Goodwill hunting

14th October 2005 at 01:00
How trainee teachers should behave in the real world

All over the country, trainee teachers are in the middle of their first placements. Many, mindful of their lowly status, are creeping about, clutching a coffee mug they have brought from home and barely daring to sit down in the staffroom for fear of enraging a RrealS teacher.

Others, fortunately for the amusement of the rest of us, take quite a different approach. Readers of The TES website this week have been entertained by messages from the astonished observer of one 22-year-old student who:l told the head of department that she expects to be in her position in four years: RAfter all, too many heads of department are behind the times educationally speaking,S l told an advanced skills teacher that she needs some advice on lesson planning: RThat's not the proper way, we learnt that last week at college, I can show you,Sl interrupted the lesson on The Crucible of another colleague who incidentally happens to have an MA in 20th century American Drama to say she thought she had missed the point of the playl shuddered at the sight of bottom set Year 11s, who otherwise would not do their coursework, getting it done in silence in class with the teacher on hand, saying: RWell, you will never see me teaching like that. I hope I will be able to inspire them so they want to write their essays,S and l informed the school's deputy head that the whole English department was conspiring to prevent her showing them up by her amazing teaching, asking him to intervene with the head of department so she could finally have a free hand with her classes.

The result was that no one was too upset when her first two lessons degenerated into chaos and after 20 minutes with the same bottom set Year 11s she lost control completely and their teacher had to take over.

Now the department is planning for all her weekly targets to focus on behaviour management and to get her to write a scheme of work (although they have already got a perfectly good one) before they let her loose on the Year 7s. The aim is to reduce the amount of damage she can do to a minimum.

This particular trainee's extreme rudeness and arrogance are breathtaking.

But Sara Bubb, senior lecturer at the Institute of Education in London, says her attitudes are unusual, but not exceptional. RI think trainee teachers come in with wonderful ideal views and it is great that they do, but it is not uncommon for them to be shocked and disparaging about teachers they see,S she says.

RIf it seems like a child is being treated harshly or a lesson is boring, they need to take a reality check and remember that they don't know what the background is.

RStudents need to temper their idealism with respect for those who are coping in the real world and remember that it is not easy for teachers to let their classes go, particularly at this time of year when you're just licking them into shape.

RTrainees depend on the goodwill of the schools and their mentors. They are there to get help so they need to treat the schools accordingly and learn some professional humility.S It is clear from the angst revealed on the website by other students who feel they made a mistake early on and are struggling to redeem themselves that over-sensitivity can be almost as much of a handicap as having the hide of a rhinoceros.

Good advice from one trainee is to make an effort to talk to each teacher, ideally before the lesson starts or, if that is not possible, at an appropriate point, to check what his or her ground rules are.

Find out what to do if pupils are not on-task; what to do if pupils are clearly breaking school rules (for example, behaving dangerously, using their mobile phones, or breaking web rules ); where you should sit or stand in the classroom and if it is OK to move around; how much assistance you should give.

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