Surviving outside the classroom

I loved sparklyfran‘s post on Things she wishes she’d known pre Teach First. In particular, it reminded me of how much happens outside your classroom that you’re not prepared for. So in a very similar vein, here is my list o’ tips. Take from it what you will…

  1. Make friends with repro! And IT support! And reception! Just be nice. Spend an extra couple of minutes talking about football when your photocopying’s being done rather than rushing off. It’ll pay dividends. There’s remarkable correlation between buying wine for Mr Reprographics at Christmas and getting your card sort guillotined and enveloped up for you during Ofsted.
  2. Don’t talk shop in public places. Little Johnny’s parent could be sitting right behind you on that bus.
  3. Stay on top of the little things that make you look in control even when everything’s crazy. Check you buttoned your shirt up right. Reply to emails. Wash up your mug. Try to prevent your workspace from looking like a bombsite. You don’t want to be the eyeroll-worthy Teach First buffoon.
  4. You have two ears, two eyes, and only one mouth. Spend a good long time observing before you make any negative comments about the school or individuals. Things are often more complex than they first appear.
  5. A few days a term, when you’re going through a negative patch, make a conscious decision to make that day super-positive. Wake up and just act for that one day like you’re Ronald McDonald. Fake it. Go all out. All smiles, “good morning!”s and positivity. It’s a good recalibration exercise.
  6. Teach First deign to make it unnecessarily difficult to find out exactly what you need to do for the Leadership Development Programme. Sit down in September and sign up for the necessary events to get it out of the way. Ideally do this with your TF bezzies. You will end up seeing them much less than you think and TF events are actually a good way of keeping in touch.
  7. At subject studies days, people’s anecdotes will either be fantastically positive (“My class are targeted Gs but now they’ve had to create a new A** grade for them because I’m just so outstanding”) or fantastically negative (“I get beaten up every day by students and staff alike. Even the Head had a go yesterday”). Or the absolute worst of those combined (“I teach a class of absolute scoundrels who tear round the school bullying every child they come across. But they’re fantastically well behaved for me, producing A level standard essays for the starter activity”). Just nod and smile. And try not to get sucked into doing the same.
  8. You will have days where you are a nanometre off calling in sick. Go in anyway. On my worst days, I’ve told myself “I’ll go just in and then say I’ve been sick at break”. It gets to break and I tell myself “it’s just my year 7s next, I can cope til lunch and then I’ll go home”. And then someone buys chippy chips for the department for lunch and I think “yeah, I can make it through til 3:20 now”. The satisfaction of getting through those days when you’re dead on your feet is worth it.
  9. Go to the pub with your colleagues on Fridays. I know you’re tired. But just do it. And stay for more than one. All the best bonding happens at the end of the evening.
  10. For the love of all that is holy, don’t date someone in your department.

5 thoughts on “Surviving outside the classroom

  1. Steve Colebourne (@MrColebourne)

    I think these represent good tips for all those going through ITT, not just those on TF – with the exception of point 6!

    I particularly liked point 4 – I often felt during my PGCE that many of my fellow students were far too quick to judge teachers they were watching and it constantly made me feel uncomfortable. There is so much background to everything that goes on in a classroom, making a judgement about something with so little experience is unhelpful. It is probably a better idea to talk to the person concerned about it – I’m sure most would be open to the conversation – why did you choose to respond to this in this way? Why is it school policy for this to happen? What is little Jonny’s background? etc.

    Love your blog – thanks for posting.

  2. teachingcaesura

    I really agree with your advice too, especially the part about doing things that make you look organised and on top of things, even when you’re not. Fake it ’till you make it…!

  3. Owen O'Neill

    Love this, great tips and I’m sure many teachers (especially through out their first years of a being a teacher) get that feeling of stress, surviving outside the classroom, Great read!!


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