Low-level disturbances

However well prepared you are, there are bound to be problems in the first year of your teaching career. Whatever it is that's keeping you awake at night or sobbing on the school secretary's shoulder, our experts can lend a hand

Q: I am in an average secondary school but feel I'm useless at class management. It's low-level stuff, like talking and being silly, which is causing me problems with some classes. Some lessons are brilliant, but others go badly because it takes me a while to shut the pupils up. Where can I go for help? Should I have this sussed by now?

A: Ask your mentor to observe a lesson with one of your problem groups.

They'll probably behave perfectly, but a good observer who's been asked to focus on the sources of the low-level disruption should be able to suggest strategies.

You are, I hope, working within the framework offered by your whole-school behaviour management policy. Draw on the good practice of other classrooms by making it clear that your expectations are the same as anywhere in the school.

Mark your territory. Make it clear to pupils that they are in your classroom. Meet them at the door, greet them, and send them to their places with a task.

Plan your lessons to include plenty of pace and variety - keep them interested.

Don't nag. Tell your pupils what you want, and explain the consequences if you don't get what you've asked for. When unacceptable behaviour seems likely, give a quiet warning. If that doesn't work, explain the consequence that follows. Follow through - if you've said that something will happen, then it must happen.

Be prepared to put time and effort into getting this right. Most classes will have got the message within a week.

* We're happy to answer your problems about any aspect of your NQT year. Unfortunately, our experts cannot enter into personal correspondence with readers but will treat all your enquiries in the strictest confidence.

Please email any questions you have to: nqtextra@tes.co.uk

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