them on the wall or make students write them in books.
2) Make a seating plan. Put it on the board so as to get kids into it. Alphabetical order may help as it means you can check they are in the right place as you take the register. Have several copies (one on your desk; one in a file; one in the box with their books) so you can’t lose it in the lesson. Keep kids in their seats. Refer to the plan so you know who you are speaking to, and they know you know who they are.
3) Have a paper register so you can write down behaviour incidents. You do not want anybody to be punished for something that you won’t be able to recall later. Write down serious incidents as soon as possible, particularly the exact wording of any rudeness or swearing.
4) Try to follow the behaviour policy. In some schools the policy is a joke and staff are deterred from using it. However, as a new teacher you are less likely to be told off for using it. Nevertheless, do focus on the two big issues: disobedience and interruptions.
5) Avoid turning your back on the class.
6) After giving an instruction (particularly if it was an instruction to start the work) check compliance; never assume that students will obey a teacher that has left them to get on with it.
1) Make explanations quick and clear.
2) Don’t let anybody talk over you.
3) Develop your questioning skills over time; don’t get carried away with unnecessary questions where you don’t care about the answers. Questioning is for assessment; it doesn’t make teaching more interesting and can slow it down.
4) The most likely problem with understanding something new is that kids are without necessary prior knowledge. Never assume they’ll know something just because they should.
5) Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself if you think somebody isn’t listening.
6) Remember you are passing on information or giving an explanation. it’s not a show. In fact, it’s not even about you.
1) Don’t do activities that rely on the good will or compliance of the class until you know you can count on them. It is better if the first lesson is boring than if it is destroyed by bad behaviour.
2) Avoid activities that require long explanations. Teacher talk should be rationed for telling kids what they need to know and explaining content, not listing the thirty-seven rules of an educational card game you have invented.
3) If you are teaching an academic subject don’t be afraid of written work and using the textbook. Teachers may use these less and less over time (particularly the latter) but your first priority must be to make your planning and your classroom manageable. If you are spending longer planning than teaching you will destroy yourself.
4) If you have never taught something before, see if you can get a resource from somebody who has. And make sure it is somebody who makes kids work.
5) If kids work on paper or a worksheet their name must go on it. Check every child in the room has their name on their work.
1) Make sure you always know where to find the following:
- tissues (enough to mop up a spilled drink);
- spare pencils (already sharpened);
- paper (enough for a class);
- spare board pen;
- emergency set of worksheets (probably a wordsearch);
- any resource you are using in the lesson (and a spare in case something is lost or destroyed).
2) Make sure you know what you’ll say if:
- students (particularly more than one at a time) ask to go to the loo;
- you are asked a personal question;
- a student “drops” their pen on the floor;
- a student argues with a simple instruction;
- a student yells “I’m stuck” but refuses to cooperate with any attempt to help them.
3) Get plenty of rest. If you can’t sleep, don’t worry about it but stay in bed and keep your eyes shut. Don’t get up and work. Don’t be afraid of taking a “sanity break” rather than working through break, lunchtime and immediately at the end of the school day.
4) If your plan to stay healthy is to go to the gym or have a run after work several days a week, give up now. Eating sensibly (i.e. not as much as you ate when you were exercising regularly) and exercising at the weekends is more likely to work.
5) Make sure that you aren’t expecting teaching and the friendship of children to give your life meaning. The kids aren’t there to solve your existential crisis. They are there to learn.
If you are an experienced teacher, please add further tips in the comments.