Ask a teacher

I'm going to start my secondary PGCE next year and am worried that my personality will not be strong enough to cut it in the classroom. Can teaching force a mild-mannered person out of their shell, or are they destined to be eaten alive in the classroom?

Emma, Sutton Coldfield

A. A mild-mannered person can be effective in the classroom. If you can build up strong relationships with your class by finding time to talk to them in and out of lessons you won't be eaten alive.

You will need clear classroom rules supported by a system of effective rewards and sanctions. Try to be positive at all times, and look for and reward positive behaviour.

John, Cumbria

A. I suspect "shrinking violet" is not among the psychometric profiles of successful teachers.

You have to be assertive, but this doesn't mean that you need to be macho.

Remember you are playing a role, so act convincingly, switching into your teacher persona as you arrive at school.

Chris, Sutton

A. Teaching will release your inner strengths. You need to offer the children a quality product, delivered in a sincere and professional manner.

Shelagh, Folkestone

A. I was shy when I started teaching. College tutors and mentors can help with techniques to build your confidence and, over time, you will develop your own.

I found moving schools helpful because I could start afresh every two or three years, taking my new-found confidence with me.

People now describe me as "feisty" and kids tuck their shirts in when they see me coming down the corridor.

Claire, Lancashire

A. Children seem genetically programmed to sniff out and exploit weakness - and no teacher wants to play the Piggy character in Lord of the Flies. You have to find a way of projecting strength. It's not about the size of your biceps, but the depth of your character and commitment.

Keith, Brighton

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