NQT special: Moving from trainee to NQT


SecEd’s current NQT diarist reflects on her first year at the chalkface and offers advice to trainee teachers who are preparing to begin their careers in September.

My year as an NQT is nearly over. I cannot believe it has gone so fast. I have been asked to reflect on lessons learnt, how I am preparing for the year ahead, and key successes.

Perhaps it is because as trainee teachers we are taught to continually reflect upon and improve our practice, but I find the first two much easier to do than the third. 

So these are the things I am going to write about here, in the hope that a look at my lessons learned and how I plan to prepare for my next year might be of some small help to any trainee teachers about to embark on their own NQT journey.


It seems appropriate, given that this is the thing most PGCE students cite as their main worry, to begin with my key learning points (in no particular order) for behaviour management...

  • Consistency is key; find a system and follow it religiously for all pupils. They may not like your rules but they will respect you for being fair. 

  • Kill them with kindness. Make sure that whatever issue you have had with a pupil you are always friendly and polite when you next see them, whether that be walking down a corridor or in the next lesson.

  • Pick up on the little things and the big things will look after themselves. Be picky over small things from the word go and they will know there is little room for deviation. Once pupils know you have high expectations they will find it easier to stick within the boundaries.

  • Never make it personal. Always refer back to school or department policy so that pupils’ negative feelings are deflected from being directed at you (probably the single most important piece of advice for behaviour management). 

  • Build relationships – developing positive relationships with your class is invaluable. This does not mean trying to be “down with the kids”; they will see through this within an instant. Rather it is about building mutual respect. It is about being fair, consistent and always having a positive attitude towards them. If a pupil thinks that you do not like them as a person then it is game over. 


My next set of learning points relate to keeping up your professional development. You will have less formal training this year and it is important you continue to grow as practitioner and don’t stagnate...

  • Take risks. Refresh your practice by trying different lesson structures and activities. What works for one class won’t work for another and it is important you experiment to get the best out of each class. Of course some of the things you try will be complete disasters, but failure is all part of the learning process.

  • Keep reading. I find I have gained so much this year from reading around pedagogy and educational literature. 

  • Keep observing. Just because you are out of your PGCE year does not mean you have seen all the good practice there is to see. You can learn so much from your colleagues. They are a free CPD resource, so use them.

Staying sane

My final section of learning points focuses on how to stay sane in what is probably one of the most emotionally draining professions there is...

  • Eat and sleep well (when you can). You will be surprised how the increase in timetabled teaching hours takes its toll on your energy levels.

  • Talk to your colleagues. No man is an island and people generally want to help you out where they can. You will be surprised to learn that seemingly rock-like figures suffered similar troubles to yourself in their first year.

  • Do things outside of school. Due to the emotional, physical and mental investment required to do this job well it can be easy to lose a sense of yourself. I have learnt the importance of setting even a small amount of time aside each week to do things that I enjoy that are completely unrelated to the job. Whether your thing is cycling, skydiving or knitting, make sure you keep doing it.

  • Finally, just enjoy it! Many times I have found myself feeling down about a problem with a hard-to-reach pupil or a difficult class. What I have learnt is to focus on the positives; this is an amazing job, it is fun, rewarding and challenging all at once, and never, ever boring!


So, how do I feel about the next academic year? What am I doing to prepare? To be completely honest, there are many tweaks I plan to make to my practice, from developing my record-keeping system to designing a whole new scheme of work for my A2 psychology class. 

The most important thing that I plan to do in terms of preparation, however (which I would recommend as vital for anyone about to start their NQT year in September), is make the most of the six-week rest. We deserve it!SecEd

NQT Special Edition
This article was published as part of SecEd's June 2013 NQT Special edition, produced in association with the NASUWT. The edition features eight pages of best practice and advisory articles aimed at supporting NQTs and trainee teachers across the UK. Download the free PDF of all eight pages here.


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