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Dear Tom, first impressions!

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by lmspaven, Dec 17, 2010.

  1. lmspaven

    lmspaven New commenter

    Im starting a new job after christmas teaching year 7 and 8. They had one teacher before that, i was told that she was a bit laxed with behaviour and i dont want them thinking they can do that with me! Can anyone give me any tips on how to make a good, first impression and let them know who's boss?!
    Thanks in advance
  2. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Relax; while the children may have become used to treating the previous teacher as a punch-bag, you can break that unholy tradition in a heart beat. But you're going to have to be ready to do it. I suggest the following strategies:
    1. Be there before them. Sounds obvious, but you need to be in the room before they are for maximum space-owning. 'This is my cave,' it says to them. 'You are guests in it. Don't expect biscuits.'
    2. Make sure you're as lesson-planned as possible. The last thing you want to convey to them is 'I'm a bit scatty, aren't I loveable?' Instead, convey the notion that you are a ruthless engine of efficiency. They're expecting an adult to walk through the door, so be the adult they expect.
    3. Stand at the door as they enter, and eyeball every single one that comes in. If they try anything racier than 'Good Morning,' ignore it and direct them to the back of the room until everyone is in. If they have to walk around you a little as they enter, so much the better. Stand firm.
    4. Have a seating plan. Some teachers prefer to do without this elemental tool of class control; I presume they have mind control powers. Everyone else should get a plan together. I'm a fan of boy/ girl, as an obvious instrument to break up friendship groups, which are usually still based on gender at that age. Whatever pattern you use, insist upon it.
    5. Tell them to get their planners/ diaries out, take a register, and note who is present, and make sure that names correlate to bodies. They will gasp in awe at your stringency at this point. Possibly.
    6. Get someone else to issue equipment. Have instructions ready for them on the board.
    7. Go through your behaviour expectations with them. Normally these should be pretty close to the standard school classroom rules, which aren't exactly nuclear physics. But if you want to make them a bit tougher , then feel free to do so. Don't make them less strict, or you'll be known instantly as the 'soft' teacher, and they will treat you like a whack-a-mole in the future. Personally, I'm an enormous fan of spending the entire first lesson on 'my rules of the classroom'; but I can manage to keep a reasonable lecture going for long, long periods, so find your own way on this. But certainly, make it a substantial focus of your first encounter. Make them see that you think it's important.
    8. Don't 'negotiate' the rules with them, for exactly the same reason that the police don't negotiate with muggers ('Do you mind if I arrest you? You do? Sorry to bother you...'). The class rules are your rules, which makes the class your class. Sure, if you like, get them involved in talking about why these rules are important, but seriously, who cares what they think about detentions? That's why we're teachers and they're students. The classroom isn't a democracy; it's an oligarchy. And you're it.
    9. You've heard the adage about not smiling before Christmas? It's true. It might go against the grain, but they need to see you as tough teacher first; when they behave routinely for you, you can crack a small smile now and again, but they don't need warmth- they need routine, discipline and order. That's absolutely primary to a good classroom experience.
    Kids massively prefer tough teachers who are fair and work them pretty hard. They respect teachers who can keep order, despite the fact that sometimes, it is they themselves who are the Lords of Disorder. People are funny like that :)
    Anyway, I wish you all the best for your new job, and I'm sure you'll be fantastic at it.
    Good luck
  3. "while the children may have become used to treating the previous teacher as a punch-bag, you can break that unholy tradition in a heart beat."
    I'm sure Tom meant that as hyperbole, it may not necessarily be quite that quick! Otherwise, in my opinion, you should follow all his advice at face value. If you do, in my experience, you'll be generally fine; but you may have a small number of kids (often only one per class) who decides they definitely preferred the classroom atmosphere with the previous teacher, and who is really determined to cause trouble, pretty much whatever you do. Therefore, as well as doing all the above, make sure you know what you'll do with that hypothetical hard nut. There should be a school policy - sending him/her to the HoD/ to SLT/ displacing him/her to another class ... just make sure you know what it is and are ready to use it if a kid makes clear that you need to! That way you'll keep the number of incorrigibles down to the irreducible minimum (hopefully, in the long-term, to zero).
  4. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    I favour changing the look of the room as well as having a seating plan. They can't argue about a different place being 'theirs' if you have re-arranged all the tables and chairs.
    If the room allows, I favour a central aisle and two side aisles. I then have rows of tables for 4 pupils in a sort of arrowpoint (pointing to the centre back). That way all the pupils are facing the front and their main viewpoint is the centre of the front wall of the classroom, where most whiteboards are located. I can easily get to any pupil and no pupil can reach wall displays, windows or blinds from their seat!
    A new layout also signals that this is now your room.

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