Don't do what I did - I prepared for a fight but was cut down to size

17th July 2009 at 01:00

Attack, they say, is the best form of defence. But it proved to be my biggest mistake when I started teaching.

I'm slightly built and decided that I would not be intimidated by any pupils in my first job. I knew some might try it on, but I was determined to impose myself on them from the start. So when I walked into my first lesson, I was pumped up and ready to take on anyone. As is usually the case, there are no shortage of takers when someone enters a classroom with such body language.

A bunch of lads were lounging around at the back and I told them to take their seats. They did so, but with exaggerated slowness, and I thought: "Right lads, I'm going to mark your cards." I thought I would target the biggest. During the class I watched him like a hawk, daring him to step out of line. I caught him in mid-conversation with his neighbour and I steamed in. I launched a tirade of rather too personal abuse at him, and he burst into tears.

This was not what I was expecting. I sent him to welfare, whereupon his neighbour told me, publicly and coolly, that the lad's mum was in hospital "getting chemotherapy". I started the class at 5ft 6in but quickly lost the 5ft. I felt terrible, and rightly so. I later checked out the pupil's situation; it was true.

I'd lost the class for good. No matter what else I did that year, the pupils were never going to play ball with me, and I can't blame them. I lost some credibility in the staffroom too. The head of pastoral care and year group leader had quiet words with me.

In discussion with the former, I said I was taking no prisoners. He gave me invaluable advice: school is not a war zone and even if it were, "taking no prisoners" is a war crime. I've never made that mistake again.

This column will return in September. Email your NQT experiences to features@tes.co.uk. Every one we publish will receive pound;50 in Mamp;S vouchers.

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