Almost a year ago to this day I published a blog post to New Educational Bloggers and Tweachers giving them tips and things I wished I knew at the start of my time interacting with many of the world’s best educators. Now, I have come to end of the first year of my career in teaching. I am officially no longer an NQT. It has certainly been the hardest life of my year. This was because of a number of things in my personal life as well as professional life but all these events have caused me to think about what I wished I knew at the start of this year to make it even more effective.
As with the post last year, this will not be an exhaustive list of things NQT’s need to know (ideas from others would be much appreciated), but these are ideas that I wish I had known or had made sure I remembered that would make my NQT year a bit easier.
Things I wish I knew
1. Start as you mean to go on…and then go on!
I found it easy to start strong with a focus on learning and firm but fair behaviour management. However, I quickly realised it was all to easy to let that slip. In the hustle and bustle of day to day teaching and learning, it can become easy to let small things (or as Ofsted have called it recently ‘low-level disruption’) slide as at the time it seems tedious to have to deal with. However, if low level disruption is not dealt with every time, learning will be disrupted further down the line. Therefore, it will be vital to make sure that does not change.
However, I learnt that this point does not apply just to behaviour management. When I started in September I had a number of what I felt (and what turned out to be) engaging teaching and learning strategies. However, when I reach November, those same strategies did not produce the same level of engagement and learning potential. It is important to start searching out and implementing engaging teaching strategies but it is then still important to keep up with searching and implementing new teaching strategies (another reason why Twitter is such a valuable CPD tool). It is not as easy as it sounds, but will make the ride in the classroom easier for you and the students you teach.
2. Things will work out – just do what you know to do
Sometimes the tasks that you have in front of you can seem overwhelming – educating a class of 30+ children and ensuring that they make progress in a number of subject areas is just the start! Of course, I personally had to deal with the SATs, a residential trip and other things. As a result (understandably) I got a little worked up over a few things. However, I wish I knew this fact – as long as I continue doing what I was trained to do (provide quality first teaching) then things will eventually come through. Take each step at a time and you will pull through with good results. I found things didn’t go so well when I got myself worked up about the large task at hand and lost the focus on what I needed to do there and then. Not easy to do but worth it.
3. Seek advice from others
Wherever you begin your employment as a teacher, you will be working with other members of staff. That is a constant variable which you can rely on. As such, you will meet many different characters and styles amongst the teaching staff. One thing I wish I knew was how willing many teachers are to help out. I think that, as a profession, we are increasingly being pressured from many sides, we recognise that when we can support one of our own it will be greatly appreciated. Of course, not all teachers will be as willing to help out, but you will very quickly learn who to ask for what kind of support. That support could be a life saver for you – and of course it is a requirement in the Teachers Standards.
So, do actively take the time to seek support or even just opinions from others. As a got further into my NQT Year I found that the afternoons I’d be in school would be spent less on marking (partly because I had gotten used to balancing the practice out and more efficient, as well as SATs prep reducing the amount of marking in books) and more on discussions with other members of staff. These moments were really helpful and I was left kicking myself at how I hadn’t done that sooner. As this went on I found that not only was I receiving more support but other members of staff started to come to me for advice and support. I was able to have a number of interesting opportunities for dialogue with the Maths Coordinator and she began to share pieces of learning from her class and asked me what I would have done a little differently. I found these exchanges to be really thought-provoking and it also improved my practice. You must do this!
4. Use the holidays well
..By this I do not mean spend every moment planning, assessing, evaluating schemes of work. In fact, quite the opposite. I managed to pass my NQT year with doingh (a bit) less at the holidays than I thought I would have to. You must use these times off effectively, yes get done any pressing work that needs to be done, but also take the chance to RELAX. My wife and I went away without the kids for a few days at the May Half Term (between the SATs and a residential trip and end-of-year production). I’m sure if I didn’t get that real little break in between I would have had a mental breakdown having to coordinate moody Year 6’s to perform after being tested the most they had in their lives.
(I also got my reports done in those holidays – only an hour or so a day spread out but it worked. I actually was one of the few that got my reports in a couple of days before the deadline – it can be done!)
5. Never let work overtake home life
This final but simple point does kind of link in to the previous. Hopefully your school is led by human beings who appreciate you have a life outside the workplace. I guess I’m in an unusual position to other NQT’s but during the year my wife and I had our second child and that child ended up in hospital for a week with bronchiolitis. They nearly lost her in the ambulance…My school were an amazing support. They never questioned the fact I had to be there with our little daughter, there was never a tough question as to when I’d be able to get back in and when I returned after the horrendous week everyone was eager to find out how she was doing. It would have easy to say I couldn’t afford the time to miss much work and not been there for my wife, daughter and poor 2 year old son who was confused why everyone was so worried and absent despite explaining what we could to him. It would have been wrong too. Never let what goes on at work impact on home life (again, much easier said than done and I often didn’t follow this advice) and then the things at work will fall into place.
I would love it if any other recently passed NQT’s have any more pieces of advice to give to upcoming NQT’s. It would also be marvellous for this article to get to upcoming NQTs as most probably don’t read educational blogs or Tweet as a Teacher. What advice do you wish you knew before your NQT year?