Your first year will probably be the hardest you’ll ever experience. You’re learning how to do the job, learning the names of the pupils, learning how the school works, learning what teaching a full timetable is like; there is a lot to absorb.
You will inevitably hit problems: pupils off task, behaviour below your expectations, too much marking, mountains of planning, the list goes on. There’s so much to get your head around – and so little time to do it – that difficulties are only expected to pop up.
But, as we tell our pupils, problems create opportunities.
You need to remember that you are not alone. Running into issues is a natural part of being an NQT – all of us experience problems during our first year on the job, and it’s all part of the trial-and-error process of learning how to teach. You are not an anomaly and you can be certain that thousands of other newly-qualified teachers all over the country are feeling the same as you.
While this doesn’t make the problems go away, it does put them into perspective, because knowing that the difficulties you face are shared by others is an excellent corrective to anxiety, worry and frustration.
It’s good to share
Discussing problems with fellow NQTs is a great tactic. Talking things over with colleagues or friends will make you feel better, allow you to articulate and reflect on whatever is the matter, and give you the opportunity to problem-solve with others. You can help each other out.
Learn from mistakes
Acknowledging that a significant part of the NQT year is about making mistakes – and learning from them – leads to seeing problems in a different light. While they may not be any less uncomfortable to experience, you can remain confident that meeting them head on will help you to learn, grow and develop. This attitude – a growth mindset – will stand you in good stead no matter what difficulties come your way.
Sometimes, however, you might find it easier to work it all out on your own, in which case you’ll need tried-and-tested approach that you can rely on.
State your problem out loud - verbal articulation helps clarify thinking. Then, cut it down to its simplest form, and write it out. You could make bullet points, type it up, or scribble down a paragraph – whatever works best for you.
Simplifying the issue will allow you to see the problem for what it is, and writing it down externalises it, so that you’ll be able to dedicate your entire working memory to solving it.
Establish solutions – figure out what your ideal outcome would be and say it out loud, then simplify it, and make a note of it. Now you have in front of you a clear definition of what the problem is, along with what you want to achieve by solving it – your ‘A’ and your ‘B’. What’s left to do now is take action and defeat it.
Often, when we face a problem, we use up the majority of our energy worrying about it.
Someone once said that worrying is like walking around with an umbrella on a sunny day, waiting for it to rain. Acting this way is understandable, but ineffectual –worrying doesn’t bring on any positive change, does it? So, instead of worrying, take active control of the problem.
Finally, identify three things you can do to get to your desired outcome, creating the link between your own efforts and the result you really want to see. You could write them down as a list, for example, and you might find it helps you and your motivation to tick off the tasks you have completed so far – the problem will be gone in no time, all thanks to your determination to face the difficulties of your first year as a teacher.