NQT Special: Advice from the second year

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Last year’s SecEd NQT diarist is now in their second year of teaching. We asked them for their tips for this year’s NQTs...

Your NQT year is in full swing by now. Hopefully you will be settled and happy in your new school and by now the staff and students should have stopped looking at you as if you’re an intruder.

Enjoy that feeling of belonging. Remember what it was like when you were a student teacher?

When it always felt like you were in the way or struggled for respect because you were “just” a student teacher? Take a moment now to remind yourself of how far you’ve come. You are a qualified teacher.

A year ago I was in the same position, about to reach the end of my first term as a qualified teacher. Here follows some advice based on my experiences last year.

Workload

I am sure you are already used to your full timetable and cannot believe how long you used to spend preparing lessons in your PGCE year. It can still be daunting though, especially when the marking builds up.

If you’re lucky you’ll be at a school where lots of things are already planned and schemes of work are all fully resourced and ready to go. If you’re not, you’re probably incredibly stressed all the time. Don’t suffer in silence.

The chances are that if things aren’t already planned, there will be other people in the same position. Ask your colleagues if they have any resources or if they want to split the workload and plan it together. They may even have a resources budget for emergencies too – that’s always good to know about.

The other thing that really helped me through the workload in my NQT year was my marking timetable. My head of department sat down with me at the beginning of the year to help me make it and it completely transformed my organisation and marking strategy.

The timetable meant that I knew exactly when I could take in a class’s books and have enough time to mark them before their next lesson. I even identified on the timetable the best lessons for setting homework.

Relationships created this year will last

The relationships you form with students in your NQT year will follow you. Make a good impression this year. That doesn’t mean you need every kid to like you, but they should respect you.

That’s not to say that if you have a few students who cause you a real headache, they will always be a nightmare – students grow up and mature. But if you get your classes into good routines and follow through with rewards and punishments, they will remember.

For years to come they’ll know that your lessons are not the ones they are lazy in, they’ll know that it’s not worth “forgetting” their homework, and they’ll know that they can’t just talk through your lessons.

Not only will your current students know it, but they will tell their friends. Next year when they get their timetables on the first day, they’ll see your initials and their friend will say “oh they’re nice but strict” or “oh, they’re good but you can’t mess around”. Trust me, my form group were nattering on like that for 30 minutes on the first day. Your reputation will precede you. And if you have any problem students now, ask for help with them – ask your head of department to step in if needs-be, and make sure they remember you as the teacher who didn’t let them get away with it.

Grow your network in the school

It’s not only your relationships with the students that will affect your time at school. Getting to know as many staff as possible will also help you in ways you could never imagine.

My biggest tip would be to grow your network. It could just be about smiling at everyone in the corridor, sharing some small talk in the queue for tea, or replying quickly to someone’s email asking for a favour. If people recognise you as someone who is happy and willing to help, they will be a lot more willing to help you.

Schools are often described as horribly political, with staff quarrels and rumours hijacking most staffroom conversations. This is a little dramatic, although it can be like that at times. My advice is to stay out of it. It may seem obvious, but it’s so easy to get dragged into a conversation where you suddenly find yourself inadvertently bad-mouthing someone or engaging in rumour-spreading.

Whether it’s for a trip you want to put on, that last-minute photocopying you desperately need, or that information you need about a student, if other staff know you and like you, they will be an invaluable resource when you need their help.

Above all else, enjoy your NQT year – and when Christmas does arrive, relax and give yourself a well-earned break.

  • The author of this article was SecEd’s NQT diarist last year and is now in her second year of teaching as a teacher of citizenship, RE and humanities at a school in England.

NQT Special Edition

This article has been published as part of SecEd’s autumn 2017 NQT Special Edition – eight pages of guidance, advice and practical tips for new teachers. Topics range from wellbeing, workload an work/life balance, to classroom advice, feedback tips, behaviour management and advice about your own rights and entitlements. You can download the entire eight-page section as a free pdf via http://bit.ly/2Bv5dIc


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