Some Ideas about Teaching






Surviving as a teacher

An older colleague when I was a young teacher used to joke that, on his first day of teaching he realised that he couldn't do it, then on the second realised that he couldn't do anything else and so was stuck with it.

Teaching is a job that, if you worked 24 hours a day, brilliantly and error-free, you would still not even begin to touch the huge depth of need amongst the children. It's also a job where, even after 30 years in the job, you still come across on a daily basis cases where you flounder not to look an idiot, never mind begin to find a solution.

That is because you are dealing with developing and changing human beings, and that is what makes the job so difficult and despair-inducing.

But it is also what makes it so rewarding and exciting - and so absolutely vital to the fulfilment of the pupils and society's needs into the future.

And aren't teachers such skilled people? No PGCE ever even begins to prepare you for the full impact of a proper teaching job. Thirty years of lifelong learning later and you're still falling regularly flat on your face. To watch a skilled and interesting teacher with a class of troubled teenagers is an amazing (and sometimes even a moving) experience.

I have elsewhere talked about the characteristics of resilience and (illusion-less) vision that teachers need to hang onto if they are to keep going.

Stick in there, never give up hope, and remember that in your first years your measures for success (and satisfaction with yourself) have to be:
1. First, survive.
2. Second, and after that, teach if you can.
3. Teaching well comes a difficult (and often distant) third in your first years as a teacher - try to hang onto it as an aspiration for the future.

It is a hierarchy which, even now, I sometimes revert to when things get difficult.

Posted on: Mar 22 2005, 08:45 AM




Surviving in the classroom

YOUR self-esteem is critical.
Teaching - especially discipline - is 90% bluff and just expecting them to behave.
It is the aura that, as the pupils walk in, there is a distinct feeling that - if anything - they need to be scared of you, not the other way round.
Even if you are nice and friendly, it is because you choose to be, and it can change alarmingly if they don't play along.

It is the actor's ability to turn the air cold.

There are a few good threads on this forum about how to keep control, which you might like to read, but they all boil down to the underlying self-confidence that exudes: 'This is MY classroom. Everything will happen here as I want it. Do as I say and you will have a good lesson'.

1. When you are preparing:
a. look at what you are asking them to do and make sure that it is varied.
b. look at what you are asking them to do and make sure they can do it.
2. Put out all the materials on the desks BEFORE the pupils arrive. Have a stock of pens, pencils, rulers, spare paper, spare worksheets so that - whatever spanner they try to put in the works - you are ready for it.
3. When you set a task, make sure they are all listening to what they have to do, and that they all understand, not only WHAT they have to do, but HOW they have to do it (in silence etc.).
4. Explain clearly and simply.
5. WHEN/IF they behave, make it fun and rewarding.

Most of all, don't greet them like a frightened rabbit caught in the headlights of an approaching car. When they walk in, take control. Hurry them up to be ready. Tell them what they are going to do today.

Don't exert discipline because you are worried about losing control. Exert discipline because it is a vital part of each section of the lesson: 'Right! I want you to ... It is very important that you [are silent/ only talk to your partner/ write neatly/ write something etc.] because ...'

Best of luck.

Posted on: Apr 17 2005, 04:51 PM





To cite this page, use:   CLARE, JOHN D. (2005/2006), 'Surviving',  at Greenfield History Site (