10 tips on how to kick-start the new school year
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. I know this because I am the specifically appointed mentor! Please make sure you get to know yours...
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. If you can, try to politely avoid (where professionally possible!) the negative cynics!
3. 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 high quality first teaching leads to fewer behaviour management issues (that's not to say you won't be challenged by children... but an engaging, well planned lesson means this is less likely).
4. 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. Check whether your school or department provides staff with planners, and if they don't - invest in one! There are some great ones out there, my go to one is from The Teacher Planner Co (https://teacherplannercompany.co.uk/) but there are some fab ones out there designed specifically for trainees from The Positive Teacher Company (https://thepositiveteachercompany.co.uk/). If you do get planners provided, invest in a list book!
5. 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. Pay particular kind attention to the site staff and the person in reprographics. Remember your pleases and your thankyous, manners cost nothing but mean everything. 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!
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. 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.
8. Get All You Can Out of CPD - 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. Remember that you are now entitled to input from "Expert Colleagues" as part of the Early Career Framework that is now in place
9. 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!
1. 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.
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