NQT Special: So, what are you good at?

Written by: Margaret Adams | Published:

As a new teacher you will be starting to think about your skills and talents and where they might take your teaching career. Margaret Adams advises

The headline above is a question you will have asked yourself and been asked many times. These days, with your performance as a teacher under the spotlight more often than in the past, and with performance-related pay now established, it is a question to consider carefully throughout the year, not just when your performance review is due.

When you answer, do more than focus on your own opinion. Ensure you can prove your point, too.

What are you good at? How do you know? How are you going to demonstrate your successes and achievements to others in school? Use the following questions to help you find the answers.

What do you think?

How much thought have you given, in recent weeks, to what you do well? Have you thought about what you do with ease that some of your colleagues seem to find difficult? Have you kept a note – even a mental note – of which tasks you complete when you never seem to encounter the problems and setbacks that your colleagues often experience? Help yourself to work out what you are good at by making a list of these types of successes.

Make a point of noting the tasks you have found easy during the past year, as well as including the tasks which you do well now but you initially found difficult in September. Also record details of the activities you now do well on a consistent basis but where you initially surprised yourself with your achievements.

Who agrees with you?

Working out what you are good at is about more than forming your own opinion of your successes. You must find ways of validating your judgements. Remember you are not trying to work out if you do things better than other people. You are trying to establish if other people in school agree that you are good at the things you believe you do well.

Consult your colleagues, but try to avoid asking blunt questions. Most people will be reluctant to say anything uncomplimentary, or to gainsay your opinion, if you tell them you believe you are good at something and ask for their confirmation.

To elicit more useful responses ask people who are familiar with your work to rate your performance on a scale of one to five. Explain how your scoring system works and then ask the people who know your work to rate you. Do not ask how someone arrived at a particular rating and do not challenge any of the ratings offered. Note responses. Thank your colleagues for their inputs and move on.

Accept that the responses you receive could be very varied. Some people never rate anything or anyone particularly highly. Some people like to choose a response somewhere in the middle of any points range they are given. You must accept this.

For your purposes look for similarities and trends in people’s responses. Ask several people for their views and you will gain a good impression of your personal standing in school.

Then seek out more subtle and less formal judgements. If your colleagues regularly ask for your support, or if you have developed a reputation among your colleagues for being your school’s expert in something, you can be reasonably confident that you complete specific tasks well and that, in these fields, you are good at what you do.

For example, if every one in school who organises a trip or a visit asks for a copy of your school visit planning checklist and also tells you how useful your checklist is, you will know your colleagues value and rely on your expertise in this field.

Are you sure?

If you have gained an understanding of what you and your colleagues believe you do well, you have made a lot of progress. Now think about how you will demonstrate to others that you really are good at these tasks.

Your school will have defined the sort of evidence you can use in reviews and in other discussions about your performance to back up what you say about yourself. Pay attention to that guidance and gather evidence in the form that your school requires.

When you are thinking about evidence and evidence-gathering remember to draw on any experience you have gained when delivering CPD in school. Recall, too, the different types of one-to-one support you have given to colleagues. Sharing your skills in any of these ways underlines the fact that you do things well.

What else could you do?

Now that you have worked out what you are good at, analysed the feedback you receive from others, and considered how you can evidence your judgements, think about how you will use this information to help you to improve your performance further.

Do you want to build on your current expertise? If you do something well, do you want to become an expert in that field? Should you undertake formal training to develop your skills? Would you learn more, and learn quickly, if you shadowed someone in school? Is the best way forward for you to undertake independent study in your own way, at your own pace and in your own time?

Make sure you know which of your abilities you wish to develop and be prepared to talk about your aspirations when your performance review takes place and in departmental and other discussions about your future role in school.

When everyone is busy

Schools are busy places. When everyone is busy there is always a temptation to focus on the things that need improving and, as a result, to pay insufficient attention to what has been done well. If you are clear in your own mind about what you are good at and if you inform others as appropriate of your abilities, you will help everyone, including school leaders, to remember what you do well. When your specialisms, interests and strengths are well-known and acknowledged in school that has to be good news for you.

  • Former teacher Margaret Adams is the author of Marketing for School Leaders and WARNING! Your Job Is Not Your Life.

NQT Special Edition

This article was published as part of SecEd's NQT Special Edition – an eight-page special published on June 25, 2015, offering guidance, advice and support to all NQTs and trainee teachers. To download the full eight-page section, which was produced in association with the NASUWT, click the Supplements button above


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