First day as an NQT: 12 tips and an anecdote

1. My advice for the first day (in secondary) would be to make sure you have seating plans for all classes that you politely but firmly stick to.

2. Make sure you have some activities planned for the first few lessons. On my first day I had no idea what to do - I should have insisted on more help from my head of department I ended up doing some rather naff stuff that didn’t go down well and that put the kids off side.

3. On my first day as an NQT I came to school early and had planned out what I was going to say to the kids as an introduction. I told them my rules and explained that I was firm but fair and they would get more enjoyment if they worked with me rather than against me.

4. Put them in alphabetical order until you learn their names and tell them that they won’t be able to move until they have all earned your respect. This worked well for me and generally (with odd exceptions) classes have behaved and worked well.

5. I didn’t tell the kids on my first day that I was an NQT. Although I’m in my 20s the kids see me as 30-odd and experienced. I found this helped me because they never questioned my authority.

6. “I started as I meant to go on and introduced myself to everyone in the staffroom. I suppose if you’re the person sitting in the corner when you start, you could well be the person who always sits in the corner and says nothing”.

7. Make it a priority to become friends with the receptionist and reprographic staff.

8. If you don’t know the answer, say so and make sure you find out by the end of the day to tell the parents. I kept a pad near the door and then I could write it down instantly; I also had the satisfaction of ticking it off.

9. The secret to a good first day at school is much like that for a good exam result: preparation and confidence. If you have planned properly you have nothing to fear, and if you approach the day with confidence the children will trust and respect you.

10. Make sure you do not fall flat on your face in front of a carpet full of eager year 2 children…they just stared at me as I clambered to my feet and announced we were going to look at repeated addition. I had a HUGE bruise.

11. Have a treat in the desk draw to munch with the first cuppa after ‘hometime’!

12. My first day as an NQT was far more nerve racking than my first student PGCE placement. I was really nervous but as soon as I got my class in and had taken the register I was off! Those nerves disappeared straight away and I’ve had a fab year!

And an anecdote…

My very first lesson was to teach the Magna Carta to a group of what now would be known as year 7. In preparation, I had read the greater part of Trevelyan’s A Shortened History of England. The students duly noted down everything I said. And the next day - would you believe it, a boy known as Rentoul (all boys were addressed by their surnames although this was 1974) brought me a facsimile copy of the entire Magna Carta! I was stunned in amazement. No criticism was intended by Rentoul. He was just doing as many pupils do, being helpful by showing me what he knew.

With thanks to: Sophie Murfin; emsywemsy; pink_tink; Peter Leyland jn310; Twinkle toes; Peter Leyland, Showgirl; Sararie

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