More than tricks of the trade

10th January 2003 at 00:00
Michael Duffy finds titles that offer practical help and food for thought

THE NEWLY QUALIFIED TEACHER'S HANDBOOK. By Elizabeth Holmes. Kogan Page pound;14.99

THE GUERRILLA GUIDE TO TEACHING. By Sue Cowley. Continuum pound;14.99.


It seems forbidding at first: the obstacle course of applications, interviews and rejections that trainee teachers have to negotiate in the search for their first appointment. And it's much the same when you actually land that job. Here you are, in an unfamiliar school in an unfamiliar place, confronted with a host of unfamiliar challenges and expectations. Where does one start? Help!

But don't worry. Help is at hand - not just from your induction tutor (as a newly qualified teacher, that is your statutory entitlement) but also from the various guides and handbooks that are written specifically with your needs in mind.

The latest edition of Elizabeth Holmes's handbook is exactly what it says it is: a bit long-winded at times but helpful in content, reassuring in tone and eminently practical in application. How sensible, for example, to have a section on staffroom politics and etiquette - always a potential pitfall - or how to cope with your first assembly, or on not being tempted to opt out of the teachers' pension scheme. How wise to address behaviour management not as an abstract skill but always in its teaching and learning context. Low-level disruption - here described as "the persistent interruptions of chatterers and comedians" - is a concern: there is excellent advice here on how to deal with it and avoid it.

Or you could get hold of Sue Cowley's guidebook. This isn't as subversive as the title suggests, but it is down-to-earth and straight-talking - not surprising from an author whose earlier works have included Getting the Buggers to Behave - and it really does cover the things that are going to concern you. One of its strengths is that it uses the voices of real teachers and captures not only the excitement of teaching but also its frustrations.

It starts with training, job-hunting and interviews and has an excellent section - again, real voices - on who does what in schools ("It really is worth while getting to know the caretaker"). It covers that all-important induction year: lesson planning, schemes of work, assessment, reports, self-evaluation, and it goes beyond the classroom: pastoral work, pay and promotion, Ofsted, unions and the General Teaching Council and the nitty-gritty of administration, right down to "Clear your pigeonhole regularly". There should be a copy in every staffroom.

An excellent section called The Teacher's Toolkit includes model CVs and applications, a sample markbook layout, sample teaching plans and a Ten Tips for ... chapter to help you deal with stress, colleagues, parents and anything else you haven't already encountered. There's also a really useful How do I...? section on ICT. In short, it's invaluable: keep it under lock and key, or your colleagues will pinch it.

Unless of course they have read Mike Cole's edited collection: an important reminder that teaching is about more than competences, skills and knowing the tricks of the trade. It is about personal and professional values, too: the qualities that are reflected in the professional code of the GTC. As a young teacher, you need to think about those values, not just because they preface that daunting list of standards that NQTs must meet, but because they will shape your teaching and your pupils' learning.

Promoting "positive values" and "equal opportunities" and "having respect for all your pupils" sounds easy, but in fact it's not. Except in schools - and sometimes not even there - these values are not widely practised.

But the teachers whom you best remember - and those whom you will come to most admire - are always the ones who reflect these qualities in action. They also tend to be the ones who enjoy the job most.

If you want to know their secret, Cole and his contributors offer some answers because they make you think about the nature of learning and your professional commitment to it.

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