Preparing for term 2: How to be a happy NQT in 2013


After a tough first term and a hopefully relaxing Christmas, SecEd's resident CPD expert Margaret Adams considers how NQTs might prepare for 2013 and beyond.

The time for making New year’s resolutions is coming. When it arrives you will probably make the usual resolutions. You want to lose weight. You want to learn to touch-type. You want to get fit. How about also making some resolutions that will help you succeed in school and enjoy life more?

If making that sort of new year’s resolution sounds like a good idea, all you need is a single resolution. What is it? To wear different shoes. 

You already know that every one adopts different perspectives – or standpoints – when reviewing different elements of their lives. It is as if you are wearing a different pair of shoes as you think about each part of your life. You see things differently when you wear different shoes. 

As you plan your resolutions this December stand in more than one pair of shoes. Your new year’s resolutions will be more robust and you will be more likely to keep them if you do.

Put your school shoes on

Look into the future. What do you want to achieve in school immediately after Christmas? What do you want to do better? What do you want to do more often? 

If answers come to mind as you read, then you are starting to develop your teaching philosophy and your approach to teaching and learning. Build your resolutions around your aspirations. 

Do not focus on avoiding disasters and mistakes. Be positive. If you’d like to teach three lessons a week that you are really proud of, resolve to do that. You will feel more committed to keeping your resolutions if you plan to succeed in 2013. 

Try on your relationship shoes 

You may find these shoes are a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps they do not fit as well as they once did.

When you started teaching, if you were like many NQTs, you discovered that teaching threatened to take over your life. 

Your teaching responsibilities probably came home with you, along with the marking and the need to prepare lessons in the evenings and possibly at the weekends, too. When you started teaching, you also discovered just how exhausting standing in front of classes each day can be, especially when you are new to your role. 

All of this could mean that you had less time and energy to spend on loved ones during the autumn. Maybe they are a bit disgruntled. Maybe they are a bit disappointed with what’s happened. 

Make a resolution for 2013 to set clear boundaries between your working life and the rest of your life. Set limits to the amount of time and energy you spend on your teaching responsibilities. Save some of your personal resource for managing your relationships and making sure they work. 

Make a resolution to give your full attention to the important people in your life – and to their needs – for a defined period each week. Your relationship shoes will feel more comfortable and fit better, if you wear them more often. 

Put your party shoes on

Let your hair down. Have fun. Enjoy life. You are a teacher but allow yourself a social life, too. 

Check that what you are doing in your precious leisure time is what you really enjoy doing. Your interests are changing and developing, just as you are changing and developing. Do some thinking, before the new year, about which activities you really enjoy and which ones you want to continue to take part in. 

Do not just carry on with the activities you have always done. Make resolutions to reflect the fact that you may wish to use your leisure time differently next year. Resolve to have fun but be clear about what having fun really means to you as 2013 begins.

Stand in your career shoes

Your career shoes are your walking shoes. You will be wearing these shoes on and off for a long time and they have to carry you a long way. 

These are the shoes to wear when you are thinking about your career in teaching and about your longer-term goals. It is important to consider where you intend to take your career, even if you are not yet ready to start walking in a particular direction. 

You are beginning to consider if you are drawn towards the academic or pastoral career development routes. You are starting to get a sense of which approaches to teaching you favour. You may already have an idea in the back of your mind that some day you would like to be a headteacher. Alternatively, you might be absolutely sure you do not want to be a head – ever. 

For the moment just try these shoes on and break them in gradually. Take a few paces. 

When circumstances change in school, or when opportunities present themselves, be ready to put your career shoes on and step forward. Make a resolution to check these shoes are comfortable and think about where you might like to walk in them when you step out.

Put your slippers on

Do not forget your slippers. You have plenty of pairs of shoes but you need some slippers, too. 

As well as thinking about your progress as an NQT, your future career in teaching, your relationships and your social life, sometimes you will also want to relax and do nothing, or not very much. 

Make a resolution to allow yourself some down-time, some time when you can be yourself and please yourself. In other words, remind yourself to take your shoes off and wear your slippers sometimes. 

The view from everywhere

It is easy to plan your future from a single perspective and forget that life is complex and complicated. Make this mistake and you may set resolutions you are unlikely to keep. Temper your aspirations and your resolutions by wearing different shoes as you make your plans. 

People often say it is good for your feet to wear a different pair of shoes each day. It is good for your personal wellbeing to stand in a different pair of shoes, or adopt a different standpoint, from time to time, too. Commit to be happy in 2013. Change your shoes often.

  • Margaret Adams is a former teacher. She is the author of Work-Life Balance: A practical guide for teachers and The 30-Day Work-Life Balance Challenge.

Free best practice download for NQTs

This article has been published as part of SecEd's autumn 2012 NQT special focus, which comprises a range of best practice and advisory articles aimed at new teachers as they approach the end of their first term at the chalkface. The special focus has been supported by the NASUWT and you can download a free PDF containing all the articles from the Supplements section of this website by clicking here.


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