An English Teacher's Toolbox

An English teacher at a Secondary School in the UK. * Sharing and questioning the day job. * I teach KS3/4/5.
* Looking for inspiration and motivation, to share with others. * Looking to constantly improve and grow. * On Twitter at @MissBex_M *
Recent Tweets @MissBex_M
Posts I Like
Who I Follow
Posts tagged "top tips for new teachers"


The word ‘group’ started to look really weird.

[P.S. Edit: I got everything above — stars, labels, sticks — from the dollar store. Cost: three bucks and twenty minutes total.]


…when you realize next year is going to beso. much. easier.

Having autonomy in my classroom is awesome (I know what books I have to teach, but can choose how I teach them/how much time I spend on them), but it is also exhausting—we’re talking two to three hours prep every night, and I am…


I officially completed my NQT year last Friday 22nd July. It was an incredible feeling. A lot of people have asked how my first year went, which is a question I’ve found very difficult to answer. I settled on the response ‘it was one the most significant years of my life.’ It was extremely…

Being a teacher is rewarding - but it’s also very tough! The daily demands, stresses, expectations and work loads can become overbearing and, at times, can take over your personal life.

Finding a balance, and some 'time for you' is essential. So, what ways can you do this without spending lots of money?..

  • Putting your playlists on shuffle. Sit back, relax, dance around the room - however it works for you, it’s an easy fix which costs nothing extra (they’re songs you’ve already bought/ owned).

  • Reading. Whether you own a kindle, iBooks, or just the good old paper backs - reading is enjoyable, relaxing and all-consuming. Get lost in someone elses world for a while - you’ll feel better for it.

  • Visit some friends/ family! This is important - keep in touch with those people who you love, and who love you. The job takes over and sometimes (unfortunately) they can get neglected. Spend that time catching up, hear about their holiday, tell them about something you’ve enjoyed recently.

  • Go to the cinema. See a new film, invite a friend, relative, colleague. Let go for 2 hours and be transported to somewhere else! Laugh, cry or scare yourself to death! .. It isn’t too expensive if you don’t do it too often.

  • Go for a walk/ take part in some exercise. (Does what it says on the tin!)

What other things could/ do you do?…

In the first few minutes of your lessons, what tips/ tricks have you discovered for settling the class and making a smooth start/ smooth transition?

I’ve picked up a few things along the way - but feel free to ‘reply’ with your tried and tested ideas!

  1. Meet your pupils at the classroom door - greet them as you would an adult, and use the time to give any reminders or ‘polite’ notices about their uniform etc.
  2. Have something to get on with - as pupils are walking in, or on the board/ their desks ready, have a short activity to get on with and to wake their brains up!
  3. Have someone who hands books/ work out for you as soon as they enter - it helps to use the same people, to build up a routine.
  4. Share the learning objectives and reason for covering this with pupils - handy to have it ready on the board/ PowerPoint slide etc and to take them through it. You can also get pupils to ‘explain’ back to you, and the class, what you’ll be doing and why.
  5. Be Welcoming - A positive start is much more likely to create a positive atmosphere and environment. Treat pupils with some respect. If you had a difficult lesson last time, don’t carry it forward in to this new lesson.

What about your ideas? x

As we approach the new school year, here in the UK, I am revisiting this very important question - why do people want to be teachers?

There are many responses to this. The longer I spend in the profession, the more answers I come up with…and they can sometimes change depending on the time of year!

Trevor Wright (2008) gives many answers to this fundamental question, and many of them I agree with. He also claims that this is a key question to expect at PGCE/ GTP/ Teaching post interviews - one thing that you can expect to be asked and should be ready to answer.

When faced with this question, don’t say ‘It’s what I always dreamed of doing’ … be careful here; until you become a teacher, you really don’t fully comprehend the demands and nuances of the profession, and so your answer suggests you don’t really know what it is you want - rather, you have an idealised view of it all.

Some reasons for wanting to teach, that suggest you’ve thought a little more about your decision to move in this direction, might include some of the following:

  1. To continue to learn.
    This is a reasonable expectation, and one that showcases a desire to continue to develop and learn (a big part of being a teacher is CPD - Continued Professional Development). This also shows you would have the necessary mindset for education itself - the learning doesn’t stop with that QT certificate!
  2. To have a career that is rewarding.
    …and teaching absolutely is! Making progress with children and helping them become independent learners is a huge part of what keeps us all going, through the long weeks of reports, lesson planning and marking. The job really is rewarding, and can give you a great sense of satisfaction. However, always remember there will be times when things are also somewhat challenging!
  3. To share my passion for my subject.
    Great! Fantastic! This is a great starting point - but on it’s own, it won’t be enough. Since starting teaching, I’ve realised that while I was good at English at school, and I did English Language A Level - plus my degree in English Language and Linguistics - none of this has really been relevant to what I teach. I have had to teach myself a lot of what I teach the students; I need to read and analyse the texts before I can think about teaching it as a unit of work (and every text I’ve taught so far has been one I didn’t know previously).
    So, passion for your subject isn’t enough - this reason needs to be combined with other reasons, as well as an interest in the subject of education itself (because that’s something you’ll also be studying).
  4. To be creative and have fun.
    It is a big part of your performance, to make lessons enjoyable and to be creative - allowing students freedom to be independent but to enjoy their learning. It’s tough! But, creative and original approaches to teaching are essential. Yet, being creative alone will not help students learn or progress - careful planning is about knowing what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and why you’re doing it - playing chemical reaction hop scotch is pointless if they don’t need to know anything about it!

