This week's #wednesdaywisdom comes from Charlotte aka The Teaching Coach. Charlotte is am a Head of Year and English teacher in a mainstream school in Derbyshire. She has extensive experience of the role of Head of Year as well as the issues which pastoral staff face on a day to day basis. She also has extensive experience of mentoring and coaching both new and experienced staff including working with ITTs and NQTs as well as experience in delivering leadership training, as well as interview preparation and coaching. You can find Charlotte on Facebook (www.facebook.com/teachcoach), Instagram - @the_teaching_coach and on TES where she has her own shop - https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/TheTeachingCoach
Here she tells us all about the role of a form tutor, what to expect as a form tutor & form times, and how to be a "good" form tutor.
What is the role of a form tutor?
Many of us have recollections of form tutors from our experience of secondary schools. I know I have many vague memories of my form tutor being someone who took the register each morning, someone who checked my equipment and kept me for detentions when I’d arrive late (which of course never happened!) – but, is this really all that a form tutor does?
As a Head of Year in a secondary school currently, I understand that a form tutor exists as much more than someone who takes the register each morning or keeps students for detentions. When I began teaching I quickly realised that a form tutor is an exceptionally powerful force in school. For many students, a form tutor is a consistent, pastoral influence in their education, someone who becomes a figurehead for their form and someone who can have a profound impact on student lives. In fact, I often liken forms to teams and form tutors to their coaches. The best form tutors know their team inside out, they know their weaknesses and their strengths, they know which students need support and which students need coaxing out of their shell. They know students on a more personal level and celebrate both in school achievements as well as out of school achievements with them. A tutor may be a person who students want to touch base with daily (or more!) or they may be a figure who is only approached in times of need. As such, each student’s experience of their form can be different. But, just like a team – you should expect to be constantly working with them to improve, leading them even in darker times and flying their flag even when they drive you barmy!
So, what can I expect as a form tutor?
A tutor will usually take their form through school, helping to shape and develop students as they move through the different stages of their learning. In addition, a form tutor can expect to support their form in challenging behaviour and setting high expectations for attendance, attitude, and progress. I would expect form tutors to be having regular conversations with students about their behaviour and progress as well as keeping track of form attendance.
A tutor can also expect to receive feedback from staff regarding their form and to then act on feedback – either speaking to individuals or perhaps phoning a parent. This will usually be mixed feedback and it’s important to remember to remain positive with your form, to ensure you support them at all points. This does not mean you can’t challenge poor behaviour, but remember the role is pastoral.
You can also expect to be a point for contact for parents and the first port of call for those parents who need guidance. The amount of contact will vary depending on your school, but this is usually phone calls to parents regarding behaviour or other concerns and can happen weekly or more.
You will also probably have safeguarding information shared with you for your form. Both by students as someone to confide in (always pass to these to your head of year or safeguarding officer) or about students through your head of year or safeguarding lead, to help you understand and support students more effectively.
So, what about form times?
As a form tutor, you can also expect to lead form times for your form and you may be expected to deliver PSHE or personal development sessions. In many schools, form time happens once or twice a day. This is usually in the morning and then sometimes in the afternoon also. During this time, you’ll likely be expected to take a register and then deliver notices to students as well as checking in on reports or behaviour. You will also have a rota of activities provided to you by your head of house or head of year as well as (usually) the resources to use. You will also be expected to create or edited resources from time to time. Form time will usually be 15-30 minutes and, trust me, there will never be enough time! It’s important to prioritise the notices your form will need for the day ahead as well as allowing time to check in with them and to get any activities done. I have never experienced a tutor who has run out of things to do in form time!
On PSHE days or personal development afternoons, you will probably be asked to deliver content to your form – this will be on a variety of content and will probably be content which you are not necessarily familiar with. Be prepared to read up about PSHE issues before you deliver this content and work with your PSHE co-ordinator or Head of Year to ensure you’re ready.
Finally then - how can you be a ‘good’ form tutor?
The best thing you can do to be a ‘good’ form tutor is know your form. The best form tutors I have worked with are the ones who know students inside out and go the extra mile to support them. Always support your form and drive them to be the best they can be. Encourage them to work as a team and to support one another.
In addition, another sign of a ‘good’ form tutor is communicating with your head of year or head of house. Always ensure you know what you should be doing and you’re clear on any tasks you’ve been asked to complete. The role of a head of year (trust me!) is hectic and can often be very reactive – your head of year will appreciate you knowing what you need to do and being there to support them in turn. If you have an issue with a form member, always speak to your head of year and discuss it – you should never be alone in dealing with something like an angry parent or a difficult conversation with a student.
As well as this, remember to plan ahead form times or PSHE – turn up prepared and organised. Just like a lesson - print any resources you need and have your PowerPoint or documents ready to go. Be reassured that tutor time will fly by!
Lastly, have fun. Enjoy your form, make them your team. Build relationships with them and they will pay you back in abundance. There is nothing quite as satisfying as having a form who support you. In fact, you’ll come to realise they have your back, just as much as you have theirs!
Charlotte – The Teaching Coach