The busy life of a Form Tutor

Last year, as a Newly Qualified Teacher, I was without a form group. This is standard practice: while some schools throw their NQTs in head-first, many others give them a year to get used to the rest of what the job entails…before throwing them into it head-first. I am so grateful for that first year without a Form, especially since my training year had been interrupted by a certain pandemic, because it gave me a chance to understand how to actually teach, on a full timetable, while meeting the high expectations of my school.

There was a real push for having strong pedagogy above all else – which is why I’m still reading as many teaching books as I can.

For us, form time only takes up ten minutes in the afternoon and twenty minutes in the morning, but I vividly remember using up every single last minute that I could for planning, printing and marking during my NQT year. What would I do without this time? I’d think.

With a year of experience in the bag, and in my second year as a fully qualified teacher, I was tasked with seeing a Form group all the way through to the end of year 9. Most teachers at my school tend to repeat this cycle, as subject specialists – such as those in English and Maths – often then take over to provide guided revision support during Form time, which offers a real boost to GCSE and A-Level confidence.

But what does being a Form Tutor actually involve?

What actually is a Form Tutor?

In short, a Form Tutor is a student’s first point-of-contact at their school. They’re there in the morning and – in our case – in the afternoon. It’s our duty to ensure that our students are set up for the day and are safe to go home. We pick up on uniform woes before they leave our rooms and sort pastoral issues. All of this is to leave students in the best possible mindset for learning as soon as lessons begin.

What would be the point in even trying to remember who conquered England in 1066 if you’re not mentally or physically ready for a day of education?

As well as that, Form Tutors ensure that students have a smooth start and end to the day. We get them settled, calmed from the stormy weather outside or from the slippery walk to school, and help them to focus. We ease them back into a learning environment.

This is even more vital for those students who may not have stable home lives, or have any other ongoing issues. I’m so grateful that I get to play such a central role in helping them out.

Mental mornings as a Form Tutor

Now that we’ve broken down the crucial role that Form Tutors play, let’s explain what their lives look like.

Or, should I say, what my life looks like.

I’m thinking about one day this week just gone, where I was in school, setting up in my room, ready for the day. The time was 07:45, and quickly it had become 08:15. I’d spent half an hour sending resources to the printer, scheduling posts on Google Classroom for those who might be isolating and to give students a tidy, organised look back on what they’d studied in the term so far, and dashed to the printer.

With everything I needed for the day now safely stowed away in a folder, I attended a short Staff Meeting and rushed to my Form Room. Everyone was already there and I was welcomed by a chorus of ‘hello!’s and I took the register.

What happened next would depend on the day. We have a routine of activities each morning to engage the children in really beneficial ways. Some days, they might be reading aloud, to develop literacy and confidence. On others, I could be delivering PSHE, or Votes For Schools (where students can vote on weekly topics that have been in the news), or I could be taking them down to assembly. Whatever it is you choose to do with your form, I’d highly recommend a routine – it makes for a much smooth experience together and reduces any headaches that might be caused from having to constantly think: what to do today?

On this particular day, I was engaging in what might be my favourite Form Tutor activity: review of the week. This doesn’t have to take place at the end of the week; it’s a little more freedom to have a chat with your group, check in on them and see how they’re doing. I view this as the most important responsibility I have as a Tutor and it’s a shame that I can’t make more time for it during the rest of the week.

Then again, if you’re a teacher, you’ll know that there’s never enough time in a day to get to do everything that you want to. Knowing that everyone was happy and safe, I dismissed them for the first lesson of the day.

Your average afternoon as a Form Tutor

Afternoons in form groups go a lot quicker than you realise. In a perfect world, we’d be continuing whatever activity we started in the morning, but often it’s an opportunity to check in on how their days have been and get them ready to leave for home.

Personally, I like to use the time together to reflect on the day just gone, praise those who have received credits, and keep students behind for a few minutes if they’ve received any negative behaviour points. I think this is really important, too (like most of the jobs of a Form Tutor!), since it gives you a chance to hear their side of the story, emphasise the need to follow instructions and to be respectful, and hopefully offer a course correction to poor behaviours before they become habits.

(Speaking of habits, have you read my review of the productivity book, Atomic Habits?)

Reflecting as a Form Tutor

So last year, I thought about how impossible it would be to teach, full time, without that extra half an hour every day. However, now that I’ve managed a term and a half of it – replacing my free mornings and afternoons with a lovely group of students – you soon learn to not yearn for that free time back.

So, you might lose a little bit of time to yourself, but you gain so much more, something so much more valuable than an extra half an hour a day. You gain one of the most important responsibilities as a teacher, and what a privilege that is.

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