Of course, there are many more reasons that you may have for becoming a teacher, but that interview question is an important one. It needs consideration, thought and a little research. So if you’re in the midst of applying/ starting… ask yourself: “Why do you want to be a teacher?”.

An interesting and useful article from @tes:

Like it or loathe it, you are probably going to have to write numerous assignments, essays or studies during your teacher training. So what can you do to minimise the stress…[Read More]

Teaching is a profession that allows you to constantly research, reflect and develop your skills and knowledge - one of the best things about this job! Last September, I vowed to try and read a little more on the aspects of our profession and to try new things; I hadn’t read anything since NQT year! I discovered that there is plenty out there to enjoy, learn from - and even laugh out loud at!

Here are some books I recommend from PGCE/ NQT, that are still useful now:

  • 'How to Teach' by Phil Beadle.
    Amazon review: “This book cuts through all the rubbish and helps you to prioritise on what is important and what you need to do to get your children engaged and learning. There are plenty of short-cuts to help, inspire and guide you through the first year and you and you may even find yourself laughing out loud at the familiar antics of the children, SLT, OfStead inspectors and the stressed out teachers, which I had become one of them.
  • 'The Lazy Teacher's Handbook' by Jim Smith.
    Amazon review: "Truly, this is a breath of fresh air. Jim Smith’s book gives permission to teachers to step back and delight in the opportunities for learning that they create. This book provides a practical, real and valuable set of tried and tested approaches that allow teachers to let the learning flow from and with the students."

  • 'Teaching Today: A Practical Guide' by Geoff Petty.
    Amazon Review: “This book was definitely a revelation. Fantastically planned and very easy to read, it has been the a definite staple of my reference diet since the start of the academic year. It provides handy tips and ideas on dealing with students and looks at the psychology behind the whole event without once sounding patronising or condescending in any way.
    If you are new to education - especially further education which has a dearth of resources - this is invaluable. If you buy no other book for your educational career, you need to buy this!”

  • 'Essential Teaching Skills' by Chris Kyriacou.
    Amazon Review: "…. I have found this book invaluable, both for new and trainee teachers in clearly outlining essential aspects of classroom practice, and for experienced teachers as a reminder of those essential aspects in an engaging and refreshing way"

  • 'How to be a Brilliant Teacher' by Trevor Wright.
    Trevor Wright was my PGCE Secondary English Tutor - his advice has continued to work for me, 4 years on. He also has similar books for ‘Trainee Teachers’, ‘English Teachers’ and ‘Mentors’.

  • 'Guerilla Guide to Teaching: The Definitive Resource for New Teachers' by Sue Cowley.
    Amazon Review: "Cowley includes the transcripts of extensive interviews with all different types of people working in education, from student teachers to managers and representatives from teaching unions, which makes it realistic and very practical.

    The book is split into clearly defined sections, comprising questions and answers from Cowley’s own experience, interviews and bullet pointed lists which make it easier to dip into. There are detailed case studies of planning […] blank planning sheets for you to adapt. […] the most complete guide I have come across for those starting in teaching or those already involved in education”

    Hopefully this list is of some use to you! x

When you start your PGCE (and possibly even GTP) - you will probably not be given a ‘Teacher’s Planner’.

It is worthwhile investing in one so that you can take care to organise yourself and keep good records of homework being handed in, absenteeism, levels and grades (including targets and predictions).

However - don’t rush to buy one, as it will depend greatly on your school’s day e.g. how many lessons? How long do they last etc? So - I would advise you wait until second placement, and then use a planner to help you through! It is also a great way to collect evidence.

Here are some…

A5 Coil Bound 6 Period/Lined 12/13

A4 Teacher Planner Coil Bound 6/9 Period 12/13

Custom Built A4 Teacher’s Planner

A4 6 Lesson Academic Teacher Planner


A5 5 Lesson Academic Teacher Planner

Well, hope this has been of some use!

Objective verbs. I use these often - and have my own version - but thought I just had to reblog this for you. I’m not on to SOLO yet.. #toptipsfornewteacher

(via classroomcollective)