RealiseMe’s guest blogger Mr T gives you NQTs a unique insight into the crazy (but totally worth it) life of teaching!
Feeling stressed and in over your head? No worries, give this article a read and breathe that sigh of relief, Mr T knows what you’re going through!
If there is something you don’t know, ask! If you are feeling overwhelmed, speak to someone. If you’re not sure about anything, speak to someone. In my experience the NQTs that are open and seek advice early are the ones that thrive. The ones that bottle things up or hide things away, are the ones that I have to pick up from the floor and it made their time in school much harder.
2. Build positive relationships with everyone.
We know how beneficial building positive relationships with the children is. The same is true for the adults in the school.
The Secretary is your first line of defence against parents and are often the keepers of the stationery! If you get on well with them, they will often deflect the parents for you and will always be able to find you a glue stick!
Your TA can be a great source of knowledge and feedback. Embrace and utilise their knowledge of the school and its systems and what they know about the children. It can be intimidating working with a TA that has been with the school for a while, but see them as an asset, not as someone to be feared.
They are also a great source of feedback, “How did the children you were working with get on today?” “Was there anymore I could have done to support them with my expectations?” “Is there anything else I could try differently tomorrow?”
The school cook –well that’s an obvious one. I always got extra herby potatoes on my plate!
The caretaker–often hugely busy, but if you’ve got a good rapport with them, when you need an extra shelf, or you want a cupboard moved, they will always be happy to help.
3. Know your rights
The government documents Induction for Newly Qualified Teachers, makes the expectations of you really clear, but also the expectations you should have from your school and appropriate body.
4. Know your appropriate body
The appropriate body will be the place you are registered with for your NQT year. They will sign off your paperwork and often provide your NQT training. It may be a Teaching Alliance, a Local Authority or a private company that the Local Authority use. You should be given a named contact (if not ask for one) and they can offer you some support if your school are not meeting the expectations set out in the document above.
5. Keep track of your paperwork
Whether it be electronic or paper based collate your NQT documentation together. Your action plans, your support plans, your end of term and end of year reports back to the appropriate body, observation forms, notes from CPD, keep it all together.
This should be the only paperwork you are required to keep. Keeping it in one place means that if you ever need it to fight your corner (16 NQTs and this hasn’t happened yet) you can access it all easily.
6. DO NOT PRODUCE A FOLDER OF EVIDENCE FOR THE TEACHERS STANDARDS
Nowhere does it stipulate that you should be doing this. What it asks is that you are able to produce evidence if required to do so. Use a tracking document (Google NQT standards tracker) to keep track of where the evidence can be found.
The only time this has ever been needed in my 10 years as an NQT mentor was when the school’s NQT provision was monitored and the reviewer asked the NQT where the evidence was to show that they had met a specific teaching standard. (PS: they didn’t ask to see the evidence just that the NQT knew where it was and what it was)
7. Utilise your NQT time well
That extra 10% non-contact time is a godsend in your first year. Sometimes you will have training, sometimes you will be off observing other teachers in the school, sometimes visiting other settings.
Make sure you get the most out of it. Your support should focus on your targets or your career aspirations. (When you are not involved in specific CPD, utilise it to keep on top of all the admin tasks.) Make sure you safeguard that NQT time each week. It can be easy to be asked to miss it for some reason or another. It is your entitlement so make sure you keep it!
8. Join a Union
I often get asked which one. It really doesn’t matter, you may have a particularly active one in your school or local area. Their role is to support you if things become difficult. Sometime sit feels like you are giving money for something you get little benefit from. I can assure you that it is worth it.
They will be there to support you with internal issues (redundancies, if you are not getting your NQT provision, if you are at risk of not passing your NQT year) but also from any external complaints (a parent who make take a dislike to you).
Don’t panic too much that these things are a regular occurrence. In my 17 years in teaching I have never had to call on their assistance personally, but they have been there at a time, when the school I was working in went through redundancy procedures, to make sure it was fair and equitable for all.
9. Don’t give up what you love
Keep up with outside interests as much as you can. Maintain those hobbies, keep up with your circle of friends, do things that make you feel happy. This can be a challenge but it is so important to look after yourself and make sure your emotional and mental well-being is as much a priority as the children’s.
As the saying goes, you can’t look after others if you don’t look after yourself. Equally don’t try and take on anything new (at least not in the first term).
10. It’s ok to say no
As an NQT you will feel the pressure to have to say yes to everything. You want to make a good impression, seem keen and willing. Equally you don’t want to be signed off with stress or unable to do your job if you feel too overwhelmed. Say yes to the things that excite you and you can manage.
The things that are outside of your comfort zone or that would add too much to your workload. Just say no. It’s amazing nothing bad will happen, the sun will still rise the next day – and someone else will do it. Prioritising yourself is not selfish or a weakness it is ensuring you have a happy and successful year.
So there they are my 10 top tips. (I was worried at the start that I might not be able to come up with 10, now I’ve got to the end I can think of at least 5 more!) I’ve not gone in to the day to day nitty gritty – perhaps I might in the future – but this list should be a great start in ensuring that your NQT year is one you can enjoy and get the most out of.