Smart tactics fog survival;Book review

29th October 1999 at 01:00
STARTING TEACHING - How to Succeed and Survive. Sue Cowley. Cassell. pound;9.99

Your stomach feels like lead, you are convinced you are going to be sick and your mouth is as dry as the Sahara." So writes Sue Cowley about the first day of term.

This was also a pretty good description of how I felt on finding yet another book promising to guide new teachers through the maze of education. Would it have anything new to say and, more importantly, would new teachers be able to understand it?

A quick flick through looked promising enough: no mystifying graphs or tables, no dreary theory, and no page after page account of personal classroom experience.

Starting from the initial training day in your new job, the book suggests practical tactics for surviving the first term of a new school year, managing your administrative work and charting your own career development.

Starting Teaching immediately wins the reader's confidence by acknowledging the fact that teaching can be "terrifying" and provides a much welcome glossary of abbreviated terminology which can often baffle a newcomer to the profession.

Cowley also openly admits that teachers should have a break from intensive, teacher-led lessons with a section on "Lessons for the Tired Teacher".

There are useful tips on regulating your marking and assessing pupils, and a particularly helpful section on preparing reports, which includes lists of useful phrases for report writing, a time-saving device which is fast becoming popular within school departments.

The book balances important information with amusing observations, including a light-hearted look at the different types of teacher personalities within a school. Only an English teacher could think of segregating a staffroom into stereotypes that include the "old school tie" teacher, the "chaos theory" teacher and "the joker".

Also provided is "A Model Lesson" which, written in play-script format, is accessible and engaging and rather reminiscent of classroom observations during teacher training.

An easily digestible book is an absolute necessity for any new teacher who has more than enough on his literary plate with the national curriculum. There is, of course, nothing like the experience of the classroom itself to train and discipline teachers, but everybody needs a little bit of initial guidance.

Teacher training, especially the one-year PGCE course, is just too short a time in which to learn and experience everything, and this is where a good, practical guide really comes into its own.

Cowley had a variety of jobs before becoming a teacher. Originally from London, she now teaches English and drama at St Dominic's International School in Portugal. She writes with the authority of an experienced teacher but without loading down the reader with endless examples of anecdotes from her own classroom.

This is the sort of book which could fast become a favourite with student teachers and NQTs, both as an initial introduction to the profession and as a useful reference book.

Victoria Forsyth Victoria Forsyth qualified last year and has spent this year as a

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