Learn names and Smile!

It occurs to me that a lot of what has become reasonably automatic for me in the last two years (PGCE and NQT years) might not be everyone’s experience. So here are a few tips for new teachers based on my own experience.

  1. Save everything, preferably digitally. I use OneNote as my school has an Office365 account, and everything I find useful goes in there. I take notes at meetings, save ideas on the fly, capture stuff from Twitter and other online sources. You never know when it will come in handy. Good digital notebooks include Evernote and Google Keep too.
  2. Learn names. This was hard for me but nothing kills your confidence than getting students’ names wrong, or not knowing them. I had one class last year with two Niamhs and a Neve, which doesn’t help. But once I knew the names – and better still, knew something about them – I was much more in control and confident. Take a class photo if you can, or print one off from SIMS if possible, and revise at home. Do some activities early in the year such as “
  3. alliteration” (the kids have to come up with an alliterative nickname eg. Dancing Dean, Singing Sophie etc.) and learn those names!
  4. Smile. This might be hard if you’re under pressure. But kids will relacasperx and enjoy your lessons if you look like you’re enjoying them. So in return you get better behaviour. It’s tricky but rewarding. Don’t feel you have to compromise on behaviour, just smile while being firm! Be warm but strict… more here.
  5. Capture the kids. By this I mean save data on them, we’re not talking the Choky from Matilda. I use Excel, like almost everyone else. I download the marksheet from SIMS at the start of the year, format nicely and then add columns. These are the columns I add:
    • Quality of book notes (2 cols: grade A/B/C and notes) twice every half term
    • Formative assessment grade twice every half term
    • Summative assessment once every half term
    • Teaching and Learning notes: support needed etc.
    • “About me”: what they like, aspire to etc. (from first lesson captured by Edmodo)
  6. Remember why you’re doing this. Read “Teach Like a Pirate” and write down your passions, and keep them close. Put your favourite inspirational quotes up on the wall and share them with your students. You’ll forget, once in a while. Why not feign exasperation and ask the kids “why do I do this?” and see who replies “because we’re the future, Sir, you’re training us to clean up your mess, innit!” – guaranteed to bring that smile back.

Yes, that is my dog, Casper, in the picture. Be like Casper. With less tongue, perhaps.


By mraharrisoncs

Freelance consultant, teacher and author, professional development lead for the NCCE, CAS Master Teacher, Computer Science lecturer.

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