I'm nearing the end of my first term as a primary teacher and I've loved it...

9th January 2004 at 00:00
...What can I do to let my Year 6 class know how great they've been and how much I'll miss them next year?

Ted Wragg, emeritus professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for independent advice - or offer some of your own

Ted says

You have hit a nerve. Doctors, nurses and social workers, like teachers, face a possible conflict between the emotional and the professional. All have to strike a balance between caring about their patients, clients or pupils as fellow humans who need their help, and doing their job with a degree of detachment. Get the balance wrong and you become an automaton or a ball of mush.

Your good relationships are probably the result of hard work and good fortune at having children who are a pleasure to teach. When you have been teaching a few decades you will be able to recall certain classes with fondness, and this may be one of them. It's easy to persuade yourself that you are a brilliant teacher when things go well, and a lousy one if they go badly.

Next summer, celebrate your happy year. Tell the children what a good class they've been and that they are welcome to call back and tell you about their secondary school. Have an end-of-year party, when you all recall memorable moments. You could start your own scrapbook of photos and writings from your various classes.

Whatever you do, avoid making comparisons when your new class comes. "I had a lovely class last year..." is a real downer. Indeed, some teachers start every year by telling the children they are the worst class they've ever had, and end it by saying they are the best, the obvious conclusion being how lucky they are to have had such a wonderful teacher. Complete mush.

You say

Beware excessive attachment

Your question puts me in mind of an NQT I worked with. His first class was Year 3, and he became overly attached to them. When they moved on to Year 4, he made special arrangements with their new teacher so he could take them for PE and maths. He campaigned vigorously and managed to get them back in Year 5. He then spent most of that summer term cajoling the head to let him take them up to Year 6. When he failed, his teaching went off the boil and the class he ended up with suffered. When "his" class finally left, he had a breakdown and eventually left the school. Remember you are a professional, and every class should be special.

Pamela Owen, email

Give 'em what they really want

Scrap the numeracy hour and homework. They'll love you for it.

John Kilbride, email

Hang on for a bit

You've obviously discovered the magic in your job. Forty years on, I can still remember nearly all the children in my first class. But you've done only one term so far and if you want to treat them in some way, wait until the end of the summer term. Perhaps then you could have a class party, arrange to take them on a special outing or book a visiting entertainer.

Alternatively, buy them each a book that you sign when they leave. Or perhaps a class photograph; if each child has a copy, they'll have a great deal of fun signing each other's in the week they leave.

Primary head, north London

Be happy at a job well done

An essence of a teacher's role is to prepare children for the next stage in their lives. If they leave you with greater self confidence, new skills, a love of learning and a sense that school is exciting, then you have given them all they need. They must see moving on as a natural and positive step.

When the time comes, keep it light and cheerful or you could unsettle them.

You could organise a short form assembly to celebrate your time together and mark a new start for them. It's not a good idea to tell them how much you will miss them. Be happy to have helped them on their way, let go and look forward to the next group.

Marlene Griffin, Welwyn Garden City

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