Every teacher needs some NQT Tips as they start their career!
Nobody is going to tell you that your NQT Induction Year is going to be a walk in the park, but, the truth is, every teacher makes it through and it’s best to see it as a learning and growth experience rather than an assault course.
There will be triumphs and near disasters but you’ve been trained to do this job and you will get through it unscatched and most likely a pretty great teacher.
NQT Advice - The Maxims to Live and Work By
Let’s start with some of the big stuff, the cornerstone bits of NQT advice that you need to have firmly in mind as you begin your teaching career.
These NQT tips will stand you in good stead as a newly qualified teacher but they are also skills and behaviours that you’ll need to master and hone throughout your teaching career.
1. Ask For Help! - There’s no shame in letting those that need to know that you’re struggling. Remember that you’re not the first NQT and they have seen it all before. Indeed, they were once you. You will have specifically appointed mentors with whom you must build a positive relationship, so turn to them but also ask other colleagues, especially where you can see they have answers you need.
2. Stay Positive - This is critical. On day one you will be full of positivity for your job and passion for your subject (or you should be!). However there will be negativity from other teachers who’ve let the system wear them down and from pupils who look to undermine you. But there will also be supporters and champions. Focus on them and you might win some of the others round. But, overall, this is a tough job and you must stay positive and focused to find enjoyment and longevity.
3. Know and be Known in the School - You’re new to a new environment and nobody knows who you are. Get to know all the teachers and support staff. You’ll be needing their help. Get involved with student activities beyond your subject and class and be proactive in joining staff sporting teams, interest groups or just visits to the pub!
4. Plan, Plan and Then Plan Again - Your job is to teach, so teach well. Plan exciting and engaging lessons that challenge every member of every class. You’ll feel secure about your ability and your pupils will find it easier to learn through you as well as respect you and toe the behavioural line.
5. Master Your Time Management - The necessary work for a teacher will expand to fill the available time so you must find a way to keep your neverending lists of tasks manageable. You need to be ready with prepared lessons every day so don’t leave that to the last minute and slot simpler tasks between the heavy lifting.
6. Learn the Art of Smart Marking - Take it as seriously as you have been taught, but develop a system that means it never becomes a burden. Stick to your school’s marking policy, but if it works, consider developing a shorthand code that your pupils get to understand (make sure they do by providing a key that forces them to engage with your feedback) and even try using star systems or ‘success stamps’. Many NQTs try getting together to have ‘marking parties’ so the stress is shared.
7. Make Marking Actionable - Try to add a dose of actionable advice when marking core work for each student, use your school’s marking policy or highlight ‘WWW’ (what went well) and ‘RFI’ (room for improvement). For the latter try to explain clearly and succinctly why the work would be better with certain changes or additions and ask the pupil to tackle that challenge.
8. Don’t Freak Out When You Mess Up - You will make mistakes. If it has a direct effect on anyone else then own it and find a solution. For all the little wobbles, reflect, analyse and work out how to fix it and move on. Go back to your training, check on teaching theory, learn from your new colleagues and talk to your Induction tutor.
9. Get All You Can Out of CPD - This should be obvious but your local Authority will have a diverse continuing professional development training plan. On top of what you’re required to do in your Induction Year, pull every bit of assistance, skills development and support that you can out of the resources available to you. They will pay off.
10. Learn to Say ‘No’ - Don’t be afraid to say no to everyone; other teachers, the head, pupils and parents. Everyone will happily pile more on to you with extra commitments but there comes a point where the right thing to do is say ‘no’ and point out that you won’t be effective if you spread yourself too thin. Use wisely and not too enthusiastically at the start!
11. Remember Your ‘Why’ - When it all comes off the rails and seems too much (as it will, but...breathe), reflect on what made you choose to be a teacher. You might even find writing this down before you start and having it somewhere to pick up and read should the need arise might be helpful one day. This year can be tricky but you’re doing it for great reasons. Don’t forget.
NQT Tips for Your First Class
These NQT tips are both for the first day in class but also for your approach to your first class in your first year as a whole. That might, in fact, be several or many classes depending on your subject and year groups, but these apply to those as much as they do to your first day.
12. Use a Seating Plan - Get the pupils into some kind of order and be the one who chooses whether they sit with their friends or not. Either way, get students in the same seats in every lesson so you know who’s who!
