Feelings are hurt

28th October 2005 at 01:00
However well prepared you are, there are bound to be problems in the first year of your teaching career. Whatever it is that's keeping you awake at night or sobbing on the school secretary's shoulder, our experts can lend a hand

Q: My Year 9 form group has not liked me from the moment I walked through the door in September and I have not given any them any reason for this, as far as I know. One pupil told me that I was unpopular and asked why I didn't go away. I don't know what to do. I feel like I'm failing before I've started.

How can I win them over?

A: Look at the situation from the pupils' point of view. They may feel that they have lost a form teacher with whom they had a positive and friendly relationship. You're an unknown quantity, and they've known you only a matter of weeks. The apparently unpleasant comment is the result of the pupil's graceless attempt to convey his or her sense of insecurity about the change. Don't take it personally.

As a teacher, you're a role-player. Staying in role helps you manage the difficult balance between personal and professional responses to situations like this.

Do what your role as form teacher requires, efficiently and consistently, and with warmth, expressed as praise for pupils' achievements. If they see that they can count on you, and that you are looking for the good in them, they will begin to trust you.

Find ways to make them feel they have a part to play in running the tutor group, and that they have a stake in the way the room looks and feels.

Encourage them to become involved in school democracy. Set aside a noticeboard for their use. Give them responsibilities, no matter how small.

Stop worrying about whether they like you. If you are consistent and reliable you will at least have earned their respect.

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