Never take it personally

30th March 2001 at 01:00
After two terms in the profession, four newly qualified teachers at Cantell Secondary School in Southampton reflect on their first year. Emma Denham, Christine Ash, Sophie Lambert and Philip Marshall-Cox had all long wanted to teach, but there have been times during the year when each wondered about the decision.

The sources of gloom were pupil attitudes and behaviour added to the excessive workload. Despite the challenges, Emma says, "when I encounter a setback, I tell myself that I didn't go through four years of training to be beaten by this."

All of them pinpoint the need to be organised from the word go. "Teaching practice doesn't really prepare you for the welter of administrative paperwork as soon as you start in the job," Emma says. "You have to hit the ground running and make sure you don't get behind. Get hold of shemes of work and find out everything you can about the school before you actually start."

You must not expect always to be told what to do. "Other people may sometimes be too busy with their own work to notice that you're struggling, or they may assume that somebody else has briefed you. It's important to be proactive and never be embarrassed about asking for information and advice."

Talking to others in the same boat helps you to feel less alone. The Cantell foursome highlight the value of maintaining links with former university colleagues working in the same subject area. And you soon get to know which established staff you can talk to about problems.

Their final tips: "Forget about a social life for the first term, get to know the kids' names as quickly as possible, and never, never take it personally."

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