I am about to take a temporary contract at a small school where I will be teaching a combined class of children aged 12-14. The class is clearly going to be a challenge, as the deputy principal keeps saying things like "So, if there are any problems with this class, you have to let us know" and "We are here to support you". Meanwhile, on my induction day I overheard staff saying how sorry they felt for the teacher who currently teaches the class the most. Can you give me a few tips for how to tackle a potentially difficult class on first acquaintance, and how to be positive and enthusiastic but fairly strict at the same time?
What you said
When you meet your class, go through the school rules with them and add any of your own. Get the children to put them in their exercise books and send a copy home for parents to sign and return to you. Ask the school first if this is OK. Be pleasant but firm. Have set routines for entering the classroom, leaving the room, starters and so forth. When the children answer the register, give them a choice: "Yes, Miss (your name)" or "Yes, Miss". What you are teaching them is manners. You want to get them to the stage where they know you are proud of them and you can trust them in anyone's care. Insist that they say please and thank you, that kind of thing. You are in a good position because the school sounds supportive and you have some prior warning, so you can go in prepared.
The expert view
Set out your expectations as early as possible. Spend the entire first lesson doing so: class rules, sanction tariffs, rewards and so on. Do a seating plan to reinforce this. If anyone steps out of line at all, keep them for detention the very first day. And if you can, make some phone calls home to comment on positive or negative behaviour. That is the simple way. It is also the best way to tackle a new class. Start tough and show them you care enough to stand up to their less civil instincts. Sometimes even the trickiest classes can surprise you.
Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru. Read more from Tom on his TES Connect blog (bit.lytombennett) or follow him on Twitter at @tesBehaviour. Watch his behaviour videos at www.tesconnect.combehaviourvideos
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