Talking shop

21st July 2000 at 01:00
Former headteacher Sue Mulvany gets to the heart of issues that concern you


I have a Bachelor of Arts in Sculpture and would like to study for the Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and eventually teach primary children. I know I will have to improve my maths qualification because of the entry requirements, but I'm frightened I won't be able to do it. When I was a play worker I loved being with children and, although I have wanted to teach since I was a child, I have doubts as to whether I would be very good at it, especially as performance has to be reviewed and appraised. What makes a good teacher? Am I right to be worried about these things or are these foolish fears?


It sounds as if you are suffering from the bout of self-doubt that usually accompanies significant points in life where decisions about the next step have to be made. Don't worry too much, you already have the most important prerequisite for being a good teacher - a love of children. You will have to gain your maths qualification, but that in itself won't be the deciding factor as to whether you will be a good teacher. Remember, there are many effective teachers who don't have the maths qualification required of new entrants to the profession nowadays.

When you do your PGCE you will learn about the characteristics of good teaching; about planning objectives; assessment and target setting, and about organising resources and the environment. I hope you will also learn about connecting on a personal level with your pupils; how to look into their eyes; how to show that you care about their behaviour and learning styles, and about themselves for their own sake.

You will join colleagues with degrees in a variety of subjects - be proud of yours. There are many types of intelligence and many ways of learning. The profession needs creative, kinaesthetic and academic thinkers who can identify and overcome the barriers to learning that plague some children. Good luck with your career, enjoy it.


Everyone in our school knows that two members of staff cannot stand each other. We have survived for a couple of years in a kind of uneasy peace, although tensios can rise in staff meetings. Last week, however, all hell broke loose just as the last few pupils were leaving. The two teachers argued violently, screaming abuse at each other. It could be heard in the playground and was disturbing to witness. As it happened, the head was out of school on training and the deputy did not see the incident. Should I tell them and what will happen if I do?


Of course the head should know and the best way to go about it is for the deputy head to tell him on behalf of the staff. I don't think you need to worry too much about telling him the event actually took place. The jungle telegraph probably got to him before the last insult was hurled.

There are disciplinary procedures that the head must use in such cases and he is probably already doing so. There is also a message that the two protagonists need to hear loud and clear from their colleagues: that such behaviour is unacceptable and highly unprofessional. It brings teaching into disrepute and has a detrimental effect on the rest of the team.

When the dust has settled you might also suggest that "anger management" features on the staff training programme.


My best friend, who works in a neighbouring school, has confided in me that she is having an affair with a member of staff in my school. They are both married with young families. I feel awful. Every time I see her lover I don't know where to look. I seemto be spending hours thinking about it and I become flustered when he enters the staff room. It is so bad that a colleague actually joked about me having a crush on the man! What shall I do?


Let them get on with it. You are not responsible for them or their actions. You might want to let your friend know how uncomfortable it is making you feel so she can tell her lover and he can acknowledge their relationship with you. This should let off a bit of steam as far as you are concerned, but as for the rest of the situation, who knows? It will either fizzle out without too many casualties or go up in flames when one of the respective families gets to know. Then feathers and fur will fly and hearts will lie bleeding. Ah life!

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