Sunday, 25 August 2013

How To Survive Your First Year In Teaching (Sue Cowley)

--The blurb--
"So you've finished your teacher training and found yourself a job . . . the hard bit is over right? But, hold on, how do you actually survive your FIRST YEAR in teaching?! The NQT year is notoriously difficult and hard work. Challenges include meeting your new colleagues and making the right first impression, preparing and planning your lessons, managing the mountain of marking and most scary of all . . . being in charge of a whole class by yourself for the first time! But don't panic - help is at hand from expert teacher and education writer Sue Cowley. In this new edition of her bestselling book, she supports new teachers through the stresses and strains, and the highs and lows of their first year in teaching. She's there to guide you right from the start of day one, lesson one, with the acknowledgement that 'your stomach feels like lead and your mouth feels as dry as the Sahara desert'. She's there through each term advising on time-saving lesson plans, easy to implement behavior management tips and how to help children who have special educational needs. She's there right until the end of the year when she ensures that you feel triumphantly on top of report writing and your first parents' evening. All of her methods are tried-and-tested and real life case studies exemplify how (and how not) to put them in to practice. This new edition has been fully updated with new diagrams and checklists to boost your organisational and time management skills. It also includes refreshed and up-to-date case studies and extra examples for primary school teachers. Written in Sue Cowley's honest, accessible and down to earth style, How to Survive your First Year in Teaching is a must have for all new teachers embarking on their NQT year."

--The review--
Embarking on your career can arguably be likened - albeit on a lesser scale - to becoming a parent. You are given a bucketload of small tasks which, as soon as they are over, need to be done again; tasks which at times can get a little bit messy and emotional. And all of these tasks need to somehow come together to make one big thing. And just as soon as you've achieved that one big thing - or helped others to achieve it - you can see that there's another BIG THING off in the distance which you feel no more prepared for and which you are under equal pressure to see through without the whole enterprise going off the rails. Such, I'm led to believe, is parenting. 

Teaching also often feels a lot like this. Sue Cowley, the author of How To Survive Your First Year In Teaching, know this, and thankfully is there to take newly-qualified teachers by the hand and lead them through the wilderness. The overall approach taken is practical and positive, while remaining realistic and aware that it's easy to give advice, but not always so easy to take it on board. Equally, Cowley's tone is friendly without being patronising: readers want to benefit from her experience, and so she recognises that she has a delicate balance to strike. This is carried off successfully and maintained throughout the volume, whose readable chapters make it easy to absorb the information being given.

This information is given in a variety of formats, including lists and exemplar dialogues. (The dialogues are, however, perhaps a little too goody-two-shoes at times: not all Year 7s cower when faced with the prospect of a detention, for instance, but instead mouth off with the equivalent of "stfu" and then throw a chair.) It's also organised in a linear, logical format, beginning with the first day with colleagues and first lesson with students, and progressing through to getting involved in extra-curriculars as a teacher, as well as knowing when to say 'no' and when to move on to another job. This all helps to temper the idealism that can sometimes crop up: while I know that NQTs are not supposed to be placed in special-measures or otherwise weak schools, Cowley's book does assume that certain facilities will exist or procedures will be in place to make NQTs' lives easier (a quick scan of the TES fora alone reveals that this is not always the case). Nevertheless, even if the teachers reading find that not everything within applies to their school, How To Survive Your First Year In Teaching still contains many valuable nuggets that are of practical use even to those who have progressed beyond the first year of this profession (she says, from the vantage point of her fifth year).  

This book's reassuring and humorous - yet pragmatic - nature therefore makes it indispensable to all beginning teachers. In the same way that UK children receive a Bookstart pack at birth, new pedagogues should receive a tin that looks like this...
...containing spare red pens (a valuable commodity), emergency biscuits, a rubber ball (don't ask), a pack of playing cards (brilliantly diversionary for both you and the kids), and - of course - a copy of this book.
other works by Sue Cowley
The Seven Ts of Practical Differentiation (2013)
The Seven Cs of Positive Behaviour Management (2013)
The Seven Ps of Brilliant Voice Usage (2013)
The Calm Classroom (2012)
The Road To Writing (2012)
Getting The Buggers To Write (2011)
Getting The Buggers To Behave (2010; 4th ed.)
Teaching Skills For Dummies (2009)
You Can Have A Creative Classroom (2008)
Getting The Buggers Into Drama (2007)
Getting The Buggers To Think (2007)
Guerilla Guide To Teaching (2007)
You Can Create A Thinking Classroom (2006)
Getting Your Little Darlings To Behave (2006)
Letting The Buggers Be Creative (2005)
You Can Create A Calm Classroom (2005)
Sue Cowley's A-Z of Teaching (2004)
Sue Cowley's Teaching Clinic (2003)
Getting The Buggers To Behave 2 (2002)
Starting Teaching (1999)

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