How to Learn Children’s Names in September

It’s that time of year again, when teachers are thinking about their new classes, hoping they won’t have too many with the same name, and wondering how they will ever learn all the names if they aren’t all the same.

Seasoned teachers know that there’s nothing really to worry about and that they will learn everyone’s name this year – just as they do every year. NQTs and those about to embark on teacher training courses might be feeling a little more daunted. This is how I do it:

I tell a story along the lines of The Enormous Turnip but about a person who got their hat stuck on their head because it was too small – and I take a flamboyant hat along to use as a prop. I’m a languages teacher, so I do this in French, but it will work in English too.

I call out the children one by one, and each time I retell the story I repeat the names of all the children in the line as well as those who are still watching. Eg: Jack B, Chloe, Izzy, Jade S and Jack C pulled and pulled and pulled, but the hat was still stuck. Dale, Hassan, Jack H, Jade  W, Millie, Ahmina etc were all laughing at them, so they called Hassan up to help.

Everyone joins in with the story, so even those sitting down waiting their turn to join in are repeating the words to the story and calling out the names (useful if you have a blank as there are 29 other children saying each other’s names!).

It’s quite time-consuming – you need to set aside a good 15-20 minutes – but by the time you have called the last person up , the hat has come off and everyone has pretended to fall over, you’ve repeated everyone’s name so many times that you know you’ll never ever forget them!

For me, it’s worth investing the time because I usually teach several classes in several schools so by the end of the first week I need to have learnt well over 300 names!  If you want to give it a go, bear in mind that it needs a lot of space so you will either need to clear all the tables away or better still book the hall! It’s a good opportunity to reinforce behaviour too, with plenty of praise for the children sensibly waiting their turn.

If you don’t have the time or the space to spare, or you don’t like the sound of this, I’ve also found a couple of other blog posts with some different ideas for you to try:  and

If you have any other ideas for how to remember names, please do share them in the comments.

Teach Like You Mean It!

I often see Facebook posts from trainee teachers and NQTs asking how to make particular subjects “exciting”, or looking for a hook to draw them in.

While I agree it’s important that children enjoy learning, I also think it’s important to remember that being exciting is not necessarily the same as being engaging. As the teacher in the classroom, we are the main ingredient in engaging the children and we are more than just the sum of the activities we choose.

I always remember one particular lesson I taught as a trainee teacher. It was Y9 French, and the topic was boring. I racked my brains trying to think of a way to spice it up, to make it more exciting. I couldn’t come up with anything and nor could my mentor. This was before Facebook was as big as it is now, so I couldn’t ask around in any of the teaching groups to get advice from hundreds of teachers around the country. I knew I was doomed. If I thought this topic was boring, there was no way I was going to convince 30 Year 9s otherwise and I was dreading the lesson. The closer it got, the more I was dreading it.

Eventually the time of the lesson arrived. With a sinking feeling in my heart I walked to the door to greet my class. Plastering a smile on my face, I uttered my first words: “Come in. Settle down quickly. I can’t wait to get started – I’ve been looking forward to today’s lesson all week.”

The change in the class was immediately visible. They picked up their heads, slumped shoulders perked up and they sat ready to listen to see what was going to be so good about this lesson. It actually turned into one of the best lessons I taught during my training year. The pupils were engaged. They worked hard and asked pertinent questions. They learnt something new and because they were so willing to commit to the learning process, we also cleared up a couple of misconceptions they already had. My mentor was delighted and I got a really good grading for that lesson. It was then I realised that it was my attitude that made all the difference.

Many years later I was given the topic of electricity to teach in science to year four. It was a topic I’d never taught before, and it was one I’d never really enjoyed learning about at school, so I really wasn’t looking forward to it. So I did what I always do in such situations. I smiled brightly and told them how much fun we were going to have learning about electricity. This became one of my (and their) favourite subjects that year. The children worked so hard and enjoyed it so much that we finished everything on the curriculum ahead of time. We were then able to explore other areas which they chose themselves: how electricity is generated and how it travels from the power station to people’s homes, how a battery works, how the ISS gets its power, and even how a Faraday cage works.

I didn’t have a snazzy title for the topic. I didn’t have a great “hook”. I didn’t even have lots of expensive and exciting resources. What I did have was the ability to fake it until it became true. My advice now to NQTs and trainee teachers is, “Don’t stress about hooks and titles and worrying about whether or not they will find it exciting. Instead, just tell them how much fun it’s going to be – and then teach like you really mean it!

How to Study Smart: 20 Scientific Ways to Learn Faster – Daniel Wong

Most of us have to learn something new at some point in our lives. Thankfully my GCSE, A level and BA days are behind me, but I still like to do short courses and if ever a fairy godmother dropped a fortune in my lap I’d love to do a Masters in the future.

