Being a form tutor is one of the most rewarding parts of the job of being a teacher. You’ll have allsorts of characters thrown at you in the course of your teaching career. When you go back to school this year who will you be confronted with. Will it be a group of scared Year 7s, some spritely Year 9s fresh back from their holidays seeming to have all grown 5 inches in height since you last saw them. Perhaps a group of Year 12s who you don’t recognise without a uniform or a group of Year 11s assured and focused ready for their impending marathon of GCSEs. As we return to the job in the coming week, you’ll be thinking of your new tutor group. With that in mind, you might want to check out some of the idea from Kate Jones’ recent post on ice-breaker activities.
Being a good form tutor is mostly about developing good relationships with both your tutees and their parents or guardian. I used to really enjoy the opportunity to have ‘meet the parent’ sessions with new students entering my tutor group. They are a really good opportunity to get together informally without any actual issues (positive or negative), to discuss school life and for them to meet you and have the chance to ask questions and have them answered. A tutor plays such a pivotal role in the life of any student in the school; it’s a great idea to forge a positive relationship with families before their child needs anything more urgent than knowing what days they should be doing homework. Knowing that you are there for them to turn to is really good. Invariably there will be times in the future you will have to have some difficult conversations with some of the parents. It is better that your first meeting with families be positive rather than negative. You’ll have the opportunity to build a rapport or at least had a positive conversation with them then it will make those conversations less tense than they might be if it was your first ever conversation with them.
Being a good form tutor is about them knowing that you are there for them too. Having your timetable on your classroom door (if you’re lucky enough to have your own classroom) is an easy way to let people know where you are if they’ve come to find you. Put clubs and other things on there to assist with students who might need to see you at lunchtime.
When it comes to when students making some poor choices and getting in trouble, I would always say to my tutees that honesty was always the best policy – no matter what bother they had got themselves in to. Telling me the truth no matter what they had done would mean that I was always there to be able to work with them and support them, even if that meant telling them that they’d made mistakes and would have to face punishments. Together we could work ways forward to get round the obstacles rather than keep ploughing in to them. Positive relationships with your tutees and ensuring that the respect flows both ways means that the trust that is formed endures and they are able to flourish in that kind of environment.
Having good relationships with your tutees will mean that you’ll know them really well. Watch out for tell tale signs that things aren’t right with one of your tutees. Sometimes it’s about finding a common ground even if it’s something you’re not really into.
I also listen to the football news ever morning so I can chat to them about it. (I hate football!!)
— Spencer Organ (@makercupboard) August 29, 2017
Having very clear boundaries with your tutor group is just as important as it is with your other groups too. A part of your job with tutees is often enforcing standards, for example on uniform. I am a massive stickler for uniform and ensuring that it is correct. Making sure that you hold tutees to account for uniform is important as is keeping a good planner, recording homework correctly (and holding families to account too for not engaging with the planner signing and checking – it’s a great tool for communication too although I do prefer email (of course I do!)) and using it to help with their studies.
Making time to have some fun at least once a term (3 times a year or more) organised with the group is important for a hectic busy group too. I used to organise inter-tutor group quizzes, spelling bees, dodgeball and other such games during tutor time too. Of course the reason behind it wasn’t just to have fun and to play, it was about team building and helping to build the identity of the group as a unit that meant that outside of tutor time, at break, lunch, whenever – even if friendship groups spread out away from the tutor group – it meant that as a unit, the group always looked out for each other.
I made a list of qualities that make for a good tutor a while ago and I thought I’d share it with you here too with a few additions:
- Reliability – be a rock for them
- Communication – both with them and families
- Positive relationships – don’t just sit in front of SIMS. Engage with them.
- Firm but fair approach – do the work. Make them meet their responsibilities.
- Consistency – don’t let it slide that he’s wearing trainers. Make them remove that nail varnish. Enforce the rules whether you believe in them or not. All of the time. It lets the whole school down if you don’t.
- Going the extra mile – do phone home Friday so you call home when things are good as well as not so much
- Giving a damn – really get to know your tutees. Complete activities with them such as an Identity Homework
- Being reasonable – know that we all have bad days. Keep your standards but work with the kids. Everyone has an off day.
- Mutual respect – show them respect as you would expect back. It’s a no brainer.
- Looking out for them – look out for them whilst out on duty – see how their day’s going or if they resolved that issue with Mr Smith they were worried about that morning
- Supporting them – such as turning up for their sports matches or house events
These pointers don’t really even scrape the surface of the amazing job that is to be a great tutor but hopefully they’ll trigger a few thoughts.
What do you think makes a great tutor?