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Dealing with Staff in Schools



As a student teacher you are going to be “dropped” in a school where you are unfamiliar with any other staff. How you deal with them is up to you. Remember, the best people to learn from are established staff who have much more experience.

When you start your training, one of the most likely activities will be lesson observations. Here you will sit in on lessons and get a taste of different styles of teaching and the ethos of the school/department.

Arrive with time to spare and inquire politely (first impressions can go a long way) as to what the class will be doing and if there is anything special to look out for, or if there is anything with which you can help.

During the lesson keep thinking about how it is being delivered, how the class is managed, what discipline/reward strategies are used. It is very easy to sit in the corner, hide from view and just let the whole thing pass you by – focus on the fact that you will be at the front soon!

At the end of each observation always thank the teacher for allowing you into the lesson – this may sound rather patronising but having students wander in and out can irritate even the most tolerant of staff. It is not your place to criticise or suggest improvements! Be supportive of any issues that arise in the lesson and make sure the class and teacher notice.

By observing and talking to a variety of staff both formally and informally both in and out of school, you will pick up on a lot of tried and tested methods of teaching. Do not dismiss advice from people who have been doing the job longer than you. There is no substitute for experience in teaching, too many students ignore advice of other staff, thinking that their own methods are better – this is not the place for arrogance.

You will see good and bad lessons, you will see old methods and new methods, and you will see enthusiastic and demoralised staff. You will hear some despair and others eulogise about all the changes currently ongoing in the profession – remember there have been few jobs where staff have had so much change over the last 10-20 years, and the current Government appears likely to continue with a change programme. Always remember that teaching is a stressful job, people are under pressure for results, have large class sizes (still), vast numbers of forms to fill in and on top of that must mark work, plan lessons and write work schemes. Add to these OFSTED inspections and performance pay. All of these factors can result in frayed tempers from time to time.

You will notice that there are staff room politics – these are best kept out of – this is only your training post. It may go against the grain, but it is probably wise not to be too outspoken in your views as this may result in some staff resenting your presence. Remember you are a guest in the school and further college placements in a particular school can depend on a student’s attitude and behaviour. Furthermore, you could be offered a permanent job if you are seen to fit in with the school’s value system.




Never underestimate the importance of relationships with other school staff. You will need them on your side! These include:

Cleaners – never upset the cleaners, always make sure that your classes leave rooms tidy and if necessary put up the chairs at the end of the day. Find out what is the normal procedure and stick to it, or improve it. Never make it worse.

Parents – in many primary schools parents often volunteer to help listening to reading and with other classroom activities. Remember that they are VOLUNTEERS, not paid staff, and accept their help graciously.

Technicians – are particularly important for Science, Art and Design Technology. Always make sure you place your order for equipment in good time. Always be clear about what you need. Technicians will have set up the same practicals thousands of times and will know all the problems – listen to their advice!

Lunchtime supervisors/kitchen staff – Don’t ignore any problems they appear to be having with pupils. They have little official authority and many pupils will take advantage. Help them out if there is a problem.

Caretakers – Again if you want broken lights/desks changed quickly it always pays to keep in their good books.

Office Staff – Do not overburden the office staff with excess typing/money collections etc. they will not thank you for it. Do what you can yourself! Make sure you follow official procedures. Registers, for example, are legal documents and must be kept accurately according to official practice.

Welfare assistants – They will often help you with difficult pupils in a class, but are usually officially “attached” to one or two. They are often a valuable source of information, and can suggest ways of improving behaviour. If nothing else, they can be a friendly face in an otherwise hostile class!

In summary, as a student teacher, it is best to keep a relatively low profile, do not be arrogant and listen to advice from all sources! It will stand you in good stead in the future.