These tips, which I found on the Open2Study Facebook page are for everyone who still has exams to pass. I especially like the one about taking notes with pen and paper, because I always feel more creative with a pen in my hand than a keyboard at my fingertips.

How to Study Smart: 20 Scientific Ways to Learn Faster – Daniel Wong.

Christmas Wishes

As you all know by now, instead of sending Christmas cards, Ian and I prefer to use the money we would have spent on cards and stamps to help others in some way.

You may remember that last year we paid for John and Eddie, a homeless man and his dog, to spend a few nights in a hostel over the Christmas period and bought him a couple of presents to unwrap. Thanks to the generosity of family and friends who also contributed, John was able to stay in the hostel for over a week which entitled him to extra support from the hostel. We haven’t seen him for several months now, but the last time we did speak to him, the hostel were helping him to find accommodation of his own and to claim some benefits. We’re both hoping that the fact we don’t see him anymore means that he is finally off the streets and enjoying life.

This year we have decided to donate to the National Deaf Children’s Society. I’ve been working in a school for deaf children for a couple of years now and so have see first hand the difficulties deaf people face and the importance of the support or organisations such as this one.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Sally-Jayne and Ian

How to set up as a self-employed supply teacher

Following my interview at the, I’ve had an increasing number of people contacting me for information on being self-employed as a supply teacher.  To begin with I replied to people individually, but the volume of emails I receive about it means that  I really can’t do that anymore, so I decided to blog about it instead.

Please bear in mind when reading this that it’s just friendly advice, and should not be taken as legal advice or recommendation. If you’re not sure about anything it really is best to talk to the experts, and your union can probably help with this.

It’s actually quite easy to set up as self-employed supply….

Obviously you have to consider how you will get your CRB/DBS certificate without an agency to do it on your behalf, because you can’t apply for one yourself. The schools you work for may be willing to help, so talk to them first, but if not you will need to make other arrangements. You also need to consider whether you have enough contacts in schools to get the work without an agency to find it for you. If you don’t, or you’re not confident enough to approach schools, then working through an agency may be best for you.

Then you need to decide what you are going to charge. I can’t tell you what to charge, because there are so many factors to take into account, such as whereabout in the country you work, what age-group you will be teaching, whether or not you have to do your own planning, whether you will be booked long-term or just for occasional days….. The best advice I can give you is to talk to the schools you want to work for and come to an agreement with them, making sure that they, and you, are happy.

I’m lucky and I get offered far more work than I can take on and end up having to (reluctantly) turn some down, but I live in a big city, on the borderline of  three different LAs. I wouldn’t recommend giving up a permanent job before you have checked out the demand in your local area. Unfortunately, unless you are really lucky, the work isn’t just going to fall into your lap, so it’s best to get your CV up to date (Nutty at Supply Teaching can help with CV proofreading and advice), decide who you are going to ask for your references, and then start contacting schools to tell them what you can offer them.

Once you are feeling confident that you can get enough work, and you are sure this is what you want to do, you just need to notify HMRC that you want to register as self-employed and you’re good to go! I got my husband’s accountant to sort all that out for me, and it was a while ago so I can’t remember exactly what it involved, but if you contact HMRC I’m sure they will point you in the direction of any forms you have to fill in etc.

I get an accountant to do my end of year tax returns because I work on the basis that I can earn more in the time it would take me to figure it all out than I pay an accountant to do it for me. You need to keep records of how much you invoice, as well as any cash payments you get from tutoring and you also need to make sure you are good at budgeting because of the way HMRC calculates your tax payments…

You pay no tax for the 1st 18 months to give yourself time to get on your feet, but then you have to pay those 18 months plus half what HMRC estimate you will need to pay for the next 12 months in one go. After that each year you pay the remaining half on your earnings for that year, plus half of what they think you’ll need to pay for following year. So you are always paying tax on money you haven’t earned yet…

As far as tutoring goes… you don’t need to have any different qualifications. You just need to decide whether you are going to tutor in your own house, your students’ houses, or hire a room somewhere.  I set up a website to find my clients, but to be honest most of my work comes through word of mouth recommendations.

I’m not qualified to advise people on any insurance they may need. When I first set up I took advice from an insurance company recommended by my teaching union. I’d recommend everyone else to do the same so that you can be confident that you have the right amount of cover for you.

You’ll also need to think about your pension. Once you leave employment and start working for yourself, there’ll be no-one to pay into a pension scheme on your behalf anymore, so it’s up to you to make sure you are setting aside enough yourself to pay into a private scheme.

And that, I think, covers the practical side of it, so all that’s left is for me to wish you the best of luck!