NQT Special: Sun, summer and selfies

Written by: Margaret Adams | Published:
Photo: iStock

After finishing what is one of the hardest years in teaching – your NQT year – it is vital that you take a proper break this summer. Margaret Adams advises how

If you have experienced performance management in school, you have probably become familiar with the idea of providing evidence to demonstrate how well you are doing and that you are delivering teaching and learning to high standards.

How well would you fare if you also had to prove that you really did take a holiday this summer? Come September, would you be able to prove that you have taken time off, recharged your batteries and refreshed your approach to your work ready for the autumn term?

Would you like to take a test this summer? Would you like to prove that you have had a holiday by taking selfies – imaginary or real! – in the following situations? You will not get a pay rise if you do well in the test, but you will return to school in September knowing you have had a proper break.

Putting your school books away

During term, school is always with you. You always seem to have marking to do. There are lessons to be planned, articles to be read and new set texts to be prepared. Without a serious effort on your part you will find that, although you are on holiday during August, you will be dabbling with school work and not really switching off from school.

Therefore, as soon as the holiday begins, put your school books away. Put them in a box, a cupboard or a hold-all and get them out of sight. Place a sign nearby that instructs you not to get your books out again until a specified date late in the summer holiday.

Then take pictures of that closed box or cupboard and the instructions. Take pictures, too, of yourself in the parts of your home where you usually do school work now that your school books have been removed. Do this a couple of times perhaps during the holiday to prove that you really are taking a break from school at least for a few weeks.

Spending time outside

As a teacher you spend a lot of time preparing lessons and completing administrative tasks as part of your departmental or pastoral responsibilities. Inevitably, this means that you spend a lot of time working at your laptop. Even if you teach a practical subject you still have plenty to do that keeps you desk-bound.

This summer, take some pictures of yourself outside without your laptop and without materials that are relevant to your teaching. Snap yourself in the sunshine. Take pictures that show you painting and decorating outdoors, gardening, walking, taking part in a team sport or other outdoor leisure activity. Yes, shopping counts.

Remember that you aim to prove two things. First, you want to show that during the summer you have spent some time outside in the sunshine. Second, you want to show that you have been involved in activities that do not relate directly to your work in school.

Travelling at least 10 miles from school

During the summer vacation you have the opportunity to travel. You do not have to be in school each week. You can, if you wish, take a holiday a long way away from school.

However, there is no need to book an exotic holiday to do well in this part of the test. Just prove to yourself that you have travelled some distance from school. Ten miles will suffice. If you live near to school this will almost certainly enable you to say that you have been outside your school’s catchment area.

If you live some distance from school, then prove to yourself that you have ventured a few miles from home during the holiday and show that you have had a change of scenery. Do things that take you away from the places you normally frequent.

Socialising with non-teachers!

You have spent a lot of your time in the last year working closely with your new colleagues, including NQTs and other teachers whose experience of teaching is broadly similar to your own.

Teachers love to get together outside school and you probably have friends who are teachers. The trouble is that when you socialise with other teachers, you often end up talking about school, about difficult students, about the senior team’s shortcomings and about what is likely to happen in school next year.

In other words, when you socialise with fellow teachers, there is a good chance that you find yourself back in school emotionally even though you are not on school premises. The easiest way to deal with this situation is to ensure that your social circle includes people who are not teachers. You will have other things, and other shared interests, to talk about if you do this.

Make a point, too, of saying you are off duty if the subject of education comes up in conversation.

Take pictures of yourself at family gatherings, on trips to particular locations, summer barbecues and specific events ranging from weddings to cricket matches. Your pictures will demonstrate that you have taken part in activities with people who are not teachers.

The last picture

There is one more picture to take. This one will contrast with the other selfies you have been taking during the summer holiday. This picture will sum up your mood the day before the autumn term begins.

When the summer holiday is about to end, how will you feel? How will you look? What will you be doing?

Leave that image to your imagination for now. There are plenty more pictures to take before you get around to that one. Enjoy the holiday and snap away while the sun shines.

  • 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
Photo: iStock


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