The very acronym NQT has a stigma to it – I have always had a problem with it – Newly Qualified Teacher – there it is, that label they have right there from the start that implies the new teacher in front of you hasn’t got a clue what they are doing. The fresh-faced, green, ‘Oooh, haven’t they got a lot to learn’ label that can automatically come from being a newly qualified teacher is so wrong – it already sets them up for a fall. I don’t think it is the most positive start to any career and based on my experiences with new teachers to the profession, the completely wrong impression to have. I have some news for you though. Some of the best teaching tips, ideas and initiatives have been suggested to me by teachers new to the profession and do you know what, it has been such a breath of fresh air to learn from them. In fact, I openly promote their ideas and share their good practice to all staff who may need a little ‘va va voom’ in their teaching. The truth is, we can learn from new colleagues to the profession, with their new and innovative ideas on pedagogy; we must embrace them and utilise their strengths in the classroom. Encourage new colleagues to get involved in any CPD, we are all here to learn from each other and this should be embraced by everyone.
When I look back at my own first year of teaching, it was all a bit of a blur really; the planning, the marking, my first ever form assembly was carnage, the day a boy was sick in my classroom all over me, the power that a small, insignificant wasp had on 9K:3 on a Friday period 4 just before lunch, when you are being observed – yes we have all been there. And actually, a wasp in a class of 30 children is actually a very significant thing! When the looks out of the corner of the pupils’ eyes begin as you desperately try to ignore said wasp as they follow it around the room, to the screams and everyone is out of their seat –it is total disruption! Every time! And then it snows….. New teachers need to know that they will drop their tray in the canteen to rapturous applause and cheers – not embarrassing at all. Not as embarrassing as, say for example, a 15-year-old male pupil asking me if I was cold! There will be stories, some funny, some sad, some shocking, but never ever boring. Being a teacher is the best job in the world, but there a few things to remember in order to get the best out of a new teacher.
1. Support them
Help them, talk to them, be open with them. You want them to feel comfortable with you from the start so that in the middle of November when it is dark, raining and they have had a bad day, they will come to you, and come to you they must. As the BT advert said, ‘It’s good to talk’. The relationship you have with your new teacher is so important.
2. Plan with them
Plan with them; help them plan their time, help them plan their first lessons, help them come up with a marking schedule, help them build in time for relaxation, help them with tips such as collecting the books in from pupils at the page you want to mark from to save time, anything to help.
Providing tips to help new teachers organise themselves is essential, from advising them to have their work outfit out ready and hung up the night before to save time in the morning, to planning their food in advance and freezing it to save time when they are late in from work after Parents’ Evening and they are hungry.
3. Show them
Show them, demonstrate what you mean by things – be specific – when providing feedback on a lesson, be specific about the actual detail and ask them to show you how to do it more effectively. #ShowNotTell. The NQTs I am mentoring in September will be taking part in the Early Career Framework Programme and they will receive feedback from their lesson on a small, specific element of their teaching to help them understand a clear model of better. This is the sort of thing I will be encouraging them to focus on by using Instructional Coaching and Deliberate Practice providing bite-sized steps for improvement on something as simple as giving instructions to a class using the acronym ‘What went well / Next time try…..’. It has been refreshing for me to think about, even after nearly 20 years of experience in the classroom, I feel I am learning things too. This focus on the minutiae of detail will help get the best out of my NQTs.
4. Lead by example
And in just the same way we want to form a relationship with the pupils in our classroom, the relationship you form with your NQT is so important too. Make them your priority, lead by example, set time aside for them once a week – it is their entitlement and it is their career you are helping to forge. How can you get the best out of a new teacher? Well surely it is the same for any teacher – listen, encourage, motivate, empathise, support, be positive, stay positive, allow them to feel safe to take a risk in the classroom and if it goes wrong that it doesn’t matter – they can try again!
5. Inspire them
Ensure new teachers see good practitioners teach, let them see you teach, let them see each other teach. Let them learn to love teaching the children, even the disruptive ones, because everyone has a story and for some of our young people, school is their safe place and we are, ‘their person’. As Rita Pierson says in her TED talk, ‘Every Child Needs a Champion’, “Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be”. I always show new teachers this video, in fact I show all teachers this video because it is so powerful and goes a long way to helping them understand the position of authority and importance of the relationship they have with the young people in their care. And this will help go some way to getting the best out of our NQTs.
”Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly beRita Pierson
My NQT mentor played such an important part in the teacher I am today – I still think about her calm nature, how the children respected her and how when she walked into a classroom, they all stood behind their chairs in complete silence – I remember thinking ‘Wow!’.
In your first meeting, get new teachers to write on a piece of paper why they wanted to become a teacher and to keep it safe so that if and when it all comes off the rails and seems too much, they can dig out that piece of paper and Remember their ‘Why’. Remind them to keep all the positive notes, memories, cards in a memory box so they can open that box of happiness on the darkest of days and that positivity in that box will give them the strength they need to keep going again.
And if they’re ever having a really bad day, show them this Greg Davies clip on Graham Norton – it will make them laugh, when they never thought they could!
Newly Qualified Teacher? NQT? Or should it be Not Quitting Teaching? Or Nice, Quality Teacher?! 😊