A mentor's advice for NQTs at the end of term one

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NQT mentor David Torn takes us through the advice that he normally offers to his mentees at this time of year.

Congratulations, you are a third of the way through your first year. At this point you will, no doubt, be very tired, but hopefully extremely pleased with the career choice that you made just over a year ago. The last three months will have tested you in many ways and now it is time to reflect. 

Two-week break

The next two weeks will go extremely quickly – make the most of it. It will not be until Easter that you get a break of the same length and then you will probably be heavily involved in marking controlled assessments or other exam-related stuff.

I can hear you saying “but, I have got six sets of books to mark”! That may be the case, but if you do not get some rest you will not be able to function next term. 

If you do have work to do, aim to get it done in the first three/four days if possible. It is extremely easy to switch of as soon as you break up from school. The problem with this is that the longer you leave it the more it nags at the back of your mind and you will not enjoy the break. 

I used to do this a lot and I found it a miserable way to go back to school in January. Not only was I stressed before I even got to school for the new term, but I had felt guilty about not doing work in the first place.

Observations

By this time you should have been observed at least four times and both your subject leader and NQT co-ordinator should have seen you. It might be that your headteacher has seen you too. Far from this being stressful, learn to enjoy it (if at all possible). 

Alongside this you have, hopefully, seen other practitioners. This may sound weird, but the more you are seen and take part in observations of others, the more you will learn. Try to make this a habit throughout your whole career.

After your second or third year, the likelihood for some of you is that you might only be seen when it comes to performance management. Observations can then become more stressful than they need to be. 

Instead, why not get into the habit now and make it your mission to observe and be observed (I realise this might not prove as easy as it sounds – nevertheless try to make the effort).

First NQT report

You should have been given a copy of your first termly report by this stage. If not, ask your subject leader or NQT co-ordinator for it. The report should give a clear indication of the progress you have made so far and what needs to be done in the next two terms. The report should be done with you so you are absolutely clear, not just about the targets, but how to achieve them. If you have struggled over the last term it is even more vital you get a copy of the report. 

If your school deems that you have not made satisfactory progress over the last term they have to let you know and put in more support. Whether the school is an academy or not, they are obliged to indicate interventions that will allow progress. Hopefully you have made the expected progress. In any case get a copy of your report and put it in your Career Development Profile.

And finally…

The spring term is traditionally the most stressful term primarily because you are preparing some of the students for their summer examinations. It is also the shortest term and you will be expected to squeeze many things in such as reports, parents’ evenings, revision classes etc. 

Think about how you will prepare for this time. Look at your planner and consider where you will be at the end of the first two, four and six weeks of term. Even if your plans are outlined and not detailed the journey will be easier if you have done some initial preparation. Merry Christmas!

  • David Torn is a professional tutor at St Edward’s School in Essex. He is a former Teacher of the Year for London and co-author of Brilliant Secondary School Teacher.

Free best practice download for NQTs

This article has been published as part of SecEd's autumn 2012 NQT special focus, which comprises a range of best practice and advisory articles aimed at new teachers as they approach the end of their first term at the chalkface. The special focus has been supported by the NASUWT and you can download a free PDF containing all the articles from the Supplements section of this website by clicking here.




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