No more first-day nerves

9th May 2003 at 01:00
HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR FIRST YEAR IN TEACHING. By Sue Cowley. Continuum pound;12.99

You've worked long and hard to become a teacher: you've almost reached your goal. You polish up your CV, scan the Appointments Vacant, fill in the endless forms. Three or four interviews later, you hear the magic words.

Congratulations! The job is yours! And then, as September approaches, you begin to wonder. How ready are you, really, to stand in front of a class and teach? Did your training teach you all you need to know?

But you needn't worry. Everybody feels like that at first: even hardened veterans. Besides, schools have good systems now for supporting NQTs. And there are lots of guides to help you.

How to Survive your First Year in Teaching is among the very best. It's a tried, tested and updated edition of Starting Teaching, and like all Sue Cowley's books it's practical, down to earth and often funny. It's also reassuring.

Teaching is something you learn by doing, but it helps to have an expert close beside you. Sue Cowley knows schools and teaching inside out, and from her first page ("Go easy on the planning!") to her last ("What not to say in your leaving speech") you sense she is speaking from experience. She knows the anxieties and problems and pitfalls as well as she knows about pupils. She knows, too, that even for skilled practitioners teaching is sometimes exhausting and frustrating.

Of course, teaching can also be wonderfully rewarding. There's a very special buzz about a lesson that goes well, and there are lots of tips here about how to get it. She is also good on behaviour management, the secret anxiety of every starting teacher. "The first lesson", "Setting the boundaries", "Ten tried-and tested tips", "Learning names" - the section headings give a flavour of her approach. I particularly liked what she has to say about silence - a crucial weapon in the teacher's armoury. "Wait for them!" she counsels. "Don't open your mouth till you have complete silence." Easier said than done, but spot on all the same.

She offers further guidance, like perfecting the "Deadly Stare", which says: "I am in charge, and if you do not stop talking and wait for my instructions you are likely to suffer in the most horrible way. So let's get on with the lesson!"' It is a no-nonsense approach, realistic and effective, characterised equally in the model first lesson she outlines and in her tips on writing reports - tips that many experienced teachers, I suspect, could profitably follow. It's there also in her guidance on preparing for lesson observation, mentoring and LEA or Ofsted inspection, and in her advice on dealing with difficult students.

Or you could check out the section on the staffroom, where "getting to know the right people". So who are "the right people"? To answer that, you need to read the chapter describing some different types of teacher. Old school tie? Earth mother? Chaos theory? Ultra-efficient? Which will you be? Buy this book and you'll be able to answer confidently, "None of the above".

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