Don't do what i did - 'I huffed, puffed and nearly blew myself down'

3rd April 2009 at 01:00

Over the years, and there have been more of them than I would care to mention, I have come across a variety of techniques used by teachers to gain the attention of a noisy class.

There have been those blessed with either the lung power or the air of command who have been able to silence a rowdy cohort with a mere raising of the voice.

Others, with less robust vocal chords, have favoured a more visual method, whereby a raised arm or a pair of tweaked earlobes have signalled the need for quiet.

I have never seen any teacher use a whistle in the classroom. Yet that was my method of control when I was in my probationary year. I had shouted myself hoarse during the first term and was too self-conscious to indulge in any flamboyant mime, so I was desperate to get my lively pupils to stop talking and listen to me.

A whistle seemed to work for referees and shepherds and it seemed a reasonable idea to import those tried and tested methods into the classroom. Well, it was certainly loud and quite effective to begin with, the shrill sound reverberating off the walls of our temporary hut.

What I had not realised, in my naivety, was that children quickly adapt and that novelty wears off. Noise levels in the room soon rose to compensate for the increased volume of my interventions.

I don't blame myself for trying the whistle, but I do think I should have abandoned it earlier. Stubbornly, I persisted until the effort of blowing loud enough left me red-faced and breathless.

I did eventually learn that there are better ways of gaining children's attention but, with all that practice, I can now at least make myself heard out on the games field.

Paul Warnes is an adult literacy tutor in Maidstone, Kent. Email your NQT stories to

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