23 January 2015

...Meeting A 'New' Class

Looking back over the time I spent working in primary schools one of my strengths was my ability to establish most classes quickly and efficiently.  When called upon to cover lessons or to step into a colleague's shoes I tended to manage it with minimum disruption.  So this post is simply aimed at gaining an understanding of how I might have achieved it, to serve as guidance for teachers in a similar situation - teachers needing to rapidly form positive, productive relationships with a 'new' class of pupils.

First off, to clarify: I'm not referring to the establishment phase of the school year (see ...Don't Smile Till Christmas), when teachers across the country form initial, lasting relationships with their classes... although similar principles do apply.  Instead this is an exploration of the more transient, shorter-term bonds which might need to support a morning's teaching, an afternoon covering a class, or other temporary arrangement such as a teacher training placement.

If you're unknown to the pupils then a priority is likely to be making a good impression.  So I'll begin by addressing four common worries I know from experience that trainee teachers carry with them into new classes. And then, I'll aim to replace the negative thoughts with some positive principles, to get you off to a good start.

Common worry #1: You want the pupils to like you.
Well, yes. But why? Do you need to like something to learn from it?  No... but it might help. 

Common worry #2: The pupils won't respect you.
What do you mean by 'respect'?  It's more likely that you are worried that you won't experience the politeness and obedience which comes once respect has been earned.

Common worry #3: Pupils won't see you as their teacher.
It's true that they'll know another teacher better than you.  But what does that mean?  Simply that their expectations are (usually) established.  Not that they're the only person that can teach the class.

Common worry #4: Pupils in the class might be naughty or difficult.
Or, they might be the best you've taught... Avoid labels and labeling. Challenge your - and other people's - expectations.

These worries are common, but you can work to overcome them.  First off, be nice to your pupils. If you are fair and show respect for them you'll earn their respect. If you quickly get them busy, on meaningful, fun tasks you're less likely to experience problems with behaviour.  But if you do, trust in school behaviour management policies... and remember that behaviour can change.


These are some of the principles - in no particularly heierarchical order - which would underpin my approach to entering a new class, being nice, respectful, and trying to teach less-familiar classes of pupils:

Behave Professionally
Be friendly. Don't expect friendship. Be confident. Demonstrate fairness.

Share Expectations

Model standards. Be clear about aims. Demonstrate good manners.

Value Pupils

Ask for names. Remember them. Thank pupils. Show appreciation.

Start Work

Get busy quickly. Be purposeful. Join in. ...And remember to have some fun!

Critical questions

How could you prepare to manage this aspect of your teaching practice?
What interpersonal skills will you need to develop?
Where's the correct balance between gaining respect and forming good relationships with pupils?
(Based on Robinson et al., 2013, pp.35-36)

References and Further Reading

Ayres, D. (2013) Positive Behaviour Management. Available at: http://danieljayres.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/positive-behaviour-management.html

Cowley, S (2010) Getting the buggers to behave. Continuum

Ewens, T. (2014) Reflective Primary Teaching. Northwich: Critical Publishing.

Lever, C (2011) Understanding Challenging Behaviour in Inclusive Classrooms. Longman

Robinson, C., Bingle, B. and Howard, C. (2013) Primary School Placements: A critical guide to outstanding teaching. Northwich: Critical Publishing

Rogers, B. (ed) (2009) How to manage children's challenging behaviour. (2nd edn.) London: Sage.

Citing this post?

Ayres, D. (2015) Meeting A New Class. Available at: http://danieljayres.blogspot.co.uk/ (Accessed: [Date])

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Regards, DJA