NQT Special Edition: Advice from year 2

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Last year’s NQT diarist for SecEd is now in his second year of teaching. He advises on what this year’s NQTs can expect when September – and their second year of teaching – arrives

I found the NQT year to be a little bit strange. You are a qualified teacher. But you’re kind of not.

Essentially you are no longer a trainee, but the school still keeps a pretty close eye on you. And you still have to jump through certain hoops in your first year that other “actual” teachers don’t have to do.

But, as this year’s NQTs know by now, soon that is all over. Soon you are just one of the team. A fully fledged normal everyday teacher. Welcome to the gang! With this comes great responsibility. And as year 2 begins you will see full teacher timetables and many more modules of work to plan.

If I could go back and give my nearly-RQT self any advice it would be this: use your gained time at the end of the school year to get on and make your September life easier.

In our school, year 11 and 13 have left by May which means there is a much lighter workload and loads of time to get stuff done. However, I know that period five on a hot Thursday afternoon is, and always will be, the motivation zapper we all don’t need.

I entered into the fast-paced world of RQT life in September and everything came at once. One thing you learn pretty rapidly with schools is that there is no such thing as easing back into it. In September you hit the ground running and if you haven’t got yourself ahead of the game it’s going to be an uphill climb all the way to Christmas.

Get organised now. What modules of work need planning/replacing/new content? Change them now. Trust me. There is nothing better than getting back to work on the first day of term and having your week planned out, most of your resources ready and nothing to get in the way.

You will thank your past motivated self. Heck, get your class lists and sort out seating plans. Get books ready for your first lessons back. Tidy your desk (read: never going to happen). Change your displays for a great learning environment.

The possibilities are endless. What I’m saying is, you know that list of to-dos? Try and cross off some of the ones that have made their way to the bottom as well as preparing for September.

There is another huge benefit to this. As teachers we always feel guilty when we aren’t working. By prepping now for next year you will not get “summer holiday guilt”.

I know lots of teachers do work at different times and feel differently about this. But for me the holidays are a no-work zone. You need it to stay sane. Clock-off in July knowing that you are ready for September. It will be a hard push to do this but, again, you will thank yourself come September.

One of my favourite transitions after coming back in September after the break and beginning my second year of teaching was knowing that I was just like everyone else. No longer will you have to do an observation at a time different to anyone else. You are in the running race just like everyone else.

However, that gives you another challenge. You still want to stand out. A lot of us crave career progression and now is your time to shine. You are still a fresh-faced teacher in a “big” school. Do something this year that makes you stand out to someone. It doesn’t need to be huge. There is so much that can be done. Try leading an assembly if you haven’t already. You could be a little more ambitious and lead a trip. It could be a local trip or you could go all out and take a group of students abroad. Get involved in a new extra-curricular activity or start a new club.

I think the most important thing that I took from my training and NQT year is that “every day is a school day”. So continue to channel that experimental trainee next year. Read around teaching on blogs, Twitter or in books. Keep improving your skill-set. Keep improving your work.
If you find you have a difficult student in September that you haven’t met before, then remember that someone, somewhere has a teaching tweak/technique for you to try. Worst case scenario it doesn’t work.

Just because you are no longer an NQT doesn’t mean that you should stop asking for help when you need it.

And your students will like the change now and then and other staff will want to steal your ideas too. And by all means let them: “Sharing is caring.”

To summarise: well done for getting to the end of your NQT year. You are at the end of a huge two-year journey and you are now “a real-life teacher”. Get ready for September. It won’t be easy but you and only you can make your life easier.

Once you’ve put in the initial work, put your feet up, for six whole weeks. Then get going. Try new and old things in your classroom. Have fun with it. It won’t hurt.

  • The author of this article was SecEd’s NQT diarist during the last academic year. He is now in his second year of teaching as a teacher of science at a school in the Midlands.

NQT Special Edition

This article was published as part of SecEd’s NQT Special Edition. The publication offered eight pages of specialist best practice advice for NQTs and trainee teachers across the UK. Supported by the NASUWT the special edition published on June 29, 2017, and the eight pages are available to download as a free pdf from SecEd’s Supplements page: www.sec-ed.co.uk/supplements


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