You can hardly believe it. The end of the summer term is in sight. You are just about to complete your first year in teaching. Ahead of you are six glorious weeks of holiday.
Before you give your full attention to long days of doing just what you want to do, make sure you finish off this term, and this year, properly.
Give some thought to the autumn, too, so that you will be ready for the new school year. Create a checklist for the summer now. It will help you to round off your NQT year effectively.
The end of your NQT year
You have had a lot to do over the last three terms. Now is the time to make sure you finish off the year professionally.
First, check that you have done everything that senior people in school expect of you. Did you hand over all those lesson plans you were asked to submit? Have you made the right number of visits to observe other teachers at work? Have you written up your notes from mentoring sessions? Look through your diary and check that you have not overlooked anything.
Next, consider which activities you know you have struggled with during the year. Focus on tasks you managed to complete but which, if you are honest with yourself, you are not quite sure how you managed them. Before term ends learn how to do two of those tasks better. Get some hints and tips from your school’s experts. Watch people at work. Ask questions. Learn new techniques.
You will be less likely to fret and worry over the summer about things you find difficult, if you demonstrate to yourself that you have a strategy for managing your on-going learning in place. You will also be making certain that the things you have found difficult this year will be less of a problem in September.
Finally, as you make your plans to end the year successfully, remind yourself of your achievements. You have experienced a complete school year.
You now know more than you did last year about how schools work and what is expected of teachers. You can be pleased with what you have achieved and how much you have learned. You have earned those congratulations you would like to offer yourself, so allow yourself a few moments to enjoy that feeling of success.
Here comes summer
You have not experienced what it is like to be on holiday as a teacher – yet. Summer holidays will be different now. The weeks sandwiched between the end of one academic year and the beginning of the next make up the summer holiday.
You are about to discover just how easy it is to allow the year that is finishing to spill over into the first weeks of your summer holiday, and then to be preoccupied with the coming term later in the summer.
Plan to avoid this trap. Prepare now to become someone else once the holiday starts. Give yourself permission to switch off from school. That means you will be committing yourself to do things that are unrelated to your life in school.
In other words, give yourself permission to take a complete break from school life and stop being a teacher for a few weeks during the summer.
Remember, too, that holidays are the times when you have the opportunity to do things you cannot fit into your schedule during term time. That could mean going away for part of the holiday. It could mean choosing to spend time with people you have not had the chance to meet up with during the school year.
Maybe you also want to work on projects quite unrelated to school life that you can only do well when you are relaxed and when you can devote whole days to them. Plan to do those things, too. Find a space for these activities in your holiday schedule.
However, if you know you will need to prepare to teach new set texts or a different syllabus in September, note now when you plan to do your preparation and how many hours, or days, you intend to allocate to school work during the summer.
When you have made your decision, put the school-related tasks you intend to work on out of your mind. There is no need to feel guilty about taking time off when you still have work to do. You have organised your holiday so that you can accommodate preparation and relaxation.
Happy new year?
As you look ahead to the summer break, you might be tempted to think about the next academic year, too.
The most important thing you can do now to prepare for next year is to ensure that, before you go on holiday, you have a copy of your timetable for the autumn term in your possession. Make sure you know what, and who, you will be teaching in September.
Certainty now will help you to enjoy the summer holiday. Knowing your timetable will also help you to be confident that any preparations you make for next year will be relevant and useful.
Find out as well exactly which additional responsibilities you will be expected to take on in September. Most schools ensure that NQTs have a reduced timetable, but next year you will not be an NQT.
Ask senior people what else you will be expected to do. Will you have enhanced pastoral responsibilities? Will you be expected to contribute to assemblies? Might you be expected to take the lead in your department on a specific topic or aspect of the curriculum? Find out before the holiday and avoid nasty surprises in September.
Lastly, as you look ahead to the autumn, remind yourself of how much you have learned during your NQT year. You can complete tasks with ease today that you struggled with back in September. You have modified your views about some aspects of teaching in the light of your experience to date.
Use your knowledge to organise yourself so that you will be working effectively from the beginning of term in your second year in teaching. You know how your school works. You know, in broad terms, what is expected of you. That means you can plan ahead.
Write down your plans and put your notes somewhere safe. Look at them again next term. They will help to get you off to a flying start in September.
You are ready, or almost ready, to start your summer holiday. Before you leave your NQT year behind, remember you will never be an NQT again. The things you are doing now to finish off the year, to plan for the summer holiday and to prepare, as best you can, for the year ahead, are some of your final tasks as an NQT.
Each July from now on you will have your summer checklist at the back of your mind ready to help you prepare for the holiday.
Your checklist will enable you to enjoy the holiday, confident that you are prepared for the future. With summer just around the corner you really will be ready for that well-earned break. Go ahead and enjoy it.
NQT Special Edition
Margaret Adams is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a former teacher. She is the author of Work-Life Balance, A Practical Guide for Teachers and The 30-Day Work-Life Balance Challenge.
This article was published as part of SecEd's June 2013 NQT Special edition, produced in association with the NASUWT. The edition features eight pages of best practice and advisory articles aimed at supporting NQTs and trainee teachers across the UK. Download the free PDF of all eight pages here.