Ten things I always tell my students

14th November 2003 at 00:00
For any trainee, stepping out in front of a roomful of pupils and taking charge is a pulse-quickening prospect. Anthea Davey offers advice, and PGCE students and tutors offer more

Smile and the whole world smiles with you - or your students at any rate.

Having a sense of humour is just one pointer for success in the classroom from consultant Fiona Oakley, right

"There are so many things to remember as a beginning teacher that it can be confusing knowing which ones are the most important. I have 10 ideas that may help.

1. Remember that you are part of a team and your actions impact upon all the other teachers in your department. If you are going to be late or off sick, ensure you follow school protocol and phone the relevant people. When you have taken responsibility for a class you need to prepare cover-lessons as well. Treat teachers with respect and remember that everyone is horribly busy and feels overloaded in a school.

2. Organise and insist on weekly meetings with the in-school tutor and try to save queries for that time slot each week - unless it's very urgent.

3. Ask to observe other teachers as often as you can. The best way to learn is by watching experienced teachers at work and talking to them about why they made certain planning decisions, and so on.

4. Try out as many new teaching strategies as possible. Be adventurous and talk to colleagues about how they deliver key elements of the curriculum.

Develop good teaching habits - have clear learning objectives at the start of all lessons and meaningful plenaries at the end.

5. Be positive. Finish each day by thinking of three successes and one area for development. It's such a steep learning curve that the smallest things should be counted as successes. Reflection is key.

6. Think carefully about how you want to communicate your expectations to students and have high expectations of their behaviour. Make it clear from the outset what you will and will not accept, and stick to it. It's hugely important to be as consistent as possible when carrying out sanctions.

Treat students fairly and equally.

7. Ignore the daft cliche about not smiling. Having a sense of humour in school is vital and kids respond well to teachers who seem human. The secret is maintaining your professionalism and knowing what is acceptable with students and what isn't. A few minutes' chat about EastEnders at the start of a lesson is fine, 30 minutes is clearly not OK (unless, of course, it's media studies).

8. Be part of the whole school. Go to the staffroom at lunchtimes. Teachers can be a laugh and evenings after work in the pub are often therapeutic - just not every night.

9. Careful planning and preparation is everything. Use your time wisely and think ahead. Try to plan lessons at least one week ahead and be aware that everyone needs the photocopier and everyone's work is a priority.

10. Be prepared to put in some extra time to support the department. Offer to write a scheme of work to add to existing departmental schemes, or do some classroom displays, or make up some resources. Give something back and, when you leave, say thank you to the department and buy them all some chocolates. They may be delighted to have you there, but be aware that your presence in the school is creating extra work for them."

Fiona Oakley is a former mentor and head of media studies at a large comprehensive in London. She is currently a key stage 3 literacy consultant in Hillingdon with responsibility for running training courses in literacy

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