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Three Big Top Tips to Start Your Career in Teaching!

We are delighted to share a guest blog with you this week, from our friends at Decisive Element, Gary Toward and Chris Henley, authors of the 'Art of Being Brilliant' series and all-round good eggs. 

Three big top tips for teaching success at the start of your career.

Gary Toward and Chris Henley

Between us we have over 70 years of teaching experience and we’d love to tell you that everything was perfect all through that time and our lessons were constantly awesome. The kids of course, skipped in placing apples on our desks and had to be forced to leave our classrooms as they were constantly seeking encores!  However, it wasn’t quite like that.  We had our ups and downs like all teachers and importantly never felt we were the finished article all the way through our careers.

Right at the beginning we wanted one thing and one thing only.  We wanted the kids to behave nicely!  In those days, it was called ‘having good discipline’ in your classroom.

Gary, remembers this phrase as when, as a 21-year-old young whippersnapper teacher; bright eyed, bushy tailed (with hair!), he began his first teaching job in a tough school and needed to learn quickly how to get groups of teenagers, who intrinsically were not really that interested in his subject, to both behave and do some work.  In fact, he remembers when after a few weeks, he and the other newly qualified teachers (they were called ‘probationers’ then) were gathered in to the head’s office to meet the chair of trustees.  She was a diminutive lady who, after a pep talk, looked up directly into Gary’s face through the jam jar bottom lenses in her spectacles (giving her almost comedy eyes) and squawked with a posh voice; “Well young man, have you got your discipline yet?”.  Quite frankly, Gary hadn’t!  The kids he was teaching seemed to have all had moved from tough estates in Tottenham, Liverpool and Glasgow and congregated in this new school he had arrived at.  They were running him ragged.  It wasn’t as if he could nip down to Argos (other stores are available) and flick through the catalogue to ‘D’ and grab some DISCIPLINE!  Nor was there a magic discipline tree where he could pluck a succulent power giving fruit.  No, this was something he needed to do himself. [1]

There were those who gave us both tips like; “Don’t smile until Christmas.”  “Don’t be nice to them.”  “Make sure you give them a good roasting.”   But for both of us, we had different ideas.  Neither of us thought that we just wanted the kids to conform.  We wanted them to want to do what we wanted them to do.  That is when we realised that ‘discipline’ began with an R.

Tip number 1.

Develop positive relationships with every pupil you teach.  This is the foundation to having kids totally engaged in your brand of teaching.  We’ll be telling you how to go about this in more detail at the teach meet at South Bromsgrove High School on 3rd May 2018.

Once you’ve got that underway, you have much more chance in creating great learning.

We’d like you to try this little task.  Close your eyes.  Relax.  Think back to your school days.  It could be when you were in the infants, primary or secondary.  Any class any time.  Who was that teacher?  The teacher who was Ms or Mr Different?  The teacher whose lessons were brilliant and you always looked forward to the next episode. Got them in your mind?  Great.  Now, what did they do that made that difference?  Why did they stand out?

Tip number 2.

How can you be ‘that teacher’ for your kids?  What do you have in your locker that makes you stand out?  What can you do that is different to what the teacher in the next room does?  What can you plan into your lessons that makes the kids want to come back for more?  How can you wow them?

Finally then, we want to pass this little beauty on to you. 

Tip number 3. The Four Minute Rule!

If you wander school corridors you’ll far too often see teachers standing by whiteboards sitting at desks or flicking though paperwork as the kids arrive to their lesson.  Brilliant teachers don’t do that and know that their lessons start at the door, and are there to meet and greet the kids with full on positivity and smiles.  Four minutes of this will be enough to create the right chemicals in their brains and importantly yours, to get the lesson off to a cracking start.  Even better, you should be able to surf this chemical wave with your class for the next 50 minutes.  The more you surf those waves, the better the results for you and your class, and guess what?  The kids are more likely to want to do what you want them to do. 

Gary Toward and Chris Henley taught in and led schools around the UK before hanging up their ‘chalk’ and creating their educational speaking and writing business, Decisive Element Ltd.  With four acclaimed and best-selling books to their name[2] and another out soon, they now tread the boards across the UK and Europe delivering workshops and keynotes inspiring teachers and school leaders.

Chris and Gary will be providing the keynote talk at our annual #NQTeachMeet, taking place on 3rd May 2018.  Book your free place here!


[1] Extract from Behaviour for Learning; Getting the Kids to Want to What You Want Them to do. Gary Toward and Chris Henley, HAYS Education.

[2] The Art of Being a Brilliant NQT, The Art of Being a Brilliant Teacher, The Art of Being a Brilliant Classroom Assistant and The Art of Being a Brilliant Middle Leader.