Don't panic! here's the guide

31st August 2001 at 01:00
Nervous? Sweaty palms?Never fear, your fellow teachers will help you through the first day, reports Helen Ward.

TEACHING is full of experts - professors, politicians and pundits. But when you're facing a class for the first time as a newly-qualified teacher, you don't want theory, you want a survival guide.

And the best examples of how to stake a claim on the cupboards, learn to use the photocopier and befriend colleagues, while inspiring and educating a class, probably come from another NQT. The tips, ranging from saying sorry to pupils to joining staffroom social outings, have been collected from NQTs by the National Union of Teachers.

"To be honest, I did find the first week really difficult," admitted Saragh Perry. "I had so many names to remember - teachers and children." The Banbury primary school teacher said she was bombarded with information. "And I had no idea how I was going to remember everything."

Clare Hanly, a geography and religious studies teacher at Chellaston School, Derby, had a similar attack of dread the night before she started. "I thought, 'This was a bad idea'," she recalls. "I didn't have the answers, couldn't support them, couldn't even remember why I'd 'always wanted to be a teacher' and on top of this, they were gonna hate me."

But Saragh said that after just five weeks: "I now really understand what people mean when they say that teaching is rewarding. Seeing the sense of achievement that children feel when they overcome a particular obstacle is fantastic."

Clare adds: "I love my job. I do feel like a teacher now."

John Bangs, assistant general secretary of the NUT, said: "We asked teachers for tips to help other teachers in their first year. The message comes over that people love their jobs and they learn very quickly.

"The other important lesson is that teachers really are the best teachers of other teachers. People come in with enormous enthusiasm and lots of ideas, some of them valuable even to the most hard-bitten, long-serving teacher."

Bob Frost, a secondary school maths teacher, near Dover, said: "When it went well (and it does go well more and more often) and the weakest kid suddenly understood, and the nutters all stayed in their seats, and for a few magic moments every last one of them was on-task and listening on your next word with a mixture of wonder and enchantment, and there was nothing in the world apart from you and them and the subject you were sharing - all of a sudden it was worthwhile."

Some tips from the now "old hands" at teaching include:

* You can't know everything, so don't be afraid to ask.

* Take time to build relationships with children.

* If something extra is plonked on you and you're struggling, say you can't manage it.

* Remain professional at all times, especially with parents.

* Relax and enjoy it.


Jill Poole started her first job in teaching last September at Leicester's Ellesmere College - a school for pupils with moderate learning difficulties.

The 39-year-old, who trained initially as a secretary, went into teaching because she wanted to work with children. But she also loves English and wanted to show its importance. "Even if you don't like Shakespeare, everyone has to fill in an application form for a job and if I can help a kid have a better chance of getting a job, that's what it's about.

"Never lose sight of how varied each day is and how creative and independent you can be - and think about what a difference you do make to so many students, every day."

Her tips for newly-qualified teachers include:

* Follow your instincts as to where you feel you would be happy to work.

* Don't try to curry favour with pupils, or mould yourself into a role model. It's a responsible job, but not a "calling".

* Say sorry to students when it's due - it's catching.

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