September is finally here. How has this happened? Surely, it was only yesterday that we were wishing students ‘good luck’ for exams and 5 minutes since we wished each other a good summer? Well, as texts, phone calls and the internet continues to focus on the first ‘Sunday night dread’ of the year, attention turns to NQTs who are feeling especially anxious about their first ‘proper’ day.
Below are some tips, hints and ideas to get NQTs (and anyone who’s taken an extended break from teaching, started a new role or feels like they’ve forgotten how to teach over the summer) through the next few months.
The Kids Are Alright
One of the biggest worries is that that first class will be so wildly uncontrollable as to highlight you as a fraud, an impostor, who somehow fluked the ITT course and shouldn’t be in a classroom. The reality is that all classes will have some level of behaviour challenge and there are many ways to deal with it. Whether you’ve been advised to refuse smiling until Christmas or make an example of the first student who acts up (avoid both), the truth is, it will take time to develop and manage behaviour as it can only effectively happen when relationships are built, and this will take time. There are some excellent tips here, but the truth is that if you are consistent, fair, follow your school behaviour policy (for sanctions as well as rewards) and explain why you are doing what you are doing, everything will be fine.
Beg, borrow, steal and share
It can seem a very heavy workload in that first year – if you’re struggling with planning, ask for help. This can come in the form of asking colleagues for resources, downloading resources from the TES (and other excellent providers such as LitDrive) and, most importantly, having a stab yourself and asking for feedback. The latter will be the most valuable in terms of your own development, but the former will save you a lot of time and also give you some excellent exemplars to work towards when developing. This cannot be stated loudly enough: you cannot do everything yourself. And so this brings is on to…
Always ask for help!
If you’re struggling with any aspect, always ask for help. No one will think less of you, and everyone (without exemption) has been there. Keep in touch with those you trained with, find someone who is just out of their NQT, ask Twitter/ read blogs/ post in forums – there will always come points when you need help, so ask for it. The advice you receive will give you different perspectives on issues and will also help you to develop. And remember – there’s no such thing as a stupid question.
Take a break
You’ll need them, so take breaks. Time management is one of the most crucial elements of teaching, and it’s important to give yourself plenty of chances to recuperate. A good rule is making sure that you have at least one full day in which you do nothing teacher related (usually a Saturday) and two weekday nights when you don’t work past 7 o clock (one being Friday). It may seem difficult to do this at first, but if you work towards this stress-limiting timetable, you will find innovations in your practice and reap the benefits. But, what if you feel like you’re going to burn out? Always make sure you have something to teach your students the next day and, after that, everything else can wait.
Don’t stop believing
You’re here for a reason – you put the work in and you successfully completed your ITT course. You deserve to be here. It will be hard, it might even seem as though that NQT year will never end, but you deserve to be a teacher, that classroom is YOUR classroom and every student and member of staff who is lucky enough to attend it should realise this. Have the faith – you’re doing a good job.
Don’t fake it ‘til you make it
Like any other of life, schools and colleges are full of people with different views to your own. There’s very much a feeling that you’re at the bottom of a hierarchy as an NQT, and it’s tempting to go along with the flow and agree with anything and everything that people say (for example openly sharing a grip with SLT or criticising inset before it’s even happened). Don’t do this. For starters, you’ll feeling terrible, and teaching can be enough of a wellbeing minefield as it is. Secondly, as stated above, you’ll spend your first year depending on others, and it’s important that they have a clear impression of who you are and what you stand for.
Whatever your first few months are like, it is important to realise that it's the best job in the world, and any issues you face are completely within your control!