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Management problems

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 started teaching in January and I like most of my classes, but I have trouble with Year 10, classroom management-wise. When I ran into difficulties I asked my head of department to have a word. They behaved for the HOD, but not for me. It's low level stuff - talking so I have to stop, and my lessons seem disjointed. They hardly do homework and when I set them detentions because of this, they don't go. A parent of one of the good pupils has written to the head expressing concern that I can't handle the class. I'm worried. I've worked my backside off and I hate not doing well.

I've never had this before. On my PGCE, I was in a school in special measures and I had 36 pupils in one class. I dealt with them so I don't understand why I can't cope here. The school I am in is an above average, fairly rural comprehensive.

A: Your Year 10 began their GCSE course in September; you started teaching them in January. Is it possible that they feel abandoned by their previous teacher and don't yet have confidence in you? They "behave" for your department head, which suggests that they respond well to the kind of personal authority that you, as a relative newcomer, are still building.

The parent's action hasn't helped. You can solve both problems. Begin by letting pupils and parents know what has to be done for the examination:l map the course - use the GCSE specification to draw up a chart showing classroom and homework activities, with dates. Include coursework deadlines

* send a copy to parents so that they know what their children should be doing, and when

* display the chart in your classroom and tick off tasks as they are completed.

Build classroom credibility:

* have high expectations of the class and express them clearly

* relate every classroom activity to GCSE assessment objectives and make them explicit

* vary your approaches and activities in each lesson - use group and pair work, and give pupils responsibility for their own learning

* set research-based homework and have pupils report back

* give praise and positive feedback where you can

* make pace the most important feature of your lessons - don't slow down to deal with nonsense; deal with interruptions after you've set the task and at the end of sessions.

Keep in touch with parents:

* send positive messages home

* let them know how their children are progressing - don't wait for parents' evenings. Refer them to your course map.

Finally, use the support you already have in school - work with your induction mentor.

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