NQT Special Edition: Are you ready for year 2?

Written by: Dave Stephenson | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Last year, Dave Stephenson was the SecEd NQT diarist. As he nears the end of his second year, he offers advice for NQTs on what September and year 2 might hold in store...

I recently took a group of year 7 students to visit the local university, where I did my teacher training. Touring the campus, we visited the building where my lectures and seminars took place. It felt surreal returning to the classrooms where, just two years ago, I was a student coming to the end of my ITT year.

In some ways, it feels like a long time ago, as so much has happened in my professional life since qualifying. At other times, it feels as though no time has passed at all due to the relentless, fast-paced nature of the job.

Our visit to the university has caused me to reflect on my first two years of teaching. Although the NQT year is intense, the second year at the chalkface can be even more so.

As they prepare to achieve “recently qualified teacher” status, it is crucial for NQTs to look ahead to year two while also reflecting on both the positives and negatives that have occurred so far this year.

So, based on my experiences during year two at the chalkface, here are five tips for NQTs to ensure they are prepared for what year 2 has in store.

Never lose sight of the classroom

It is very easy for recently qualified teachers to say “yes” to any opportunity that arises in order to appear willing.

It is important for practitioners to take on additional responsibilities in order to develop professionally but, as my NQT mentor would frequently say, teachers must “never lose sight of the classroom”.

As educators accrue more responsibility throughout their career, some of which may lead to additional TLR pay, it is crucial to remember that the majority of your salary is for teaching.

While it is important to look to the future and consider areas for professional development, it can never be at the expense of your present practice. If additional responsibilities begin to interfere with your classroom practice, it may be time to step back and consider whether you have taken on too much too soon.

Life in school is exciting, fast-paced, often challenging but never boring. As NQTs move into their second year of teaching, they must keep the momentum going to ensure that they develop into the best teachers that they can be.

Know – and stick to – your deadlines

By the end of their NQT year, most teachers will be used to having multiple deadlines hanging over them and will have developed the skills to manage their workload effectively. As a teacher’s career progresses, the number of deadlines that need meeting will increase. Once the NQT year is over, teachers will be expected to teach more classes and will often be asked to take on additional responsibilities. It is very easy for teachers to fall behind with their work. It is vital for practitioners to develop and maintain robust strategies to remain on top of their workload.

Step out of your comfort zone

Despite being a history specialist, in my first two years of teaching I have also taught geography, citizenship, PSHE and religious studies. While daunting at first, I feel that teaching a broad range of subjects has made me a better practitioner and I am grateful that I was given this opportunity to step out of my comfort zone.

Teaching outside your specialism is difficult, as it requires private study to ensure that your subject knowledge is good enough to deliver the curriculum content. As a result, it takes considerably more time to plan a lesson when you are a non-specialist in the subject. However, this additional work makes it all the more satisfying when a lesson goes well. As I reach the end of my second year, I am confident in teaching multiple subjects and I have made it clear to senior colleagues that I would prefer a similarly varied timetable in the future.

Embody your school’s core values

When working in a new school, first impressions count, and it is easy to make an impact very quickly within an educational institution. Whether that impact is positive or negative is up to the individual practitioner.

A good school with effective leadership should make all of its stakeholders – including staff, students and parents – aware of its core values and ethos. By the end of their NQT year, it is important for teachers to have considered the values of the school and they should endeavour to model these as consistently as possible.

Teachers who fail to do so set a bad example to their students and open themselves up to criticism from colleagues.

I am fortunate to work in a school where the values are clear, concise and regularly reinforced. This has compelled me to examine my own practice regularly to ensure that I am upholding the values that I expect my students to demonstrate.

Socialise with colleagues

Teaching is a life-consuming profession. Although many people will tell you that teachers spend half the year on holiday and the rest of the time are able to saunter out of work at 3pm, this is far from true.

My colleagues and I arrive at work around 7:30am and often work until after 5pm. With regular additional responsibilities such as parents’ evenings, the working week is rarely less than 50 hours long. Due to the long working hours, it is essential that teachers enjoy each other’s company. My advice – to NQTs and RQTs – is to actively seek out social events within school to get involved with.

I consider many of the people that I work with to be friends and make an effort to socialise with them outside of school. A group of us go to the pub every Friday after school, making it clear to others that this is open invite. We also make the effort to invite new colleagues in order to make them feel welcome.

A senior colleague with more than 30 years of experience told me: “If you don’t like each other, you can’t work with each other.” This has informed my approach to getting to know my colleagues and has led to some valued friendships developing during my first two years.

  • Dave Stephenson was SecEd’s NQT diarist during the year 2017/18. He is a teacher of history at a comprehensive school in the North of England.

NQT Special Edition: Free download

This article was featured as part of SecEd’s 10-page NQT Special Edition in our June edition. To download a free pdf of all 10 pages, which offer advice for new teachers across a range of topics including behaviour, classroom practice, wellbeing and more, go to the SecEd Knowledge Bank. The NQT Special Edition was produced with kind support from the National Education Union. Visit www.sec-ed.co.uk/knowledge-bank/nqt-and-trainee-teachers-10-pages-of-tips-advice-and-support


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