Last week, I wrote about the commencement of my NQT year but no more. I left you somewhat on a cliffhanger, having just discovered that I was in charge of everything. This week I will explain to you how I survived.
If I am honest, a lot of it was down to my mum! As I have mentioned before, she was a teacher herself and shared her top tips with me which I shall share with you now. So here they are and please, take note….
- Make sure that you have everything ready for Monday – that way you won’t be worrying over the weekend.
- Make sure you have at least one day off at the weekend (ideally two), so that you are refreshed for the week ahead. If you keep working you won’t be in any fit state to teach thirty children on Monday morning.
- Don’t work in the evenings – everyone needs a break and if you go into school at 7.30am, work all day and then work in the evening you will become short-tempered. Get your work done in school so that you are able to go home and relax.
- Don’t spend hours chatting to everyone after school. Now, I have to be honest and say that this is the piece of advice that I found hardest. I love to chat! I love to catch up with everyone’s day and see how they are, but if I spend two hours chatting then I won’t be able to have the evening off.
- Ask for help? As an NQT you cannot and will not know everything so don’t pretend that you do. Use your mentor’s expertise as well as that of others in your year group and school. You are not alone and you do not need to prove that you are the best teacher ever – you have only just taken up the craft of teaching.
- Don’t say yes to everything. You will be asked to do many things in your NQT year so learn the phrase – ‘Let me think about it’ – then do just do that. Weigh up everything carefully using one question – Will this help me to become a better teacher? If the answer is no, then don’t do it.
- When you are dealing with parents, remember that you are looking after someone that they love more than life itself and they may ask questions and worry, but that is not because you are doing a bad job but because they want the best for their child.
- Write a list of what you need to do so that you don’t forget – but remember that you will never complete the list so learn to prioritise. What is vital? What do I need to do? What would I like to do? I would add to that – what did I see on Twitter that I thought was phenomenal but realistically won’t have time to create!
Her advice was wonderful and I am incredibly grateful that she shared it with me. Her sage advice has been passed on many times to all the NQTs I have mentored and all of them have been incredibly grateful for their weekends and evenings.
I learnt other things over the course of my NQT year that my mum hadn’t shared with me and I will share these with you too:
- Create a routine from the very beginning. Teaching very young children, I found that routine created boundaries and boundaries were a means of giving these children a safe environment. They knew when they would have Maths, English, play, lunch and games. Never, ever underestimate the power of having a routine.
- Be clear. children/ young people of any age want teachers to say what they mean and mean what they say. This allows them to know exactly what is expected of them. This again enables them to feel safe and secure, which allows them to feel confident to take risks within the learning environment.
- Let them know that you care. This doesn’t mean pretend that you are their best-friend though. I am fully invested in every child I teach and have been fully invested in every child I have taught. I genuinely want them to succeed and they need to know that. They also need to know that I believe in them. Show your children that you care and that you believe in them!
Some of the children you teach will not have boundaries at home, clarity from their adults and reassurance that they are cared for which is why our job is so much more important. You may be the only stability that your children know, so be that stability.
I don’t think anyone has an easy NQT year, but you can make it easier for yourself. Routine, clarity and investment will help you to develop good behavioural-management techniques. Lists and prioritising will help you to develop good time-management techniques and asking for help and remembering that parents care because you are teaching their most precious commodity will help you to develop good personal relationships.
You are not a machine and I was not a machine so go gently and remember that:
‘The word ‘education’ comes from the root e from ex, out, and duco, I lead. It means a leading out. To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul.’ –Muriel Spark
Sorry, that ended up as more of a letter to my NQT self than me relaying my NQT year to you. I just wish I had known then what I know now – I think I would have found it much easier. Asking for help and learning from more experienced teachers are so important but I was always worried about doing that when I was an NQT. I didn’t want people to know that I didn’t know. I will finish on this – I wish that someone had said to me then “Toria, you are an NQT, you are only starting out on your educational journey. You are not meant to know everything – in fact if you know a little bit that is wonderful and you will learn more every day. Don’t beat your self up and remember, asking for help is one of the bravest things you can do, so be brave.”