NQT Special Edition: How to survive and thrive as a new teacher

Written by: Julian Stanley | Published:
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As your NQT year comes to an end, Julian Stanley offers some advice on workload, behaviour and what you can expect when September comes...

As the end of your first year as an NQT approaches, the chances are you are feeling exhausted and are longing for the holidays and time to rest.

Whatever your situation, my first piece of advice is this – make sure you have a proper break. Please.

You may see the summer holidays as a chance to catch up with work, put a plan in place for next year, do some more learning and resolve to improve.

That’s all fine. But the most important thing you can do for your career right now is to have some time off. It is vital that you keep yourself mentally and physically healthy and robust. So try to switch off completely for at least some of the holiday. Do something completely different. Don’t just flop and sleep the summer away. Do something for you. Teaching is all about helping others – now is the time to help yourself.

Losing NQT status

When your next year starts you will no longer be an NQT and you may well lose some of your protected planning time and mentoring support (although I know some schools continue this into your second year). But for the most part, the training wheels come off in September and generally speaking you are expected to take on more duties and perhaps other roles too. So there’s no getting away from it. You’re going to be busier. There will be added workload and less support.

However, this also means that you are now trusted as a qualified teacher and you can take on more responsibility. It may feel daunting right now but it is also a chance to prove yourself and make the most out of your teaching.

As such, before you go on your break it is a good idea to formulate a plan for how you’re going to cope when you get back. That should make re-entry a little easier. If you are dreading September – and I know some of you probably are – take steps now to try to assuage some of that fear.

Behaviour

Two of the most common issues we hear about from NQTs are coping with the workload and learning to deal with difficult behaviour.
Coping with challenging behaviour in a classroom is something every teacher will face in their career. In our 2017 YouGov health survey, 32 per cent of teachers who had experienced physical and mental health problems told us that their symptoms were related to problems with student behaviour. So here are some tips on how to cope:

  • Be authoritative in your speech and body language.
  • Fake it until you make it – be absolutely confident and in control even if you don’t feel it.
  • Get out of the habit of sitting behind the desk.

You should also try the PEP approach – proximity, eye-contact, posing questions:

  • Proximity: walk around the classroom and stand by a pupil that may be about to misbehave. Stand a “little too close for comfort” but don’t invade personal space. A difficult judgement sometimes. You don’t want to come over as aggressive or intimidating.
  • Eye-contact: holding eye contact expresses dominance. What you say will be taken more seriously if you can maintain eye contact before, during and after speaking.
  • Posing questions: rather than telling a pupil off pose a question with proximity and eye-contact such as: “Why have you not started your work?”

Workload

Many NQTs will face increased work next year. The autumn term is often the toughest with nights drawing in making us feel less energetic – the hibernation instinct is strong as the days get shorter.

There’s also extra pressures around Christmas activities for which you’ll be expected to play your part. Being prepared can be a big help.

Again though I urge you take regular breaks. Staying at school longer to mark papers or working through your lunch break is not the best way to manage a workload that can at times feel overwhelming.

One of the best ways to prevent burn-out is setting boundaries. Leave work on time. Don’t allow work to bleed into every aspect of your life. Don’t talk or worry about work every evening when you get home.

Be disciplined and set a cut-off time. Saying “Right. I’m putting that up on the shelf for the rest of the evening. What’s on telly?” can really help. Accept that most to-do lists never get completely done and don’t beat yourself up over it.

Organise something for your time off so you’re forced to do it rather than just flopping on the sofa all night. Think of things you enjoy but which also take your mind off work. Your brain never switches off but it can switch activities.

Conclusion

As you approach your second year of teaching even though you may no longer have a mentor or official support it is certainly still okay to reach out for help. You won’t know what help is available unless you ask.

And remember our counsellors are available round the clock if you need someone to talk to about any issue – work or home. It is free and confidential and we are urging teachers to get in touch as soon as they feel they need something extra to help them get through.

Congratulations on completing your NQT year. Give yourself a reward for getting through it. You deserve it. And now have a well-earned rest and I do hope you can come back in September refreshed and reinvigorated. 

  • Julian Stanley is CEO of the Education Support Partnership.

Further information

For help or advice on any issue facing those working in education, contact the Education Support Partnership’s free 24-hour helpline on 08000 562 561 or visit
www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk

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 28, 2018, 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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