How to flourish in that first teaching job

27th October 2000 at 01:00

Iam always dubious of "handbooks". They remind me of those obnoxious "life's little handbooks", which give you such pearls of wisdom as: "Always smile on a Thursday." But this "handbook" from Kevan Bleach, a senior teacher and university lecturer in education, proved me wrong.

Bleach has produced a thorough guide for the new and developing teacher. Stylistically, the book is easy to follow. As with most learning aids, it is there to be dipped into rather than read from cover to cover.

What feels different and user-friendly is the way Bleach seems to have set out to produce a textbook rather than just a guide to teaching. Each chapter is broken into sections defined by an activity to be completed. These vary from recording Paxman on Newsnight - to develop your communication skills - to discussing how to deal with a pupil you think is pregnant.

As with a good textbook, these activities make you think about both what you have read and the way you function in the classroom. Many of the activities involve suggested questions to be discussed with your induction tutor. Without doubt, the success of my own NQT year was down to my nduction tutor and the ideas and the questions she posed of me. Bleach's guided activities generate the kind of ideas and strategies that are needed to gain the most from your tutorial time.

I found several of the chapters in this section of the book somewhat surprising. There was one chapter dedicated to raising the standards in under-achieving boys. This is, in my belief, an issue not touched on enough in PGCE courses, and I am glad Bleach gave it such prominence.

The second part of the book sets out plans for the practical aspects of the NQT year. Bleach offers guidance in getting the most out of lesson observations and planning your own career development.

The NQT is given a thorough insight into exactly what is expected of them to achieve the QTS standards. But I would have liked some discussion on how to fit into the school environment. For many NQTs, it is their first experience of full-time employment, and the fear of joining a staffroom can be just as great as the fear of troublesome Year 9s.

I am still loathe to recommend any "handbook" - so Mr Bleach, change the title and this becomes an excellent guide to flourishing as an NQT.

Nick Lind teaches at Ashton Park School in Bristol

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