I have a split personality

7th January 2005 at 00:00
My problem is Year 7. I'm fine with the older pupils, but the "babies" are giving me hell. I teach my form, and that's part of the problem. They see me for registration, which is more informal. I think they confuse my two separate roles - form tutor and subject teacher. They are enthusiastic in lessons, but we can't have discussions without them shouting and causing chaos. When they do individual work, they seem incapable of working quietly and soon start chatting or calling out - it's usually about work but it's an unacceptable level of noise.

I'm embarrassed if a senior colleague comes into my class and sees this chaos. I have kept persistent offenders behind, written names on the board, rewarded silence with merits and so on. Addressing them sternly has some effect, but wears off after five minutes. I am loath to keep nagging them as I know that this will also lose its effect before long. Any advice?

A: This is a common problem and your own analysis is sound. My guess is that you are a kindly form tutor, but that in your subject teaching you are more demanding and your pupils don't see the difference in these roles, or recognise that you have two sets of expectations.

Approach the problem on two fronts. As a form tutor, continue to be supportive and friendly, but be very rigorous about all things procedural.

Be tough about pupils' homework planners, uniform, reply slips for letters home and anything else in which you insist that your pupils follow whole-school practice.

Follow through with pupils' shortcomings - every time. And don't allow any leeway. That way, you will send out a clear message that you are a teacher, just like any other, and that it is your job to see that pupils live up to the school's expectations as well as yours.

In lessons, back off from the whole-class discussions for a little while.

Your pupils are energetic, so channel their energy. Make the most of the competition between various groups within the class. Try building up to whole-class discussions gradually by starting with pair work, pairs reporting to pairs and groups of four pupils reporting to the whole class.

Make sure your lessons have plenty of pace and variety, and keep pupils busy so that they don't have time for socialising.

Adopt a similar approach in lessons to the one you use in tutorial time. Be just as tough about the same issues, and especially about homework.

Whatever the situation, you are the teacher.

We're happy to answer your problems about any aspect of your NQT year.

Unfortunately, our experts cannot enter into personal correspondence with readers but will treat all your enquiries in the strictest confidence.

Please email any questions you have to: nqtextra@tes.co.uk

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