Starting as an NQT - exciting but just a bit scary
Congratulations on starting on the first steps to teaching, a great career. It is exciting, but needn’t be too scary as there will be people to help you in school, and your PGCE, B.Ed or GTP course, plus your experience in your placement schools, will have prepared you for most of what will be coming.
The main person who will be helping you is your mentor, with whom you should build up a good relationship as soon as possible. You may have been lucky enough to have had a day in school last term, so that was a start. Make sure that you are very professional with your mentor.
Be friendly, but don’t try and treat them like your best friend. In particular, don’t get into a habit of telling them all your minor woes nor seeking them out for the smallest things. Use your head!
And part of using your head is doing your homework. Read the notice board in the staffroom. Open your emails, decide what action you need to take over them. Possibly nothing, except try and remember what the main points were.
Borrow a copy of the staff handbook (If you don't have your own - it may be available on line too) over the first weekend so that you can read the most important policies (child protection and safeguarding, and then the assessment policy, and the rewards and sanctions or discipline policy), and just flick through the rest.
Make a photocopy of the complete list of policies, so you have a reminder of what they are, and put it up on the wall over your desk at home. Ensure above all that you know who are the designated persons for child protection issues. Learn also about the fire procedures, make a copy of this and keep it in your planner so you can consult it if necessary.
Get copies of all the basic templates. Lesson planning is the main one, but there may also be various report forms to be returned to year heads if there are students to be disciplined or commended for poor behaviour or excellent achievement.
Orientate yourself in the school. The loos you’ll find immediately – but where are the photocopiers, or more specifically, the one photocopier that you are allowed to use, and do you need a number to work it? Where is the head of year’s office? What are the fire exit routes from your classrooms? Is there a nurse, if not, who and above all where are the first-aid trained staff?
And finally, where you are not to park your car nor chain your bike. A clue can often be in the sign that says Reserved for Headteacher.
Organise yourself. You need to get your teaching life organised Start off with a wall planner at home, where you mark the holidays, but also important dates such as parents‘ evenings, deadlines for Report writing, and other school events. This is your memory jogger. I think it also helps to have an electronic calendar to jog your memory - I put my important dates into my Google Calendar, having set up the automatic reminders for 10 days, 3 days, 1 day - by both e-mail and alert. This means that i get the reminder on my phone too.
Your non-academic organisation should be sorted by using this blog: Get yourself organised
TEACHING YOUR FIRST CLASS
Start your first lesson by teaching. No "Let's get to know each other and become friends".
What do they need to know about you?
1. You are the teacher. Your name is Miss X.
2. You are the teacher. You are going to teach them. Their homework should be handed in (place)
3. You are the teacher. You are going to ensure behaviour that will promote learning and progress.
What do you need to know about them?
1. Their names. Hand out cardboard names already prepared to place on desks
2. Whatever the school has already provided in the form of data.
So set out briefly the class rules, then get cracking on some learning.
Your personal relationships, within a professional sphere, are very important. You need to feel comfortable, and to be on good terms with everyone. In particular remember that the most important person in the school is the secretary, followed closely by the caretaker. Get these two on your side by being unfailingly polite to them (I know you would be anyway, but sometimes you can get a bit tired and fretful) as that could pay dividends in the future.
The colleagues in your department or year group will be welcoming; make sure that you are not so busy feeling nervous that you forget to be friendly back – it’s so easy to do! Watch out for the common mistakes: don’t use someone else’s mug or chair or newspaper or pens. And in week two or three it might be nice to bring some biscuits in for your department meeting, to thank them for their support.
You might also like to buy yourself a book about how to negotiate successfully the NQT induction year. You can browse through several in a bookshop, either on-line or for real. Search Amazon for “NQT induction”. Your uni might also have an academic bookshop, and I can recommend the bookshop downstairs at the Institute of Education, if you’re in London ever.
Check before you buy. Check that the style suits you – formal or informal – and that it’s easy to find what you need. Check the publication date – things change rapidly. Check the status and experience of the writer.
Be wary, however, of what you read. A recently-published book on surviving the NQT year has as its very first tip the suggestion that you should put a poster to cover the window in your classroom door, to prevent the head peering in.
Don’t. The window is there for a purpose: to enable any adult entering the room to check that they are not going to knock some poor pupil over, and to enable the head – or anyone else – to peer in, as you have nothing to hide.
Deliberately covering the window could be seen as a safeguarding issue.
The TES magazine every week is also a good read. Not for the jobs now, of course, but for the information about what’s happening in education, and the tips and ideas for every subject.
And, of course, you should join a union, if you aren’t already in one as a student member. Read the blog: Join a Union!
Teaching is the best job in the world, welcome to the profession!
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