I’ve never taught a lesson in a school, but I’ve been close to teaching, good and bad, a heck of a lot. These are 5 things I think I should remember for when I do start teaching a class (as a student teacher next year, fingers crossed)…
Establish yourself. Experiencing lessons with supply teachers has best reinforced this with me. In 5 minutes, I’ve seen supply teachers establish control over classes that some regular teachers don’t achieve for a term or more. They make the boundaries clear, and keep it simple: the kids do not hold any power. An RE teacher at my school who I admire also exemplifies this. She told them straight, in their first lesson: ‘I’m strict, but I’m fair.’ Once you’ve achieved some level of quiet and attention, then you can win them over to your side, and demonstrate that your dictatorship (which is part of a system you can’t be blamed for) is benign.
Expect the best, prepare for the worst. A good rule of thumb when working with kids is you will get the behaviour you expect. If they know you expect them to be disruptive, that’s a bad start. Likewise if you expect them to be slow. You must beware of demonising or patronising any kid. You’ve got to be prepared for things to go wrong, because any teaching strategy has some risk. The first few weeks, detentions should be fairly regular. It might not be easy to give them (especially to the young ones with the cute faces) but once they get the message that your class is one of the ones they have to be good in, you’ll face fewer battles.
Show yourself. The same teacher, who I believe is very wise, also related this to me, although I had an inkling already. You have to be honest with the kids; when they see that you’re talking from your heart and you really care, they respect that. You don’t want to be a rubber teacher, who ticks all the right boxes and gets all the right results, but who the kids don’t respect. The exams aren’t the only outcome and they aren’t the most important outcome just because they can be easily measured. Learning is much wider and more significant than that.
Innovate and vary things. If you’re never excited about how you’re going to do your lesson, enthusiasm’s going to be a lot harder to convey. If you’re using everything in your power to get the topics across in a multitude of different ways, then you’ll find the time more interesting and so will your class.
Don’t believe the myth of your own greatness. A friend of mine at my school, a great French teacher, said it best: ‘You might think you are a great teacher, but there is always one kid in the corner, who your forgetting, who doesn’t get it, who’s left behind. So you can’t ever say you’re doing enough.’