So, just like that, I finished NQT.
My final observation was 2 weeks ago and I think that it was probably the biggest anti-climax ever, which actually, is a relief.
When I finished my SCITT I remember just feeling peace: no more evidence bundles, no more sobbing in the loos if my lesson was just graded ‘good’, no more unnecessary stress over some bits of paper.
NQT has been less relief inducing and I think that’s a great thing: my NQT provider makes the course so simple: no folders, just 1 booklet with observation sheets (ungraded!), meeting notes and formal observation reviews. That’s it. The rest of the time I’ve just been allowed to crack on doing my thing.
It’s my third year in the classroom this year (1x Unqualified year, 1x SCITT, 1x NQT) and this has undoubtedly been my best. This is definitely linked to confidence: I feel confident in my students’ progress, my own resources, my own subject knowledge and my own behaviour management skills. Some of it has been linked to moving school… there’s a lot that I’ve developed this year and I feel so ready for Year 4.
So what have I learnt?
1. Be patient and find the right school, not the first one
Finding a school where you fit is similar to going shoe shopping… You could buy those heels from the first shop that are a little uncomfortable and tricky to walk in but it saves time looking elsewhere, or you can visit a few and choose the perfect fit.
Last year there was a point where I was debating between 5 schools for my NQT. I stuck out the interview process for my current school (and kept the other schools waiting – I was honest though!) but I’m so glad I did.
I now work with some brilliant people and my department has been so supportive – I’ve not had to suffer the ‘trainee eye roll’ (you know, where older members of staff remind you that you’re a pain because you’re not fully qualified yet and therefore a drain on everyone else) and am already excited for September with them.
2. Routine is king
I know this is in every teaching book but routines for yourself are just as important as routines for students. Set up your class routines and practise, practise, practise them. Remember, especially if you’re a Secondary teacher, students have to remember 12 teachers’ routines. It will take time for them to know yours (mine include waiting in a line outside, getting up to get their own dictionaries/stationery rather than asking me 2000x, ruling off work with a ruler, date written in full English etc). Decide on them, stick to them. It pays off.
You need to practise your routines for yourself too. I’ve bought marking home 3x this year, and 2 of those were for Y11 essay batches towards their exams. Set your time at school, plan your frees, plan when you’ll take books in, plan when you print and plan for seeing your friends.
3. Positivity is a choice
You have a lot more control over your feelings than you think. This year I went from being in a single parent family to a 0 parent family and my Nan, who is my rock, has nearly died twice in the last 4 months. That has been hard to get through mentally. There have been days where I have had to force myself to be positive (and sometimes I’ve faked it). I do feel that you have a lot of responsibility over your emotions and crucially, you can’t take your personal life out on the 150 students you see a day. I bought a Happiness Planner in January and it’s helped me a lot – sometimes to reflect on what is good in my life (because the oh-woe-is-me trap is easy to fall into), and sometimes just to force me to change my mindset. It’s natural to have down days, but you can choose to be happy… you just might be like me, and need a little hand to get there.
4. Keep learning!
The classroom keeps changing and so does the science behind it. Keep reading (Making Every English Lesson Count is my go-to when I feel I need a classroom boost) and keep going on courses. If you can, I’d hugely recommend the Prince’s Teaching Institute courses. They are just FAB. I went on the 4 New Subject Teacher Days, which are split into lectures and classroom practicals and loved them all. Likewise, keep trying different ideas: I’ve read so much on Twitter about quizzing and scaffolding this year. These are now a permanent part of my classroom teaching and the results are astounding.
Attend Teach Meets, read some articles, buy some books, read Twitter threads… but don’t think that just because you’ve got your QTS, you’re done.
5. Keep asking
I’m incredibly grateful and surprised my department haven’t blocked me from emailing them all. They’re human knowledge fountains and always have suggestions of articles, books, films and resources that I can use to make things in my classroom a bit better. They’ve observed tricky classes and helped me refine so many things this year. Don’t be afraid to keep asking what the people around you think, or know. It’s a good thing to collaborate and helps you to feel part of the fabric of your team. Likewise, don’t be afraid to share your ideas or resources with them.
6. Keep failing
Your lessons will most likely be smoother in NQT: you’re better at time-bonding, you’re more relaxed, you know your students better etc. But if we all taught 25 perfect lessons a week, what would we have to learn from? Failing doesn’t mean your classroom has descended into ‘Lord of the Flies’, but notice the small things: were students a bit disengaged in your starter? Do they take ages to settle every Thursday P6? Did they all not quite get the outcome you were hoping for on a piece of writing? Be reflective of your classroom and keep refining and reworking your approaches – you’re just developing more strategies for the future.
Don’t spend all of the holidays all year working. You’re not a robot and really how much does laminating matter anyway? Do what you absolutely need and then it’s time to go out for dinner (which as you probably know is often the reason I get out of bed in the morning).
8. Say yes
In my 10 tips for ITT blog, I also did a ‘say yes… to the right things’ section and I stand by it. Saying yes has given me some great opportunities this year: launching a website, running a yoga club, entering our school in the Poetry by Heart national competition for the first time and winning, completing an Aspiring Middle Leaders course, taking on Literacy Coordinator next year, running a successful inter-school poetry competition for the first time, becoming Head of Poetry by Heart… take the opportunities that make you uncomfortable but allow you to grow. There’s a lot of great stuff out there, you just need to let it come to you.*
*keep saying no to silly things though!
9. Smile and say thank you
Smile lots. It makes you happier, it makes your classroom happier. it makes your colleagues happier. The same applies for thank yous – a lot of people will give up time to help you in your NQT year. Acknowledge this and say thank you. Say thank you to your students too – sure, it works as a behaviour management technique, but say thank you for hard work, for effort, for improvements, for them tidying the room etc… it just makes your world a happier place.
Speaking of which… if you’re reading this, there’s a large chance that you’ve made my year just a little bit sparklier. It might be a kind tweet or a like, a DM or sharing a resource with me… whatever it is, and whichever way you’ve interacted with me, thank you!! Here’s to 2018/19…