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 Every one we publish will receive pound;50 in Mamp;S vouchers.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now