Diary of an NQT: A letter to his students

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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What a lovely example of re affirming expectations, but asserting a personal side to being thier ...

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Forced to miss one of his year 10 lessons, our NQT diarist was disappointed to hear subsequent reports of poor behaviour. He decided to write his students a letter…

As mentioned last week, I was recently in hospital for minor surgery on my jaw. Unfortunately, this meant that I had to miss a lesson with my year 10 GCSE class.

I set them cover work that I hoped they would find engaging and set off for my appointment without concern. I have a fantastic relationship with this group of students and felt confident that they would behave and work hard during my absence.

Perhaps foolishly, the first thing that I did upon leaving surgery was check my work emails. In my in-box was a lengthy email from one of our cover supervisors detailing the appalling behaviour of certain members of the year 10 group during their lesson.

While some members of the class had worked well and completed the work set, a group of students decided to take advantage of my absence to do nothing, while also disrupting the learning of others. One student was removed from class for refusing to take out his headphones and another was very rude to a fellow history teacher who was asked to intervene.

Reading this report of their behaviour left me feeling mortified rather than angry. The students in question can sometimes be challenging, but because of the strong working relationship that we have built over the course of the year, they are normally very focused and pleasant in my lessons.

The fact that they had done no work and then treated my colleagues with such disdain upset me a great deal, as this does not reflect the atmosphere of mutual respect that we have developed since I became their teacher.

Unfortunately, my new role in school meant that I would also be absent for their next lesson the following day. Determined not to have a repeat of the previous day’s behaviour, I decided to write the class a letter, explaining the reason for my absence and expressing my great disappointment at what had happened.

I explained to them that poor conduct in my lessons will not be tolerated, whether I am present or not. I finished the letter by reminding them of my expectations and saying how proud I am of the work they have done this year, but restating how let down I felt by what had happened. I asked a departmental colleague to visit them at the start of the lesson to read out the letter.

I am pleased to report that the letter had the desired effect on the class. Their behaviour was exemplary and they not only completed the work set but also caught up on the work that hadn’t been completed during the previous lesson.

I had the class again later in the week and was able to discuss what had happened face-to-face. As I had conveyed my feelings clearly in the letter, I did not dwell on this for too long, simply restating how disappointed I had been but also thanking the students for taking my displeasure seriously and amending their behaviour accordingly. The class was very regretful and six of the main offenders even stayed behind after the lesson to apologise.

I promised that I would do my utmost to avoid missing their lessons in the future, while also making it clear that this will sometimes be unavoidable.
Students do not like their teacher being absent as it breaks with their routine. However, this is no excuse for poor behaviour.

I am proud to call these young people my students and hope that, by making my expectations crystal clear, we will avoid a repeat of this incident in the future.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of history at a comprehensive school in the North of England.


Comments
What a lovely example of re affirming expectations, but asserting a personal side to being thier teacher and being disappointed and let down. Every child wants to succeed, but often let down by negative learnt behaviours and lack of self belief. Young people need consistency every day ( as the world around them is chaotic and often superficial) , and although they do not directly show their appreciation, they do respect teachers who demonstrate a personal commitment to helping them develop. This is big ask in schools today where timetables change and teachers are often moved around. Well done Sir / Miss (sorry not sure).
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