What I wish I knew as an NQT/ECT

What I wish I knew with Helen Denton

June 22, 2022

Helen, never planned to work in schools, but her mum said she was bossy and liked organising things so why not be a teacher. Being a good daughter, Helen did what her mum said and became one! And a very good one she is too, because everything she does is for the benefit of the children she teaches. Now many decades after listening to her mum, Helen is sharing her wisdom with us, and, just like her mum, Helen is well worth listening to.

In this episode we discuss ...

  • How after some years teaching in a secondary school, Helen took a break from teaching, only to be persuaded back when visiting a Headteacher in a primary school who needed a teacher at short notice to take Year 6 in the summer term.
  • Why this class was so challenging and how she made them teachable by focusing on the relationships she had with them.
  • The importance of really caring for the children and letting them know you get them as a person.
  • How putting a child in a suitcase (yes really!) transformed the way a boy perceived school and his teacher.
  • Why being honest with children is so important, but that doesn't mean saying anything that's true. Have an internal question to ask yourself before speaking, such as, 'Would I say that to you if your parents/carers were at the door?' If the answer is no, don't say what you're thinking!
  • Why it is OK to speak harshly to children occasionally, as long as you don't damage the relationship you have spent weeks building up.
  • Is it a problem if children like you too much?
  • How small things can make a massive difference to a child, such as persuading a nervous girl to perform in Bugsy Malone and how this transformed her belief in herself.
  • Why tucking in your shirt raises expectations and achievement in the classroom.
  • That although teachers have so much to do, there are some things that you can never let go of if you want high standards in your classroom. One thing for Helen was the phrase, 'Before you hand in your work, take a look at it and ask yourself, are you proud of it? If not go away and do it better.'
  • Why there are some questions that children ask that you should never answer.
  • How Helen and I became senior education professionals, despite being called 'a Jekyll and Hyde character' and 'a juvenile delinquent' by our teachers.
  • What to do when children blame you for being unfair.
  • Why sharing a bit of yourself with children, such as  how you feel as a teacher in the class, can be a very powerful way of shifting children's behaviour.
  • The importance of being optimistic if you don't have an immediate impact with children. A Year 4 child has been alive for almost 80,000 hours and in the first half-term of the year you will have taught them for under 200 hours, which is a tiny proportion of their life, so change may hot happen quickly.
  • Remember, especially on the bad days: Yes you can do it, and yes they do care.

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