Communication matters

Alan Mcatee discusses the importance of communication in school.

Technological Education Teacher, Auchenharvie Academy, North Ayrshire

Like most probationers, my initial thoughts on entering my first year as a responsible teacher were of anticipation mixed with fear.

It's impossible to predict how well you will cope with any new situation, so you have to be positive, confident and willing to take advice on every level.

Communication is one of the most important parts of teaching, as the ability to get along with colleagues and pupils inevitably enables a better working environment and a more enjoyable overall experience.

The supporter/mentoring scheme allowed me to find a way to establish myself with the pupils and staff and I had a very helpful supporter. Regular supporter meetings ensured I was never in doubt as to whether I was going about things correctly.


Self-evaluation is an essential part of being a probationer. Nobody starts out knowing everything and the learning never stops.

If you can gauge your level of improvement on a regular basis, you will feel a constant sense of continual achievement. This will be evident in your confidence throughout the school.

Pupil evaluation

Another daunting aspect is reporting back to parents through report cards and parents' evenings.

At first I found myself talking to parents for too long, explaining as much as possible about what the pupils have been learning. I now realise that five minutes is more than enough time for a report on how their child is doing.

All reports, both written and spoken, should begin with a positive, no matter how badly a pupil may have behaved.

If a parent too downhearted with bad news they'll be reluctant to attend future parents' evenings. There are always some positives to report back, in between the "areas for development".

Personal questions 

One piece of advice I would give to a probationer teacher is to always divert personal questions.

I've found myself telling all sorts of white lies about where I live, what age I am, what my first name is, what football team I support, and many more. From my experience, it seems that the more ridiculous the answer, the less the pupils ask, and the more they accept it!

Different personalities

I've come to realise that a class full of children is also a class full of personalities, learning and changing every day. One of the most rewarding parts of the teaching job is appreciating the impact you can make on each one of these young personalities, helping to mould them into the confident individuals that they will grow up to become.