We are in a fortunate position at our school whereby due to the number of co-educators and teaching staff available, each tutor group has both a tutor and a co-tutor – two staff members to assist in delivering a structured start to the day.
Across my placements and observations I have seen many versions of what should be done in that tutor period in the morning, ranging from mini-lessons to children sitting and having a natter for 20 minutes, which leads me to wonder what the purpose of that allocated time really is. Who is it for? The students or the teachers? Or is it simply an exaggerated time slot created purely to monitor attendance?
As an NQT, I was allocated a co-tutor role alongside a member of science faculty – a member of staff who is a wonderful teacher (and my dedicated partner for the staff Strictly Come Dancing face-off, which will have taken place by the time you read this!).
The tutor sessions we have led would probably fall into the “sitting and chatting” category. However, having been a part of that tutor group for five months, I have been reallocated – remaining in year 9 but moving across to a different house to cover the tutor group of a member of senior leadership team as lead tutor, with a good friend and neighbour of mine supporting me in the co-tutor role.
I was exceptionally pleased with this at first – before I began over-thinking what being a tutor truly means. It was my turn to decide how I want to structure those 20 minutes in the morning.
It is a difficult challenge as tutor time, as described above, is a grey area – and one which we certainly aren’t taught about within our PGCE.
Adding to this challenge is the fact that from the new academic year, tutor time is to become a (perhaps excessive) half-hour as the school sees a curriculum overhaul and resulting changes to the structure of our school day. All this means that a 30-minute tutor time must have firm substance and be viewed as an important part of the academic day.
Aside from using the time to monitor attendance and pick up on other pastoral issues, there has to be some form of structure to the session – although allowing time for pupils to catch-up and chat is important, I am also developing my ideas of short activities that can maintain the students’ attention while helping them to develop into young adults.
For that is what I see tutor time being about – less about learning subjects and more about developing life-skills and preparing them for when they leave our school.
So, after a discussion with my co-tutor, we have come across a variety of activities – debates, longer term apprentice projects, quizzes etc, that we think will fill this slot in an engaging and useful way.
The role of the tutor is something I will need to learn as I’m going along (although that is very much like the rest of this year, so hopefully no problems there!). Indeed, I have learnt so much already this year and now I find myself facing the summer term, wondering quite how my rollercoaster journey has landed me here quite so quickly. Spring 2 saw immense heights with our productions (and lows with unwilling GCSE pupils), and yet somehow I have arrived safely here – among the final term of my NQT year. I’m ready...
Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.