No Battle Plan Survives Contact With the Enemy
Or as Burns puts it, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”
The children in the picture will now be in their 50s...
Expect the unexpected was a simple statement made to me by an experienced colleague. This has stayed with me throughout. The reactive behaviour of a teacher sets the tone for the classroom. A calm response to potential issues ensures calm in a classroom.
My advice to any ITE trainee or NQT starting this term would be to be extremely organised, especially in terms of their classroom, the layout and the accessibility of the wide variety of resources that might be called upon in any lesson. This means also looking at “walkways” to avoid congestion points. You didn’t know you were traffic police. It’s a piece of advice that has been drilled into me since I took over my first class, way back in 1974 and evidenced by my initial error of putting all the children’s trays in one place. It created congestion overload and resulted in two changes of plan; sharing out trays around the room and also moving one group purposefully at a time… We (should) learn from our mistakes…
Being ordered and organised, to me, is the hallmark of a good teacher, in that the organisation allows for adaptation within each lesson, as children react to the initial exposition, stimulus or dialogue around a topic.
Knowing your stuff and knowing your children, or at least generic children of that age, allows for what I have called in other blogs, a calibration, or recalibration, depending on responses. It’s the adjustment up or down of expectations that allows the teacher to begin to hit the spot and refine delivery vocabulary, modelling and/or demonstration and use of concrete materials, so that a baseline of awareness is established, onto which new and more challenging material can be added.
It has always been thus.
However, as I have also written, these baselines don’t happen by chance. They are down to exposure to the real life of a classroom, with particular year groups.
Some teachers will be changing year group this year, or moving school, both situations are a change of context, requiring some kind of recalibration. The change, for a while, can be a little destabilising, but, given the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks getting to know the children, plans can be refined to the evidence of class and individual needs.
Where an ITE, SD, TF or NQT is involved, their experiences over one or even three years will necessarily be limited in year group terms, so they’ll need mentoring, hopefully with some kind of portfolio of school evidence, or even better, work or books from the previous year, to ensure that expectations in September are equivalent to the previous July. It provides the basis for simple comparison and qualitative judgements.
They’ll also need support in planning effectively for the specific needs of some children. They may not have taught the year group below or the one above, and their new context could be with higher or lower achieving cohorts, so getting their bearings, with guidance, is key to their early successes.
They should also accept that they are in a settling period, to be taken calmly, developing their professional demeanour in as unflustered a manner as possible In Primary after all, and it is “their class” for the year. They can afford a little settling time. In my own school, this was planned in with a closure on the second Friday, to allow time for reflection and detailed planning from knowledge of the children. It is an easy tweak to make.
Collegiate approaches will always help those new to the school, in whatever capacity. A school functions as a team; everyone needs to be able to play their part effectively, for the school to be effective.
It’s not just, as Roy Castle once sang, “dedication’s what you need”. In a school, communication is the centre of all development; keep talking.