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Teaching hints

Gerald Haigh on how to deal with visitors

Every school has visitors - governors, local authority officers, inspectors and prospective parents. (Formal observation by inspectors is a different matter.) Even a friendly visit often puts pressure on a teacher.

* Every visitor should report to the office first.

* You should never have a visitor in your room without notice, however short - the only exception might be where the visitor is a well- known friend of the school. If it becomes a problem, make your feelings known to the head.

* If the head (or senior management team member) says he or she is bringing a visitor, ask what the agenda is. Is it a brief look-in, on a tour of the school? Will the visitor be looking at children's work? Will he or she want to talk to you privately?

* If the visitor is to talk to you, in the room, ask who will keep an eye on the class.

* Speak seriously and professionally. Don't be flippant, cynical or inappropriately jocular.

* On rare occasions you ay have an entirely unwanted visitor - an angry parent, a former pupil seeking his girlfriend, a zealous governor who does not understand the protocol. Stand your ground and say: "I cannot see you now, will you please see the head?" * Most difficult of all is the visitor of uncertain status who comes in, tersely announces herself in terms that assume she has the right to be there, and starts working with or talking to a child. Is she an educational psychologist? A parent who doesn't know the form? A governor? A speech therapist? An escaped convict? Take her to one side, ask her to leave if necessary.

* If an unwanted visitor refuses to go, send a child with a written message to the head or deputy. Make it sound urgent: "Please come to my room NOW." Do you know which child would handle this well? Think about it.

* Never leave your room with a visitor in it, even to seek help.

* If unwanted visitors are a problem, seek an urgent, whole-school solution.

Next week: marking the register

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