NQT Special: Workload, behaviour, CPD and technology

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We ask three middle leaders and a former headteacher to share their advice across four vital areas for NQTs

Managing workload and wellbeing

Brian Heavisides, former headteacher and Teaching Leaders coach

To the daunted eyes of many experienced teachers, let alone NQTs, “workload and wellbeing” simply do not go together. Yet workload and wellbeing can and should be managed in order to maintain teacher effectiveness and provide the best support for pupils. In my experience, the secret to achieving both of these rests in one overwhelming skill that has to be mastered right at the start of the role. To ensure an effective balance in life, teachers need to be expert planners. The best tips to making this happen revolve around the art of real and effective time-management.

  • Tip 1: If possible, get yourself onto a good time-management programme, or if this isn’t feasible...
  • Tip 2: Buy a year “page a day” planner and produce your own A4 week plan, broken into the hours of the day. First, put in your working day commitments for the year, and then personal commitments for the year, into both the planner and your week plan. Use separate colours for different types of commitments at work, and plan in when you will do marking, and so on, during evening slots and weekends. However...
  • Tip 3: Ensure that you put into your weekly plan the time slots when you are going to watch your favourite television programmes, prepare and eat meals, go to the gym etc. These are vital aspects of effective time-management – you are ensuring that your personal life and wellbeing are given equal priority in your weekly plans.
  • Tip 4: Now look back at your workload. Check that you have realistically balanced the needs of lesson planning and marking, and that the week isn’t dominated by one colour on the plan. Be realistic, but also hard-nosed about this. Move work onto the next week’s plan or even later if it can be, so that it becomes balanced.
  • Tip 5: Having planned your working week and personal plans, stick to them! It will keep any stress at bay and will ensure you are a person in your own right, not just a teacher. Put a copy of your plan up at work and at home. Hold yourself to account and encourage others to also hold you to account.
  • Tip 6: Say “no”. Don’t be frightened. When something is thrown at you at work that adds to your workload, look at your plan. Have you a slot free when it can be done this week? If not, say so. Show your manager or whoever is asking you that you have a full week. Offer to fit it into a coming week, but don’t take on what you can’t do. It’s your plan, your life, so keep control yourself. That way, workload is just a part of your life, not in control of it.

Developing effective behaviour and classroom management strategies

Dawn Ablewhite, enrichment coordinator at Beaumont Hill Academy in Darlington and a Teaching Leaders Fellow

Classroom management is a method by which a teacher creates a positive and productive learning environment for his or her pupils by preventing and effectively dealing with inappropriate behaviour. Managing pupil behaviour remains one of the most daunting aspects of teaching for educators at all levels, particularly with some of our more challenging pupils. As an NQT I always wondered what the magic formula to good behaviour management was – the truth is, there isn’t one! However, any teacher has the ability to create the teaching and learning environment they want if they use the right strategies. Some strategies to consider:

  • Routines: You may wish to send out an assertive message by putting a new class in a seating plan. Structure and routines are the beginning of a class knowing your rules and boundaries.
    Clear expectations: It is possible to overload pupils with long lists of expectations, many of which they should know already, without having to be told. Explain your standards and make sure they are met consistently.
  • Capture the golden moments: Never miss an opportunity to positively praise your pupils.
  • A good beginning: The beginning of a lesson is a pivotal moment. You may be bombarded with distracting questions but do not get dragged into these conversations.
  • Smooth transitions: Within a lesson, staggered transitions can be a source of a pupil’s poor behaviour. Only get the class quiet when you are absolutely certain you are ready to explain their next activity.
  • Positive language: Instead of asking “why are you late?”, you could say “it’s not like you to be late, you’re normally on time, what happened today”. Or instead of “will you stop talking?”, say “I spoke to your mum last week and mentioned how pleased I was with your improved attitude in class, now don’t let me down by chatting today”.
  • Relationships: It usually takes a long time to build up credibility with some pupils; firm but fair will help build mutual trust and respect. Some pupils are so starved of attention they don’t care what kind of behaviour they display; often it is easier to get attention from negative behaviour. Research has shown that children can receive 10 negative comments a day for every one positive. So in school it’s important to give positive attention at every opportunity. There will without question be times when pupils misbehave and challenge us. If an individual or class do decide to test you, this is your opportunity to re-establish your ground rules and expectations and motivate your pupils.

Getting the most out of CPD

Richard Tiley, associate curriculum leader (maths) at Droylsden Academy in Manchester and Teaching Leaders Fellow

A lot of thought goes into the CPD that we provide for our NQTs at Droylsden Academy. It is bespoke and plans to anticipate developmental needs based on experience as well as addressing issues that may arise. For example, behaviour for learning sessions at the start of the year, communicating with parents in the lead up to parents’ evening and so on. However, simply attending these sessions is often not enough to rapidly improve practice. I would give any NQT the following advice:

  • Ask for feedback, all the time, from everyone. This will help you to...
  • Be proactive. Know your strengths and don’t feel embarrassed about asking for help to improve weaker areas.
  • At the end of any CPD session set some SMART targets. When will you implement your new learning? When will you ask someone to observe it?
  • Manage your time well. Use some of your free periods to get into other classrooms to observe others and see the CPD in action.
  • Prioritise CPD and attend everything; even voluntary sessions that you believe to be personal strengths – you will always be able to improve something.
  • Have a long-term goal. What do you want to do in the future and how will you get there?

Life-changing technology

Caroline Tasker, head of transition and lead teacher of digital pedagogy at St Leonard’s Academy in East Sussex and Teaching Leaders Fellow

My “top tip” for an NQT would be to make the most of technology to support and enhance teaching and learning. Not only can the use of technology motivate and engage students (which positively impacts on behaviour and progress), but it can also support teachers and teaching, and be the organisational tool that saves you a lot of time, which I know every NQT will welcome.

Using technology such as iPads, tablets or SmartPhones can be an excellent way of receiving instant feedback from pupils, e.g. using Socrative or Kahoot. You instantly know who doesn’t understand and can adapt the lesson accordingly, which demonstrates an excellent use of Assessment for Learning.

My favourite life-changing use of technology was stumbling across the Idoceo app. It is my teacher planner, timetable, grade book, seating planner and more, all rolled into one. I no longer waste time writing the date and lessons into my old paper teacher planner, I don’t have to draw up a new seating plan each time I rearrange my classroom. I can’t tell you how many hours it has saved me which has allowed me to focus on what is most important – teaching and learning.SecEd

Further information

Teaching Leaders is an education charity whose mission is to address educational disadvantage by developing middle leaders working in schools in the most challenging contexts. Visit www.teachingleaders.org.uk

NQT Special Edition - November 2015

This article was published in November 2015 as part of SecEd's bi-annual NQT Special Edition, supported by the NASUWT. You can download a free PDF of all eight pages via our Supplements page: http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/supplements/


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