Here are seven top tips for your NQT year that I found particularly useful – based on my own experiences in the classroom.
Be Prepared for your NQT Year!
It’s a cliché but it’s true. Being prepared is half the battle… the last thing you want is to feel like you’re playing catch-up. Have an organised folder or two for CPD resources, seating plans, assessment tracking and copies of stuff you’re likely to use all the time. Have a USB stick crammed with resources – keep your lessons on it forever and nab as many resources as you can from others. It’s nice to have a treasure trove of stuff just in case your laptop dies and you’re left with nothing! Oh, and use some sort of cloud backup system for the USB stick and your computer too. You know, in case you lose it. Always. Be. Prepared.
Use Your NQT Mentor!
Your mentor is among the most important people you’ll work with during your NQT year. Don’t tell yourself you can ‘do it without them’ or that you’re ‘not worth their time because they’re busy’. Ask questions, share resources, plan lessons and bounce ideas back and forth with them. Your mentor should not only help you stay on top of the job in your first year, they should also offer a level of pastoral/wellbeing support. My mentor and I went out to lunch (yes, we actually left the building!) at least once a week and had a cheeky pint in the pub on a Friday too.
Remember, NQT Observations Aren’t a Performance!
Observations leave even the most experienced teachers feeling anxious and it’s always tempting to plan an overly-ambitious, all-singing-all-dancing lesson just to impress the observer. You’re going to be observed a lot during your NQT year so don’t fall into the trap of performing! A carefully planned, well-resourced, day-to-day lesson will impress an experienced teacher and the feedback will be useful too because it’s an accurate reflection on your actual teaching methods. Oh, you’ll avoid the inevitable ‘You’re not normally this much fun, Sir…’ moment too.
Oh, and Observe Other Teachers Too!
Observing other teachers in your own department has obvious benefits because methods and ideas are immediately transferable. However, if you have the chance to observe teachers in other subject areas, do it! Why? Teachers outside of your department might be a treasure trove of good ideas. Some may have fantastic behaviour management techniques, unique approaches to differentiation or excellent advice for teaching learners with SEND considerations that you’d have otherwise missed.
Sometimes, Feedback Isn’t Pleasant!
You’re a trained professional and you managed to land your job ahead of the other applicants – but sometimes, you are going to be told that certain aspects of your craft need to be improved – sometimes, that hurts. Just remember, if that harsh feedback on your questioning techniques was actionable and constructive, it’s nothing personal. Don’t let unpleasant feedback bog you down – learn from the advice and build upon it to impress the observer next time! You could also turn this on its head and ask an observer to demonstrate their techniques by going to watch them in their classroom.
Be a Reflective Practitioner (Or, Learn from Your Mistakes!)
Sometimes, things won’t go to plan. Your bright and brilliant idea for a starter could derail the entire lesson or the main tasks of your lesson could fall entirely flat. This happens to everyone – and it happens to experienced teachers all the time! The best advice here is to learn from your mistakes and frame everything in a positive way. Instead of beating yourself up and saying ‘that was an absolute shambles’, ask yourself how you could change your approach next time.
Make Time for You (And Your Family, Friends and Partner)!
The workload is one of the biggest concerns for teachers young and old and it’s important to avoid feeling swamped. Prioritise your work and stick to it rigidly. You might have some lovely ideas for a Romeo & Juliet display wall but is that because can’t bear to look at those 27 Romeo & Juliet assessments? Know when to say no, too. Those 27 assessments still need marking so a polite ‘no’ to another teacher, your head or a student is sometimes required and kick away that latent guilt for saying it. Have ‘you time’ on evenings and weekends – put time aside and stick to it! Go to the gym, binge a little TV, have friends over for dinner or go on a date – whatever you do to unwind, make time for it! It’ll do wonders for your health and wellbeing.
The NQT year is a tough one, but it’s also among the most rewarding. Enjoy the ride! What other hints, tips and advice would you offer to survive the hardships of the NQT year? And if you think you’ve got the NQT year down, why not check out our blog about things teachers wish they’d done during the NQT year? There is nothing but endless advice out there, including having a Beyond Secondary Resource subscription to hand!