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How To Develop Teacher Presence

28/02/16

How can you develop a presence and command your class? Lyn, one of our bloggers, has put together some advice on how you can develop your leadership skills.

I cannot recall how the advertisement for my first teaching post was worded way back in the last century but I can be certain Bishop Road School was not asking for 'a passionate practitioner'. Yet when I peruse the job vacancies nowadays this sort of requirement is standard. Everyone needs to be 'inspirational' and 'outstanding' as well as 'innovative' and 'motivational'.

Unless you are brimming with self-confidence and in possession of an enormous ego trying to live up to these epithets is frighteningly intimidating, especially the notion of being an inspirational classroom presence. You produce an all-singing, all-dancing demonstration lesson for your interview but maintaining that level day in, day out, is impossible. With today's workload tired and overburdened teachers struggle to maintain a positive presence in the classroom let alone a scintillating one.

The good news is that children do not actually demand that we scintillate. Their idea of a teacher with classroom presence is one who can keep order and who cares about their learning; our personalities are the least of their concerns. A sense of humour is appreciated but a joker whose lessons are mayhem is not what they want. Interesting lessons are appreciated but they really don't care if you have spent all weekend producing a powerpoint. They respect teachers who know their stuff and how to convey it, who in turn treat them and their efforts with respect.

For casual supply teachers who do not have this sort of relationship with students establishing one's presence in the classroom can be very difficult. I have, indeed, seen cover lessons where it was not immediately evident that there was a teacher present in the room. Yet it is not impossible and the important thing is to make your presence felt from the outset by greeting pupils at the door, insisting on quiet during the register and keeping to the seating plan. You have to show that you intend to be in charge. This does not mean, and never means in any form of teaching, shouting at the pupils or arguing with them or being sarcastic. Calm self-assurance is the key to demonstrating a positive presence, an outward display of self-assurance at least.

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