The following article comes from primary school teacher Craig Christopher, who shares his advice for newly qualified teachers.

Around this time of year, NQTs are often looking towards their RQT year and wondering how it will differ. Some of you may be thinking; how do I make that next step in my career? Some of you may be thinking; I have no idea how I’m going to make it through the year!  If you’re thinking the first, great! I’ve got some advice and tips for you. If you’re thinking the second, don’t panic! I’ve got some advice for you on how to make the most of your NQT year and survive the madness.

Humble Beginnings in Education

As an NQT do you know everything? No, absolutely not.

Should you? No. A well-known secret is that no one knows all the answers in the education system and we are all constantly learning. This is a profession we grow continuously in.

So, what can you do?

1. Engage in CPD

There is a huge plethora of CPD opportunities now. One of the positives of the current pandemic is that we have entered an unprecedented digital age. We now all have access to huge amounts of CPD that we may not have been able to access before. So much is available online and so much is now free! You can find a course for any interest and if you engage with social networks like Twitter, you will notice you can find some brilliant CPD opportunities.

CPD Opportunity

Virtual Education Conference

Literacy in Lockdown: Strategies to Ignite Reading, Writing & Spelling.

Thursday 25th March 2021 at 4pm – 6pm GMT.

2. Go and observe other teachers – especially subject leads

Often, your NQT and RQT years are the two years you will find the most time allocated to observing other professionals. Make use of this. Observing more experienced practitioners can be incredibly effective. Pick areas you feel you need to target improvement in for your own practice and find the strongest staff to observe. This does not have to be limited to teachers. We can all learn a great deal from support staff too.

3. Grow your support network

Something I didn’t take advantage of early enough. Make a teacher twitter. You will not regret it! I have made so many connections with others that have been of such benefit. I have found a mass amount of CPD that I have engaged with myself. I also get so many different perspectives on issues I’m intrigued in. Twitter can be a truly lovely place for educators when used correctly. Networking is criminally underrated but extremely crucial.

Class Observation

4. Think about what you might like to lead and begin to shadow the leader

You will be asked to lead a subject sooner or later. It is good to have in mind an idea of which subject(s) you would like to lead and begin to establish an understanding of how they fit into your school’s curriculum and culture. A word of caution – have a couple of subjects or areas in mind you’d like to lead. You won’t always get your first choice. It is important to discuss your choices with your leadership team so they can map out options for you and the school. Your school will likely be more than happy to allow you to shadow a leader so you can get a feel for the area.

5. Be reflective

This is important. Constantly reflect on your practice and see where you could improve. Invite opinions from others. Ask your support staff what they think. Do they have any ideas on improving your classroom practice? What do your senior leaders say about you? Take their feedback on board. They aren’t there to trip you up.

6. Make use of your NQT time!

NQT time is a blessing. Don’t take it for granted. You’ll miss it when it’s gone!

7. Look to the future

So, should you know exactly where you want to be next year? How about 5 years time? How about 10? Great if you do. Not a problem if you don’t. Plans change often and flexibility is so key in education. We all progress at different stages in our career.

When looking at moving into leadership – discuss with your leadership team and mentor first. They may have a role in mind for you. As I stated earlier shadowing is an excellent way to get a feel for a subject and for leadership. Ask if you can support in any way, e.g. can you conduct pupil interviews? Can you shadow an observation process? Have some ideas about what you want to lead but have backup plans in the event your SLT have other ideas for you. Consider other areas you’d be interested in, such as school council or supporting children’s mental health.

8. Take risks

Grab opportunities when they come and don’t be afraid to fail but do be prepared. If things go wrong it’s not the end of the world – it’s a learning opportunity. Take those risks. It’s your opportunity to do this. I mean this in terms of your teaching practice and your step into leadership.

Engage in the wider school community as best you can, support the PTA, run afterschool clubs etc. Really grab life by the horns Opportunities WILL arise and if you are brave enough to take them you may find it changes your life BUT there is no shame in taking your time. Jumping from an NQT to a key member of the SLT is a huge jump. Middle leadership is incredibly important, rewarding and a challenging part of the leadership journey.

Courses like NPQML (which can then lead to SL/HL/EL) are a really good way of gaining an insight into how to improve your leadership. Check out providers like @leaderstoday if you want to investigate further. Some people may make a huge jump in leadership and be fine but more often than not the middle leadership journey is so key.

9. Find your niche

Some people are passionate about reading, some passionate about sport, some are passionate about Maths, SEN, EAL, FSM. Whatever it is, find your passion and your niche and run with it. The school and your practice will be better for it. It is far easier to lead a subject/area that you are interested in or passionate about than one you dislike.

10. Informed practice

Use your NQT time and any free time you want to spare (not too much though!) to read research, especially when you are looking at progressing your career and moving into leadership. I rarely did this in my NQT year and I wish I had. There is a wealth of resources out there – CPD, websites, books. Make use of them. It really can be very overwhelming when delving into the minefield of research and further reading. My advice with books would be to pick 3 maximum and focus on those. You can always read more at a later date. Three books I would recommend that give different perspectives (relating to leadership) are:

Steve Radcliffe – Leadership plain and simple

Omar Akbar – Bad school leadership (and what to do about it)

James Kerr – Legacy

My recommendations for websites to start with are:

The EEF: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/

TEP Knowledge Hub: https://www.trueeducationpartnerships.com/knowledge-hub/

Final Thoughts…

This profession is one of the most rewarding professions in the world. It can also be relentless and take its toll on you. Look after yourself and do things at your own pace. Do take on board the advice I’ve given in this piece if it is useful to you but do not feel pressured to start immediately actioning all the points I’ve brought forward. Your well being should always be at the forefront of any decisions you make. Take a breather sometimes and establish a strong work-life balance before you begin pushing for further roles. Please do feel free to contact me on Twitter (@CraigJEYFS) I am always happy to discuss my posts further.

Author Craig Christopher

Author

Craig Christopher

Craig is a primary school teacher currently working in Early Years at Coddington Primary School. He has been working in education since 2013 and has had a variety of roles. Having worked in a village school, two-form entry schools and on supply, in all different year groups, he has a varied experience!

Craig is passionate about well-being, mental health, Early Years, inclusion and mentoring! Craig tweets from @CraigJEYFS and is always looking to network with new people – give him a follow and have a chat!

Follow Craig on Twitter – @CraigJEYFS

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