Tales from new teachers

In turmoil over tutor time

Tes Editorial

The problem

It seems odd that being a form tutor - something that is such a huge part of most new teachers' lives - is often barely covered on teacher training courses. But even if it were, the complexities of this role cannot be taught. They need to be experienced first-hand.

I was swamped by the sheer volume of work that being a tutor entailed and found it very difficult to balance the role with teaching my subject. In addition, our tutor time is at the end of the school day and, while the behaviour of pupils is generally impeccable, these standards can start to slip as the clock ticks its way to 3pm.

So, I had a challenge on my hands: working out how to organise the vast and varied number of tasks that make up this role, while ensuring that I was encouraging good behaviour in tutor time.

The options

My mentor suggested that I dedicate one of my free periods to form admin. This, she said, would stop my constant anxiety about what was coming up next in the school calendar. I also asked for her support during tutor time, especially on Friday afternoons.

As well as this, I consulted a fellow history teacher in the classroom next door. I had always admired the way that her form lined up outside her room, and the behaviour that I could see and hear when the door was left open was flawless. She suggested creating a "form tracker" for my noticeboard that would highlight students who were behaving well and those who were not meeting expectations.

I have a very organised head of year and once I told her that I sometimes felt overwhelmed, she promised to help as much as she could.

The result

I scheduled a form admin period, which greatly reduced my anxiety. And my head of year did as she had promised, creating a form tutor booklet that sets out which tasks need completing on which days.

I also created a form tracker, although it did not have an immediate positive effect on behaviour.

My mentor agreed to observe and support in my Friday afternoon tutor times. This had a calming effect on the class and their behaviour improved greatly. We have decided to continue this collaborative approach for a few more weeks, to show the class that they are capable of excellent behaviour even on a Friday.

I now feel much more positive about my role as a form tutor. I'm not perfect, but I am certainly on the way to getting my head around the hardest but most rewarding part of my job.

Laura Horton teaches history at Ruislip High School in London

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