Thriving instead of Surviving your NQT Year - New Job Part 3

Thriving instead of Surviving NQT Year

The NQT year for any new teacher can be rather daunting. It’s a weird scenario to be in. You are qualified in terms of passing your training but you still have to pass the year in order to be a fully qualified teacher. It is a sort of limbo. I remember getting to my RQT year and not feeling much different to my NQT year, apart from I now had a piece of paper saying I was a fully qualified teacher. 4 years later I’m slowly starting to not feel like a teacher fraud anymore. It’s weird, you don’t suddenly wake up one day and feel like a teacher. I’m learning everyday in the profession and I’m a great believer that is the way it should always be.

Your NQT year can be more intimidating than most for many reasons, such as:

  • Finally being let loose and trusted with your own classes on your own
  • Teaching lots more students as your timetable has significantly increased
  • You don’t know the names of the memebers of your department let alone the students

This lists only a few things. 

So here are my top 5 tips:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

The results of your students are only your responsibility, right? Wrong. You are not an island. Just because you have a heavier timetable and have your own classes doesn’t mean you are on your own. Don’t get me wrong, you will more than likely be held accountable for the first time ever on the results of your students. However, remember there are support structures in place inside any school. The head of department will be held accountable for the full faculty’s results including your classes. Certainly in my school, every student’s outcome is the responsibility of the faculty. We work as a team and are often described as a family by the students.  There is also the wider community of school support structures within in a school.

If you are struggling with a student, class or topic don’t be afraid to ask somebody for help and support. This is a sign of strength not weakness. A sign of a good teacher is one who knows when to take the advice they give their own students and ask for help. This help can be found within your department, teaching and learning team, blogs, social media or even your old mentors from previous schools. You are not expected to know it all in your NQT year, RQT year or even the years following that. Every teacher has different experiences and strengths we can learn from.

2. You're allowed to make Mistakes

It is important to accept that you will make mistakes throughout your NQT and teaching years. Just like you did in your training years. The important thing is that you learn from your mistakes and become reflective. I found it useful to write a quick extra slide note to myself at the end of a PowerPoint lesson I had taught with advice for next time I teach it and any changes I might want to make. That way I didn’t forget the lesson I learnt when I retaught the subject a year later.

“It’s not how we make mistakes, but how we correct them that defines us.”

3. Set the right tone

It’s important to get off to a good start with your classes, but if you don’t you can recover. Firm boundaries are important and setting a small list of class rules I find a must.

Mine are:

  • Always try - this includes listening to examples, presentation of work, attempting homework and having a good behaviour for learning.
  • Be Kind - this includes attitudes towards other students and the teacher as well as supporting each other.
  • Be prepared - this includes bringing homework to lessons on time, arriving to lessons on time and bringing the right equipment.

On a day to day basis try to greet the students at the door and learn their names as quickly as you can. I find it useful to hand stacks of the books out with the students for the first few weeks to help embed the student’s names in my memory.

Follow the school behaviour policy and try to be consistent. I find it useful to stand at the back of the classroom for short periods of time to watch the dynamics of a class as they work.

4.  Beg, borrow, steal and plan

An increase to your timetabled workload will become a challenge in terms of finding the time to prepare lessons. Don’t be afraid to beg, borrow and steal resources. If you do this though don’t fall into the trap I did as a new teacher. Don’t expect the resources to just suit your class off the shelf and to be mistake free. Be sure you check the resources thoroughly before using them. Often a few tweaks or a combination of a couple of resources is a good way to go.

Just because a resource and activity looks amazing and you may really want to use it, doesn’t mean you should. Be sure it is appropriate for the learning you want to achieve with that particular class.

As a maths teacher there are many great free primary and secondary sites to look at for resources. There are my own pages on here with lots of worksheets, exam style questions and revision materials. However there are many more great sites such as:

  • TES GCSE Maths Pages - Here the TES Maths panel have hand selected 2-5 resources for each GCSE topic. It’s really easy to navigate and well worth a look.
  • TES Teaching for Mastery in Primary - This is a selection of resources put together with the help of the White Rose Maths Hub and Mathematics Mastery. The resources are all based around the primary mastery curriculum.
  • Piximaths - Here Pixi shares PowerPoint lessons and worksheets.
  • Corbett Maths - Corbett shares exam topic questions, 5-a-day revision activities and also text book type exercises for free. He also has a series of videos on a range of topics. I found these useful to refresh and help build up my own subject knowledge in my training years.
  • Don Steward - Don Stewards site provides a whole host of resources and activities I wish I had known about in my training years. These resources are designed to help ensure the learning isn’t just superficial. There are some real gems on his site.

5. Be organised

Being organised is easier said than done, I know. However it is worthwhile to think about the long term future of all your resources. Saving resources electronically by class in the first year is easy, however 2 years down the line it then becomes hard to find resources you have previously used. You may already be finding this out with your PGCE Materials.

I have class folders for each year but I just drag and drop the lessons in from a central folder that I wish to use into these. My central folder is organised into Number, Algebra, Geometry, Statistics and Probability, Problem solving and Miscellaneous. Inside these are subtopics but it makes finding my resources so much easier.

It is important you find the right organisation structure that will suite you, not just now but over the next few years as well.

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” John Wooden


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