NQT Special: Lessons from the second year

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SecEd’s NQT diarist from last year is now nearing the end of her second year of teaching. We asked her to pass on to the nation’s NQTs the lessons she has learnt this year.

The end is in sight for you; six weeks of blissful child-free fun (unless of course you have children of your own).

As the summer holidays beckon, you may have started to think about the coming academic year. Perhaps, like me, you have applied for a new job and are thinking about how to make the best impression. Or maybe you are staying at your current school and are currently being drafted in to use your new-found year 11-free down time in various productive ways!

If you are at a particularly organised school, you may have heard murmurs from senior leaders as they start to think about organising timetables for next year – and you may be waiting with anticipation to find out which classes you carry forward and which you lose (praying that you can finally wave goodbye to that naughty year 9 group and crossing your fingers that you can keep hold of that lovely class you made so much progress with this year).

Whatever your situation, I am sure that you are now completely ready to collapse and praying for the remaining weeks of the summer term to pass as smoothly and stress-free as possible!

As someone who was in your shoes this time last year, I have been asked to offer you some words of wisdom; some advice for making the transition into the coming academic year.

Be pro-active about your own CPD

Now you are completely qualified, you may find yourself suddenly afloat like a ship without a compass. It is important that, while you revel in your new-found freedom, you do not let yourself stagnate; keep yourself moving forward professionally. 

Find out from your line manager what the school policy is for teachers leaving school to go on externally run CPD. Most schools will be keen to send you out for a day’s training if you can prove that your attendance on the course will improve the teaching and learning within the school. 

Of course something that makes your attendance at a course extra valuable to the school is if you share your learning with other staff members, so offer to contribute key learning points at department meetings or other skill-sharing opportunities. If you are savvy about it and do your research you can normally find some courses that are free-of-charge, meaning your school will only need to pay for your supply cover. 

If, like me, you are a maths teacher, Mathematics in Education and Industry runs some excellent free courses which I have found incredibly useful in terms of developing my subject knowledge and addressing key issues in developing students’ higher level thinking skills.

Don’t become a classroom hermit

Keep observing other staff. Remember CPD does not just come in the form of external courses. Make the most of opportunities to develop yourself within your own school.

While it is refreshing to no longer have well-meaning senior leaders constantly ushering you to observe outstanding practitioners in your free periods (you know, those “free” periods when you were trying to catch up on all that marking or trying to plan desperately for your next observation), you can fall into the trap of sticking inside your own realms of teaching and forget to get out and observe the great work being done by your colleagues.

There is so much to learn from seeing how other members of staff start their lessons, differentiate for learners and aid pupils in reflecting on their learning. Make sure you get out of your classroom and keep the fresh ideas flowing.

Start to think about your passions

You will no doubt have realised over the course of the past year, if not before, that you take a special interest in a certain professional area, whether this be developing schemes of work, working on assessment for learning strategies, ensuring appropriate support for pupils with SEN, stretching those most able pupils or raising aspirations through extra-curricular activities.

Whatever your passion is, make it known to your line manager and any other senior leaders who might be opening up positions of responsibility in the coming academic year.

Each school has its own structure for assigning teaching and learning responsibilities, but if you do not enquire and show willing, then no-one will ever know you are interested in an increase in responsibility!

In a similar vein, if you feel that it would be beneficial to a particular class to have you as their teacher next year, make sure it is known to your head of department and whoever is in charge of timetabling; they may be able to work something out for you.

New levels of responsibility

Your new-found qualified status means you now hold a greater level of accountability should things not go to plan. No longer will the words “well, they are new...” be used to explain a failure to follow school policy, or why you did not set student targets in line with the required levels of progress, or why you did not complete your reports by a given deadline.

For me, the shock came when a complaint came in about behaviour of students on a school trip. As the only fully qualified member of staff on the school trip, I was hauled up to explain my side of the story (if you find yourself in a similar situation, pray that your leadership team have faith in your word as a trained professional as opposed to the complete stranger).

Don’t expect it to suddenly be perfect

Do not assume that now you are officially a fully qualified teacher that things should be a breeze for you. I have colleagues who have found themselves at times frustrated and questioning their suitability to the profession due to their expectation that after your NQT year you should feel less stressed and have less workload due to your well-honed planning and marking skills. This is very often not the case, especially if you have taken on an extra responsibility.

I took on A level teaching this year, which has meant a huge amount of planning as I first need to reacquaint myself with the curriculum requirements and plan from scratch how to teach the topic. This has meant that where I would have expected to be working less than in my NQT year, I am possibly working more.

Try to see this as an investment into your professional skill-set, rather than as another drag taking you away from the quest to obtain a normal work/life balance.

You may, as with even the most experienced teacher, still need to ask for help from your colleagues from time to time.

Enjoy your summer!

You have worked ridiculously hard and you now deserve a good long break, so relax (properly) and spend time with your family and friends (they may be a little shocked to see you out and about after so long!). 

Whatever you do, make sure you spend at least five of the six weeks doing literally nothing related to school or teaching. I have a friend who took on an internship at the Department for Education during her summer break. While this may be your cup of tea, to me, it is simply madness! You want to come back in September refreshed and raring to go, so take the time to recuperate and congratulate yourself on another year well done!

  • Our diarist is a second year teacher of maths at a school in south London. She was SecEd’s NQT diarist during the 2012/13 academic year.

     


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