Teacher's Survival Guide 2

25th February 2005 at 00:00
Teacher's Survival Guide 2. By Angela Thody, Barbara Gray and Derek Bowden. Continuum pound;12.99

Do other professions use the jungle metaphor quite so freely? Are there survival guides to accountancy or bricklaying? Surviving teaching is sometimes presented as a goal in itself, with little reference to inspiring young people, developing your own talents, and enjoying the day-to-day unpredictability of one of the most challenging and rewarding professions.

This guide, by two academics and a primary headteacher, is designed for teachers in the early phases of their career, and aims to cover the essential areas of anxiety. It begins with first impressions and takes the view that "from the moment you enter your school's site each morning, you're teaching". Being a teacher means playing the part, and the book kicks off with a reminder about the basics, first of which is the visual impression we make. I would have liked a bit more about this. Students tell me that they make a judgment about whether a teacher is any good within the first 20 seconds. The first tell-tale sign, they say, is the way the teacher opens the door. How we dress, how we stand, how we make eye contact: all these establish expectations before we say a word.

There are plenty of good practical hints here, such as quickly learning students' names (though it doesn't mention making a seating plan, which for me is an essential first step). The book hits its stride in the second section, which is all about dealing with pupils. In Barbara Gray's chapter on "creating a positive learning environment" there is material on establishing rights and responsibilities, plus reminders about consistency and giving heaps of praise.

There's an unexpected and welcome chapter on voice management, which I've always felt is a neglected area in teacher training. This section, by Graham Welch, gets off to a slightly unnerving start with examples of voice dysfunction: how school staff can damage their voices through misuse. For me, what follows seems a little over-technical. For all the diagrams and breathing instructions, I'm not sure I'd learn everything I need to know without coaching. Nevertheless, the fact that this topic is included is an important reminder to look after one of our essential teaching tools.

Much of this guide is helpful and relevant, with guidance on how to settle into a new school, manage your career and deal with stress (one of the best sections).

The only advice I strongly disagree with appears in the time management section, urging those too busy to cook to "use microwaves and ready meals".

Absolutely not. No job is worth giving up proper food for. Poor culinary guidance aside, this is a valuable and reassuring read for someone embarking on a career in teaching.

Geoff Barton is headteacher at King Edward VI school, a 14-18 training school in Suffolk

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