Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. You’ve caught me writing some tips for ITT students, from the perspective of an NQT.
You’ll need to get used to this phrase: “It’s going to be a tough year, but you’ll make it through to the end”. Overall, this statement is true. Though, if you believe that the next year is going to be a breeze, you should really reconsider your attitude. A minority of trainees oozed confidence from their pores from the onset, but the same trainees didn’t see out the year. It was equally as difficult as the year I completed an education degree whilst working full time as a Learning Support Assistant. It is tantamount to working a full-time job, while completing a full-time degree. So, in a nutshell, it is terribly difficult, but you will get through it, and you’ll love it!
Our tutors said that the one constant throughout cohorts is a nervousness about behaviour management. I’m sorry to say this, but you can read 417 books about how to effectively manage behaviour in the classroom and it will only provide you with the tools required to succeed. Behaviour management is akin to cooking. You wouldn’t read a recipe book cover-to-cover and expect to remember every ingredient required for every dish, nor would you expect your culinary skills to go from Wimpy chef, to Master chef. Learning to be a good cook is a long process – you begin by choosing a recipe to follow, then you practice cooking the dish and something goes wrong. The next time you cook, you choose the same dish, learn from your previous mistake and create a plate of food that is edible. Following on from this, you cook the same dish; this time, everything runs smoothly, and you feel confident that you can replicate the results.
Behaviour management is much the same. Pick a focus. For the sake of this article, I’ll pick an area that many of my friends were worried about: How do you ensure that students remain on task? Read a chapter which specifically addresses pupil motivation. Implement what you learn from your reading in the classroom. If something doesn’t go right, don’t immediately give up – be resilient and give it another go. You’ll find that perhaps your tone of voice wasn’t quite right, so you try a more authoritative tone. This time, the technique you implemented worked.
The key is, choose something specific. It isn’t helpful when you say you’re worried about ‘behaviour management’. That’s a far too general description. Think carefully about what exactly you’re concerned about, then talk to you mentor, tutor or a colleague. There is a solution to almost every behaviour problem. Just ask!
If you ever get the gut feeling that you’re being asked to complete a task that seems too difficult for a trainee teacher, always ask the opinion of a trustworthy person. Your mentor, personal tutor, the ITT coordinator within the school or even another colleague. But don’t just trust the judgement of one person.
Disappointingly, I’ve heard a few horror stories about teachers who take liberties with trainee teacher. For example, an ITT student told me that one of the host teachers (the usual teacher of the class) asked them to mark exercise books that hadn’t been touched by a red/green/purple/turquoise/polka dot pen in six months. Not a fair request.
Always ask for advice. Usually, you gut instinct is correct.
One of the incredulous, outright ridiculous myths you’ll read is that you must have a stony poker face throughout your first three weeks, otherwise you won’t get any respect from kids. Absolute tosh. Of course, you must maintain your decorum and stick to the school’s behaviour policy, no matter how draconian you believe it to be. But you can have high expectations of pupil behaviour and student output without having to be a fire breathing dragon.
If you’re usually a calm, calculated individual with a quick wit, use this to your advantage. Emphasise the positive qualities of your personality, because the best teachers are often just being a ‘professional’ version of themselves.
I could write 4000+ words of advice about your ITT year, but that would make for a very tedious read. As usual, if you wish to discuss any issues this article raised, you can contact me on social media using the links on the right (or below depending on the device you’re reading this blog post on), or you can just pop a comment in the box below.
Cheers for reading.