No shrinking violets, please

13th January 2006 at 00:00
Advice for teachers in their early career

Getting through the first term is exhausting. The good news is that this term will be easier and you can make good progress because things are calmer and pupils are more ready to work.

But you've got to help make it happen by making the most of induction - and standing up for yourself. This isn't always easy but knowing the basic rules about induction* and teachers' pay and conditions** is. Keep the key documents to hand and use them as back-up.

I hear so many tales of new teachers being exploited, like TheChocolateFairy, a poster on The TESstaffroom website, who has to work without a break. Her defence is in the teachers' conditions of service, which says that no teacher has to undertake midday supervision, and "shall be allowed a break of reasonable length either between school sessions or between the hours of 12 noon and 2pm".

A careful read may stop you making erroneous complaints. For instance, some newly qualified teachers think that they're exempt from cover.

Unfortunately not: your duties include "supervising and so far as practicable teaching any pupils whose teacher is not available to teach them". However, note paragraph 76.4: "a teacher shall not be required to carry out any other duties, including the provision of cover, during planning, preparation and assessment time".

Other NQTs are in appallingly challenging situations. A boy from another class disrupted her cover lesson: "On the way out he threw a heavy text book at another pupil, pulled a huge pipe off the wall, threw a calculator at me and then ran at me and held a stapler to my face." No one dealt with it at the time, nor afterwards: "People don't feel it's a major incident as it wasn't a knife." Such an incident must be followed up with senior management, unions and the police if necessary. It's your duty to become the best teacher you can be and the law and induction are there to help.

Your end of term report should have given you a clear picture of your strengths and priorities for development, but if you're not getting your reduced timetable, make a fuss. Stand up for yourself.

***www.teache nditions_Document_2005

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