Pupil: “Miss, what does patronising mean?”

Me: “When you talk down to someone as if they’re younger or inferior to you – in a bad way.”

Pupil: “Oh, you mean like you did in our first ever lesson together?”

First impressions count, and clearly I still need to work on the Children’s TV presenter style that can slip out when I’m nervous and meeting 30+  year 10s whom I will be teaching for the next two years…

Aside from that, recurring feedback I get from students is that: you’re smiley, you can be strict and you care. That works for me, it’s who I aspire to be as a teacher most days. For other teachers this may be a hideous description – it’s what works for each teacher. Making a first impression with new pupils is a challenge, and I’m not sure that I’d believe any teacher who says they don’t still worry about it a bit at the start of the year (or daily for our supply colleagues).

Recently, the importance of first impressions was heightened for me when I met some pupils who have been excluded from mainstream schools: I would soon be working with them as their ‘Reading Teacher.’

The kind of trauma that many of these students have unfortunately experienced means that they cannot take for granted that an adult in authority is safe. This often leads to some interesting behaviour from their side, as they very consciously create the first impression a new member of staff gets of them.

Day-to-day I knew I would be dealing with some extreme behaviour: how was I going to react to that (without coming across as my TV presenter alter ego)? My key was my colleagues, particularly the ones with whom the students spent a lot of time with and trusted – often the unsung, incredibly hard working heroines and heroes that are teaching assistants.

I didn’t spend too long observing, as I decided it was important for the students to also understand my role quickly: I was the ‘Reading Teacher’ and I would be reading with them in the ‘Reading Room.’ My work is one-to-one, so these initial meetings outside of my learning space were vital for these pupils to feel safe and trust me enough to come in. For some, it has still taken several weeks to even enter the space; for these students I have spent much more time in their safe spaces – other lessons that they enjoy, so they can share with me their work and successes.

In the initial sessions my focus has not been on Dickens, Shakespeare, Bronte or even inference, summarising and SPAG – it’s been on getting to know who the young people are. Many of these students have had negative experiences with reading from the beginning. My approach is to go from their experience, angle and interests: this has led me so far to learn about motorbikes, read three books about cats, get stuck in the gangster world of Horowitz and learn what a Zedonk is. It’s most enjoyable – and guess what, the students are ‘Reading for Pleasure’ (See references).

Maybe by the end of the year, once the students know me well, I will ask them what their first impressions were – did it matter to them? and were they as nervous as I had been?


The services I offer support students with Emotional Behaviour Difficulties and those who work with them; those who are perhaps struggling day-to-day with behaviour, or those who need a fresh vision to moving forward.

I offer practical, step-by-step actions that are doable and easy to implement.

I work with these students because I choose to; I know what it’s like to be on the front-line – and I enjoy it – which means I also love to help motivate others to do the best they can for these students too.

Three areas of services I offer:

One-to-one Beyond Behaviour sessions.

Teaching Resources.

Workshops, talks and training.

or contact me if you have a request for something a little different...

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