13. Learn All the Names - Use the seating plan and, if you can, photos of all your students to drill their names into your head. Refer back to them when marking to match the written work to their in-class performance.
14. Have Something Planned - On the first day with each class know what you are going to do. First impressions that the pupils have of you from what you do on day one will be hard to change so make sure you have a plan and planned lessons.
15. Don’t Tell Them You’re an NQT - Most children will view someone in their early twenties as an adult with authority. Unless you feel the need to disclose your newbie status, don’t!
16. Be Firm But Fair - You need to set the boundaries right from the get go but you also need to foster a safe and non-threatening environment that exudes empathy, self-respect and mutual respect.
17. Expectations Not Rules - Tell your class clearly what you expect from them in terms of their approach to learning and their behaviour. Make it a joint commitment rather than a handing down of rules.
18. Occupy the Territory - It’s your classroom so walk around it, talk to the pupils when you want and let them know that no part of the classroom is off limits to you.
19. Insist on Silence - When you are ready to speak, find a way that brings the room to silence and quickly. A double clap, a raise of the hand or a loud, ‘Pens down, eyes up’ might do it. Test them out. A ‘whole bag of shush’ doesn’t work for many, but the quiet slow intro often does.
20. To Shout or Not to Shout - Teachers who shout too much are ineffective. Keep your ‘loud voice’ in reserve and deploy only when absolutely necessary, for maximum effectiveness. Whispering when there’s a riot going on is likely more effective - they think they’re missing something important.
21. Be Professional - Read and follow the ‘Teacher’s Standards’. It’s there for a reason and sets out a solid framework for almost everything you are expected to be and do!
22. Use Praise - Don’t allow yourself to be seen as insincere with positive words to students in class but do praise clearly, well and often when it is deserved to get the best response. Focus on praising the good rather than admonishing the negative.
23. Avoid Confrontation - It’s going to happen but you do not want to be the one starting it wherever possible. There are going to be some students who look at it as a challenge and have plenty of practice. Remember ‘PIP’ (praise in public) and ‘RIP’ (reprimand in private).
24. Cater for all pupils - Make sure that your lesson planning takes in the needs of all pupils SEN, EAL and Able, Gifted and Talented pupils. Do not tack on provision for them as an afterthought.
NQT Tips for Parent’s Evening
A particularly trepidatious moment for many newly qualified teachers comes on the first time they have to meet the parents of their pupils and discuss their progress.
This is the first time as a teacher that you are trying to deliver an authoritative view to people who will be older than you, but, relax - these tips will see you through.
25. Apologise First! - Start off by apologising that you only have five minutes for each pupil but that you’ll make sure they get the information they need. Defuse the wait many parents will have endured right off the bat.
26. Don't Sit at a Desk - you might think it will keep you safe but it’s a barrier between you and the parents whereas what you want is for you and the parent to be at ease. Sit to the side of the table facing each other.
27. Shake Hands and Smile - Unless it’s culturally inappropriate, manners cost nothing and serve to break the ice. Hopefully getting you off to a good start.
28. Be Prepared - Make notes beforehand about each child knowing what you need to raise. Let the parents know that you have a good understanding about how their child can succeed. Offer the parents advice or tips on how they can help their child at home.
29. Have a Notebook - For your prep notes but also for the actions agreed with parents and anything you need to discuss with the pupil later.
30, Organise Pupil Information and Work - Have any relevant assessment information, copies of recent work (good or bad) on hand as well as reports. Anything to make your point!
31. Start and End With Positives - No matter what you need to say to a parent, sandwich the tough stuff between the good news (child has settled in well, is doing well at something).
32. Watch the Clock - Have a visual way to keep on track as you’ll have plenty of parents to meet. I’ve seen chess timers used which might be a bit harsh, but find a way to give each parent a fair time without delays - your phone will do.
33. Listen as Much as You Speak - ask the parents for their questions and let them give you feedback about their child and how they feel about being taught by you.
NQT Year Tips
Of course there are a myriad of other NQT tips and we could keep going for an age, but these are some of the core bits of advice that will see you through the tough times of your NQT year.
Remember throughout that nobody expects you to be the finished article and this is a marathon not a sprint.
Enjoy it and become the teacher you set out to be.
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