First encounters

13th April 2001 at 01:00
Roy Hollis treats his pupils like pigs - and gains their trust

I walk through my head of department's classroom, which is next to mine. He is teaching Year 10, lower set, and they are quiet. Very quiet. I feel mixed emotions because I know they would never be that subdued and attentive for me, which makes me feel a failure. "No, no," he tells me. "You have to remember that you've just started. You're at the bottom of the learning curve. Give it time."

I'm 46, in the second term of my induction year, teaching design and technology at a school where behaviour is often challenging. Time (along with equipment) is in short supply. But support is bountiful. I have been helped every step of the way by professional colleagues. Advice has flowed, albeit sometimes obliquely.

"Treat them like pigs," said Jim, when I mentioned that I was struggling to gain the trust of some teaching groups.

Let me explain. Apparently, Winston Churchill had a pet pig. When asked the reason for this unusual choice, he replied to the effect that while dogs lookd up to their owners, and cats looked down on them, "pigs is equals". So, within the bounds of the studentteacher relationship, I have treated them like pigs. Sorry, equals. And it works (well, sometimes).

So, do I regret my first year of teaching? Am I about to join the ranks of the 25 per cent of NQTs who leave in the first three years? No, and no. I have learned the hard way, the only way, how to handle these sort of children: working to gain their trust.

No amount of training could have prepared me for my first few weeks at a new and challenging school. I thought that, with 11 years as a technician in schools, I knew what to expect. Never again will I shake my head and tut-tut with a superior air when I see a teacher having difficulties controlling a class.

I still feel envious when Jim entertains his classes with effortless ease, gets them laughing while they're learning. But after two terms, I'm getting there. I know I am.

Roy Hollis teaches at Harry Cheshire community high school, Kidderminster, Worcestershire


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