Your NQT year - some non-exhaustive advice

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Your NQT year - some non-exhaustive advice

Never, ever say the words, ‘if you’re really stuck, I’ll do it’.

In a busy department or year team meeting, this is heard as ‘I’m new and keen to be as useful as possible - I’d love to do it!’ Only volunteer if you want to, can manage it and are sure you know what you are signing up for.

Engage with at least one school area outside of your teaching subject.

Keeping our previous advice at the front of your mind(!),get on the sports day microphone if you’re good at public speaking and announce the events; chaperone the school show; go on the French trip; go to the science museum. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll gain personally from seeing the school, the pupils and your colleagues in a slightly different light.

Weep.

It’s allowed - let it out (if your tiredness or frustration comes out in a form other than tears, allow that instead. Within reason). Just own the struggle, get it out, then leave it out and move forwards.

Love your subject to the point of geekiness.

Pupils love subjects taught by teachers who love those subjects. It’s as simple as that. Be passionate without fear. It really doesn’t matter if the odd teenage rebel laughs at you.

Yesterday is gone and today is today.

The pupils need to learn this as much as their teachers do. They need to know that, once an issue has been dealt with, the next day begins again - they can start afresh as many times as it takes.

Quieten your voice.

One of the calmest classrooms I’ve been in belonged to a teacher whose voice became quieter the more cross she became. The pupils subconsciously lowered their noise until a pin could be heard dropping to catch each word she spoke. Remarkable but true! Try to avoid making raising your voice your normalcy - there’s only so many times you can raise it until you can raise it no further.

Upcycle.

Reuse resources, repurpose displays, recycle containers to store glue-sticks without lids. We all wish that schools had endless money for endless resources but until that happens, make the most of what you have in your classroom.

Ask for help.

I can’t express this strongly enough. Ask. For. Help. Keep asking until someone helps you. Ask for advice, support or assistance.

Laugh.

Laugh with friends, colleagues and classes. Watch comedy shows. Go dancing. Your NQT year is still a year of your life - show those teeth!

Initiate contact with parents.

One of the best pieces of advice I received whilst training was to make initial, positive contact with as many parents as possible (this is made so much easier with department postcards, email and parent contact apps). If you mark a great piece of homework, send a line home to the parents to tell them. It makes their day (if not their week) and they know you are fair if you ever need their back up later on.

Find your Achilles Heel.

Figure out what you are dreading and always avoiding, then find a strategy to deal with it. For me it was marking - there was so much of it and I’d do almost anything else to avoid it! My colleague suggested we mark together one afternoon a week. It was a lifesaver - it kept me accountable, focussed and stopped procrastination for that hour each week.

Itemise tasks in minute detail.

This one comes courtesy of my ever-wise mother. She taught me never to write ‘clean the house’ on a todo list - you’ll never be able to tick it off! Instead, itemise - mark books in sets of 5 and tick off each set; change one display at a time; plan lessons in small blocks not weeks.

Exercise.

Walk, run, dance, play a sport, box, swim. Get the endorphins flowing and even the longest, most stressful day will sit a little easier. And you’ll sleep better!

Do something that is absolutely nothing to do with teaching.

And don’t feel guilty about it! You do your job well and give enough. Carve out some time to do what you already love or to find something new that inspires you. The pupils need to see that they are not your whole world, and you need to see it too. Have some fun!

Good luck with your NQT year!


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