The NQT year is both one of the most challenging and rewarding years of your teaching career. So much still to learn but also so much to offer your school and students (I share loads of ideas ‘magpied’ from observations of NQTs). Twitter is full of tales of victory and woes, and your experienced colleagues will give you that knowing look that says ‘hang on in there’. There’s no doubt about it; the induction year is life in the fast lane! In July 2018, as they were finishing their induction, I asked over 60 NQTs what advice they would give an NQT embarking on their first term. Here are some of their responses
All of us are not born confident. Rather, it is a feeling you cultivate over time. As a teacher, it is necessary that you appear confident because the more timid and shy you appear, the more your students will walk all over you.
“To relax and to remember that everyone has a different teaching style. Be authentic not an imitation”
“Even on your worst day find something positive ( one kid did the work well is enough) and it will all seem better. Finding the positives gives you the resilience to dust yourself off and give that next class the best you can. ”
“Get involved in other areas of the school. Student’s will respect that you are interested in them and you will feel more involved, building positive relationships with both pupils and staff”
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help from anybody around you when you need it. There is no such thing as a stupid question…I constantly got confused with the acronyms in staff meetings!”
“Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. There will be hundreds of years of teaching experience available to you in the staffroom. Use it!”
“Relax, plan in advance, try new things… but enjoy it. Persevere and don’t forget why we teach.”
“Be open to constructive criticism and ask for feedback.”
Observe as much as possible within your department and across the curriculum. Gather ideas and try them out. With a full timetable next year you will not get this opportunity again
“Ask another NQT to observe you on a focused area e.g. ticking questions on a seating plan to evaluate if a wide range of pupils are engaged.”
“Observe another teacher with one of your classes. Do the student’s behave differently?”
“Ask your mentor to schedule feedback as well as an observation. There’s nothing worse than waiting around for feedback.”
Be honest with yourself, it is a marathon not a sprint. There will always be demands to meet, whether it be planning, marking, assessing the learning, no matter how long you have been teaching. Maintaining a consistent approach to workload helps. Make sure you are not working every night and keep your personal commitments up.
“Get on top of how to manage your time as early as possible by roughly planning how to use your frees and creating a manageable ‘to do’ list before you leave school.”
“Make sure to build in free time for you, right from the start of your NQT year. Arrange something nice for October half-term.”
“Don’t plan lessons too far ahead, pupils’ ability and skills will be unknown and the lessons should be adapted around them. Mid-term planning is essential to see where the learning is going but each week personalisation will be needed.”
“You can’t do everything. Work smarter not harder. Use your reduced time effectively and wisely. Plan for it weekly. This could be training opportunities, planning and developing SoW/resources or collaborative marking.”
“Be proactive in asking questions and plan ahead. Use the school calendar to input all dates for deadlines and school trips in your planner. I once planned a lesson for a class that were out of school all day…waiting for 20 minutes for them to turn up was not good use of my time!”
“Make sure everything you are doing has an impact. If you are marking books with stickers, just to show you are marking, is it really benefitting your students?”
“Ensure rewards given are recorded via school systems. Students will feel like you are investing in them. Allocate time when you will do this.”
Eat well and get enough sleep
You are the greatest resource in the classroom. Eating on the hoof or not eating at all and constantly depriving yourself of sleep in favour of planning and marking may make you feel dedicated and hardworking but, in truth, this approach is not only unsustainable but is also far from healthy.
Such self-neglect is counterproductive and will impact negatively on your ability to do a good job. Stop for proper breaks and healthy meals, prioritise sleep and allow yourself some downtime. Otherwise you’ll be completely burnt out before you’ve completed your first half term.