Ready, steady, teach - Warm welcome

7th November 2008 at 00:00

I was lucky to be appointed relatively quickly during my PGCE year to a small secondary school in a rural area of Lancashire. The school had only 170 pupils on roll and is in an affluent area. Whenever I said where I would be teaching in my NQT year, the responses I received were at two extremes: "Oh, that area's lovely, you'll really enjoy it" or "It's horrendous, the children will eat you alive."

We all know the age old advice given to NQTs - don't smile before Christmas. I was keen to try this philosophy, particularly when I met a few of our more challenging pupils. Yet I arrived in the carpark on the first day to be told that I had a cool car and was much younger than the last history teacher - I couldn't help but smile.

I went to the staffroom, where all staff, without exception, were welcoming, helpful and friendly. On the bell, I went to my room. My form seemed excited to have a new tutor. During the course of the day, I only taught Year 7 pupils who were so adorable I wanted to take them home.

As the term progressed it had its highs and lows. I can appreciate the saying that you only ever feel as good as your last lesson, but I'm told this is something you learn to cope with. I was smiling on the first day, throughout the first week and all the way through my first term.

My Year 7s are still as lovely, a girl in my form told me she's glad I am her form tutor, and my GCSE pupils are truly working their cotton socks off.

So, would it make a difference if I didn't smile until the end of term? Probably. Although I have to remind myself, and the pupils, that I am not here to be liked but to do a job, it helps to have positive relationships with them.

It is difficult to be friendly in a professional way, especially with those who have recently come from primary school. However, I have found that by being consistent in approach, fair in discipline and always ready to start afresh, I have positive relationships with my pupils, regardless of year group, homework record or smiles per lesson.

Victoria Burns teaches history at Hornby High School near Lancaster.

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