Order wins the day

8th January 1999 at 00:00
Lesson organisation can make up for what you lack in classroom charisma, writes Gerald Haigh

You sometimes hear it said that good teachers are born, not made. Indeed, there's so much emphasis on the importance of personality in teaching that you may have disturbed nights wondering how you can improve the way you present yourself in the classroom. Should you just be yourself, or emulate charismatic and successful teachers you admire?

There's nothing at all wrong with that sort of self-questioning - it's important for teachers at every level of seniority and experience to think about how they are perceived by their pupils, and how they can make adjustments to voice, manner, body language, facial expression, dress. (Classroom observation by a critical friend is helpful here).

Another way of improving classroom performance is to look at basic organisation. It's difficult to change your personality, but being well organised can make up for a lot of other faults. Here are some pointers.

Mentally rehearse the layout of each day - the order of lessons, the whereabouts of rooms, the routes around the school. You don't want to arrive late to a lesson to find the deputy head telling off your class for being noisy.

Even if you don't do written preparation for every lesson, think through every lesson, have a checklist of what you need for each one, so you don't arrive short of equipment or books or notes. If your lesson is built round a worksheet, it's no good if the copies are in your locker in the staffroom.

Drill into your mind which groups will require homework, and prepare yourself to set it. Don't just shout in out as the group is on the way out of the room.

Prepare for difficult groups by having everything ready for them - you are in the room, there's work on the board or on the desks, you are giving instructions before their bottoms hit the seats.

When you set work, think about the marking load you are giving yourself. You don't want to be up until 3am marking reams of trivial work you casually set because you were underprepared.

Have your own stock of stationery - pencils, pens, rulers, exercise books, paper - for children who run out. They are supposed to have their own, but it does cut out arguments if you can provide or lend missing items, especially if difficult pupils have deliberately arrived without them.

Keep an eye on the time, so that each lesson comes to a planned end, with time for collecting work, setting any homework, tidying up and a quiet, well handled dismissal. Coming to a controlled stop is more important than covering everything you had planned.

Remember, if you're Captain Charisma, then give thanks. But if you're not, then don't waste too much time trying. Aim to be highly organised instead.

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