It's about being the best you can

14th November 2003 at 00:00
For any trainee, stepping out in front of a roomful of pupils and taking charge is a pulse-quickening prospect. Anthea Davey offers advice, and PGCE students and tutors offer more

Paperwork, participation and perfection - Paul Woods, left, shares his three 'p' points for good practice

"I tell BTs (beginning teachers) it's phenomenally important that they sort out their personal organisation - so much is wrapped up in this area. They are bombarded with information from their institutions and schools and need to be clear on deadlines from the start. It's very important to keep on top of administration work, which will help reduce stress, especially when there are college assignments due in, too.

In terms of school life, BTs should be confident about going into the staffroom and getting stuck in. Try and participate actively in the school and make an impact. For example, you can get involved in clubs, perhaps via your department, either in or after school. If you were in the languages department you could set up a lunchtime French club, for instance. It's a really good opportunity to get to know the kids.

Make sure you're clear on school policy and don't be afraid to ask direct questions. You need to find out about the school ethos, for example, how formal it is so you know the dress code. You don't want to be walking down the corridor in jeans in a formal school.

We have strict rules about using mobile phones at this school, so you shouldn't be seen on your phone in the corridor while lots of teachers around you are shouting at pupils about theirs. Also be careful not to make presumptions - it's better to ask questions than get it wrong.

If there's a problem with the mentoring, the first point of contact is with the school-based induction tutor, who can help ensure you get regular, productive meetings. That's if you don't want to talk to them yourself, although this would be better as it's a more assertive approach.

Apart from that, I generally just let BTs get on with it. Once a week we have meetings as part of the professional-studies programme, which cover wider school issues, but the department will deal with daily concerns.

The best piece of advice I could give new teachers would be a cliche, but it's important, which is that a good teacher always strives for perfection.

Not every individual lesson will be perfect, but we should reflect and learn and move forward. You should always be trying to improve."

Paul Woods is assistant head at Parliament Hill girls' school in Camden, north London. He is continuing professional development co-ordinator and one of his roles is school-based induction tutor

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