Graduate Q & A

After my talk at Melbourne Uni, I realised that pre-service teachers and grads still have a lot of questions! Here is my attempt to share some of the answers. If you have any questions, let me know, and I will try to answer them in a future post.

What do you do if your students are testing you with their behaviour?

Don’t get angry. Definitely don’t cry. Have a behaviour plan before you walk through the door. What will warrant a warning? What will warrant a detention? Ae you going to give detentions, or time outs? Or will you move a student to the class next door? Have you approached the teacher next door about it?

Knowing all of these things will put you in a much stronger position. It will make you more confident, and if you are confident you are less likely to have students try and test you for quite as long. I am not a yeller. Not only do I physically not have the voice for it (nor is the look of me very intimidating!), but I think it shows a lack of respect for my students, and for myself. Approaching the situation calmly is much more successful.

Let your students know early what the consequences are for poor behaviour (make them related to the behaviour) and what the rewards are – always have rewards!

This is not so effective

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What do you do if you have a mentor teacher/colleague who you cannot get along with?

This one is just a matter of professionalism. There is no secret teacher answer. First of all, remember that everyone is different. Just because someone approaches things differently does not mean they are wrong. Something that works for your class may not work for theirs, and vice versa. Approach everyone (students, teachers, parents) with respect and tolerance. Disagree with them if you honestly see things differently, but just as in life, there are always respectful ways to approach it.

Co-operation makes life easier

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 How do you get your students to respect you? 

You don’t ‘get’ them to do anything. If you respect the students in an honest way (not in a ‘let’s be best buddies’ way), then they will respect you back. All students I have met can smell dishonest teachers, or those who don’t respect students, from a mile away, and they let you know it. Listen to the way they talk in the yard – they may be super quiet in a particular class, but will talk about not doing anything extra because the teacher doesn’t like them.

On that note, don’t ask the kids to do new things, or take risks, if you are not willing to yourself. I have had 100m races with kids (I lost!), push up competitions (I won!) and shown them my own failures (and how I overcame them). It doesn’t matter if you take a chance and it doesn’t work – they will respect you more for it.

How do you get your students to actually do some work!?

Humans are naturally inquisitive – just think about the last time you had to look up something you didn’t know on your phone! I find that even students who have struggled with school in the past want to learn – they just want to do it in their way. If your students aren’t working, then it probably means that the work is boring!

Think of what will really engage them: use technology, use drama, use games and kinaesthetic activities. Use art and real life problems. If you’re stuck for ideas, go to Twitter and Google. There are lots of ideas out there. When your students are engaged, it’s harder to stop them doing their work. I actually had a class last year who groaned at the lunch bell because they wanted to keep doing maths! Anything is possible.

I don’t want to do this, neither do students

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Any other questions you would like answered? Throw them to me!

Rebecca Davies

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