How to... include visitors

No rest for me - I've got visitors in the classroom. Any tips on what works?

The key thing is to involve them. Use them as a resource; get them to work for you and with the pupils.

But these are VIPs.

All the more reason for them to be useful. They might find out just how hard it is being a teacher. Be clear about what they want to see and what you are prepared to show. Prepare a welcome. Give directions and times, make sure school reception knows about them and get pupils to collect and direct them to your room. Can you offer refreshments?

Orange squash or tea and biscuits? We're hard up.

Authentic refreshment, good. Are you putting on a special display or going about your usual day? Are they assessing or observing? Who's trying to impress whom? Do they expect a photo opportunity with ruddy-cheeked cherubs? Or are you going for promotion? Ask them to bring in something about their job to show and tell.

Do they expect to talk to you while you're teaching, and is there time? You decide and make the ground rules. Consider pupils asking prepared questions. It's a useful classroom exercise in any case. Make sure they know what behaviour is expected. Keep an eye on rogues who might turn awkward.

Awkward? In my class? Imagine.

I am... "Good morning Mrs Artichoke. Welcome to our classroom."

"Thank you for having us, Miss Wright."

"It's a pleasure, isn't it children? Michael - it is a pleasure."

"Michael and Britney kindly served us tea on arrival. Do you have a cloth to mop it from my skirt? And I think Britney has recovered now. Michael is a lively boy isn't he? Such a character."

"Do go among the children and share their excitement of learning. Mike - here now."

You sound pretty tough on visitors.

Children come first. No need to be hostile, but children shouldn't be fashion accessories or political stage props. Show your best side, but don't let visitors take over. Avoid publicity stunts such as eating hamburgers for the local news.

Duncan Grey is author of The First Aid Kit for Teachers and 100+ Essential Lists for Teachers (Continuum)

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