Five survival tips for NQTs
Making the transition from student to NQT is a daunting prospect. Being faced with a room of screaming children for the first time can make you rethink entering the profession. But don’t worry, we spoke to a group of experts to find out how to make your first year in teaching go as smoothly as possible.
- Build a network
While you’ll have your mentor to guide you through your NQT year, they themselves will also be facing workload pressures so may not always be easily contacted. Alex Quigley, director of Huntington Research School, York, recommends seeking out other contacts, rather than just relying on your mentor.
“Forge your own networks and find ‘critical friends’ to unofficially complement the work of your mentor. Seek out fellow NQTs and department colleagues, share your problems and develop your confidence together. If your setting lacks colleagues in the same situation, you can always be proactive and seek advice beyond the school gates.
“If you are in a teaching union, you can seek ‘official’ advice if required, but can also scour social media websites for sage words on platforms such as Twitter, following accounts for new teachers and seeking out our virtual colleagues and experts who are invariably generous with their time and guidance.”
- Introduce ‘marking parties’
One of the things most feared by NQTs is the dreaded marking. However, there are ways to tackle this terror. Tracey Lawrence, head of school and specialist leader of education for behaviour at Danemill Primary School in Leicestershire, says introducing ‘marking parties’ is a great way to make the task easier.
“Regardless of what times in the day you may be marking, I can almost guarantee that you won’t be the only one – so mark together. Cups of tea, the odd Curly Wurly and even the opportunity to compare outcomes, what more could you want?”
- Find your own style
We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and someone else’s teaching style may not be what works for you. Keziah Featherstone, headteacher at Bridge Learning Campus, in Bristol, says: “Only by refining your individual craft will you be able to be the very best you can be. Don’t ever settle to be a pale imitation of another teacher.
“The teaching style you have today is not going to be the one you have at the end of the year, or in five years from now. You’re going to find all sorts of styles for all sorts of children and all sorts of lessons. You must discover these different approaches, and work out when to employ them, yourself. Following a narrow, uniform structure imposed by others will only lead to trouble.”
- Good planning
How best to tackle a heavy workload is one aspect of the job that all teachers must work out. Good planning is an essential part of this if you want to stay on top of things. Ben Newmark, head of humanities and a teacher of history at New College in Leicester, says: “At the start of your career, you need to develop systems that work for you and, inevitably, those with less experience are more inefficient than experienced teachers.
“Good planning can reduce the volume of work. For example, taking some time out to consider how to support children in peer- or self-assessment could result in a decline in the amount of time spent marking.”
- Keep your glass half full
When taking that first step into the classroom, you’ll be full of positivity and passion for the job as you embark on a new exciting career. Although up and down the country, there’s always someone bringing negativity into the staffroom.
Aidan Severs, assistant vice-principal at Dixons Manningham Primary School, in Bradford, says: “You already know it’s not going to be easy. But what you might not know is that you can stop yourself becoming one of the doomsayers.
“There are teachers who won’t sneer at your enthusiasm for their much-loved profession and it’s them you need to identify and befriend; they are your lifeline.
“If you can’t find them at work, find them on social media or within your own peer group. As someone new to teaching, you need positive influences. But don’t underestimate the power you have to make a positive impact on others; your passion could be hugely refreshing to a more experienced teacher.”