Everything new teachers must avoid..

1st March 2013 at 00:00
You have to learn, but don't do it the hard way. Keep your hair on with Chloe Combi's advice

It's that dark time of year when PGCE students are in the midst of their second teaching placement - the one where they are expected to actually teach. Graduate Teacher Programme and Teach First students will already have cried at least twice, caught some sort of whiteboard strain of a virus, and the thought of unemployment or working as an unpaid intern on The Jeremy Kyle Show will have drifted into mind at least once.

You will be the recipient of more advice than you can ever get your head around - some good, some not so. But here is a list of things you should definitely avoid. They are lessons that were all learned the hard way.

- Do not ever become the type of teacher who spins a chair around before straddling it to face the class (rolled-up sleeves optional). You will not look "down with the kids". If you are a woman, it will bring to the children's minds the latest episode of One Born Every Minute, which they love. If you are a man, they will assume you have an erection, which you are hiding.

- Never discuss One Born Every Minute with boys from Years 8 and 9 unless you are prepared to go all the way with the gruesome details. They are very confused by this programme.

- Never, ever use the children's lingo until or unless you really know your stuff, and probably not even then. Describing Kim Kardashian as "buff" or David Cameron as "butters" will not make you sound hip. It will make you sound like a nit - or "deep", as they would have it.

- Men, if you are thinning on top and are going into teaching, do the decent thing: shave it all off. A comb-over is catastrophic. A toupee, career suicide. I once had a teacher who wore one. Our sole mission each lesson was to get him so agitated it would slip, making it look like he had a terrified rodent clinging to his bald head.

- A glass of wine the night before is fine. Heavy drinking is a no-no. A friend of mine went to work with such a bad hangover that when, by unfortunate coincidence, a child was sick in her lesson, she puked in sympathy on another pupil and spent the day in the medical room.

- Keep your private life private but admit to having a life. If you deny all existence of friends, a social life, a partner, then pupils will assume you either spend your nights trawling dating websites or - worse - enjoying your piles of marking, which they are absolutely convinced is the teacher's greatest joy in life.

- Never, ever comment on a child's weight or appearance, unless it's to say something completely banal, such as: "Those are nice, school-regulation shoes." You will either bring down the wrath of the class (and possibly parents) for being insensitive, or be accused of being a pervert. Of course, if there is something seemingly really problematic about their weight or appearance, report it.

- Never ask a child whom you don't 100 per cent trust what the time is.

- If you are a budding poet or songwriter, even if your mumpartnerpub landlord tells you that you are the next Sylvia Plath or Ed Sheeran, never try out your skills on your pupils. The rowdy ones will throw things at you and the sensitive ones will fancy you. Both can lead to trouble.

- Don't cry. I mean, you will cry many, many times in your career and the likelihood is that you will at some point cry in front of your class. I have. Most of my colleagues have, or come close. Half-decent children will be very nice about this. But you must - must - keep this to an absolute minimum or the children will assume you are either going mental, going through a divorce, having an affair with another teacher or pregnant. And even - especially - if you are, they don't need to know about it.

And, of course, the big DO: teach, laugh, inspire, go on cool trips, make teacher-pupil friendships with your charges, enjoy your colleagues, keep learning and savour the wonderful - and well-earned - holidays.

If you do end up doing any of the don'ts, don't be too hard on yourself. You do learn in time and don't make a great teacher without one or two mistakes along the way.

Chloe Combi teaches at a comprehensive in London.

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