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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour.

Getting to know you

As the year starts, the teacher and the students engage in the beginnings of a long waltz- let’s hope it’s more synchronised swimming than a war dance. But there are many more participants in the greater scheme of things, and if you don’t get yourself straight with them, then you’ll be wading upstream when you should be swimming along. Here are the three main groups of people who can help turn the first few weeks of teaching into a better place:

  1. The parents. These, without a doubt, are the people to get on board if you can, by almost any means necessary. The children you teach have, almost without exception, relationships with their parents infinitely more detailed and continuous than they have with you. Their opinions and pressure is probably worth a hundred times what you have. So unless you’re a kamikaze who thinks he can sway the kids by the force of your dazzling smile alone, you’ll work to build up relationships with them at every point of contact. These points will emerge naturally- at parents’ evenings, at open days, during phone calls home. But yoy can also engineer these contact points. Why not call home some parents BEFORE you need to. Simply call home, and introduce yourself as the teacher of their child, and perhaps give a few words of compliment to their son or daughter. Then, if you DO need to call home for poor behaviour, you’ve got some emotional collateral with them.
  2. Your teaching colleagues. This is obvious of course; you don’t work alone. But I’m amazed by how many teachers seem to think that they do. They either fail to ask advice when they need it; or don’t ask for help when they REALLY need it. Too many perfectly capable teachers struggle away in silence, either too proud or too ashamed to ask others to observe them; to ask others to suggest lessons or provide teaching ideas that could work perfectly well for them. And worse still, there are some in schools (mercifully few) who think that to ask for help is a sign of weakness. Fortunately, you can treat these people like morons, because they are.
  3. The support staff. By this I mean everyone else in the building, and I do mean everyone. That includes all auxiliary, administrative, premises, cleaning staff and anything else you can think of. There isn’t a single soul in school who isn’t involved, directly or not, in the battle to win the best education we can for our children. Treat everyone you work with, with respect and manners. Get to know who they are; find out what they do in school, and don’t fall into the habit of looking down on anyone who isn’t a teacher, or treating their aims as subsidiary to yours. Remember the old adage: ‘Be nice to people on the way up…’. One day you will need a favour, one day you’ll be looking for specialised help, and you need to know where to go and whom to ask before you do.

Oh, and one final piece of advice: IT support are human too. Please don’t only speak to them when something breaks. And when that does happen, please try to remember that they didn’t actually personally break it themselves- they, like most people in school, are part of the solution, not the problem itself.

Good luck in the new academic year. It’s a wonderful job.


Read more from Tom on our behaviour forum or on his blog or Twitter

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