An NQT survival guide: five common problems and how to solve them

As with any new job, your first few weeks in class will throw up a host of surprises. Here are five situations you could be faced with and advice on how to take them in your stride

How To Survive Your NQT Year

Your NQT year will be full of new experiences. Some will be good; others will be more of a challenge. You’ll witness children grasping complex topics for the first time as a result of your lesson. You’ll also have to keep your cool in a plethora of new situations. Luckily, advice is at hand. 

Here are five common scenarios where you’ll need all of your zen-like calm and some top tips to get you through. 

The technology fails in your computer lesson

  1. Try to fix the problem. Turn everything off and on again and check that everything is plugged in.
  2. Send a pupil to fetch an IT expert. Secondary schools often have IT technicians who can help. Primary schools are more difficult but the IT coordinator might be able to take a look for a few minutes.
  3. Google the problem. Assuming the problem isn’t the internet connection, having a quick look online might provide a helpful how-to. 
  4. Have a back-up activity. Preferably something related to the learning objective but, if that’s not possible, bring a future lesson forward or use the time for finishing prior work and come back to this lesson later on.
  5. Resolve to do a test run in the future. It won’t prevent all issues but it will cut down on them.

A fight breaks out in the corridor and you’re the only member of staff present

  1. Keep calm. Take a deep breath and remember you’re in a position of authority.
  2. Send for back-up. Immediately send pupils to fetch another teacher and a member of management.
  3. Refer to your school’s behaviour policy. You should always follow this to the letter. Take particular note of your school’s guidance around using “reasonable force”.
  4. Tell them to stop. Using an assertive voice, command the pupils to stop and state the consequences for not stopping. Sometimes they will be looking for an excuse to end the situation and this may be enough.
  5. Remove bystanders. Ask other students to leave the area.
  6. Use your back-up. By now, help should have come and you can work as a team to defuse the situation.

There’s a last-minute room change

  1. Locate your class. They’ll either be flailing around outside the classroom or inside it creating carnage with the other class. Using your loudest “I am in control” voice, ask them to line up quietly outside the classroom.
  2. Find out where you’re supposed to be. The other teacher in the room might know. If not, check for notices on the door.
  3. Move. If you have no idea where you’re supposed to go, confidently walk your class somewhere else in the school (preferably past the staffroom so you can check your pigeonhole for any room-change notices). Is there a room that’s rarely used? That’s your home for the next period. If you’re really stuck and your subject doesn’t depend on specialist equipment, you can even work outside, if school policy allows, and pretend that’s what you meant to do all along.
  4. Find out if the room change is permanent. You don’t want to be in that position again so find out what’s going on for next time.

A pupil falls ill

  1. Send for help. Ask a pupil to get another member of staff, preferably a first aider.
  2. Clear the rest of the class. Even if it’s just to the other side of the room, keep them away from the ill pupil. Give them an easy task to focus on.
  3. Assess the situation. Does the child need first aid? An ambulance? A bucket? All three? Decide quickly and act on it.
  4. Ensure that parents have been called. The ill student’s parents need to be informed.

Nobody understands what you’re teaching and nobody is on task

  1. End the chaos. Ask for silence and for pupils to sit down.
  2. Determine what’s gone wrong. Ask what the problem is and whether they have understood the lesson. Write any problems or misunderstandings on the board.
  3. Adjust your planning. Change future planning for this class to take account of the failed lesson and the learning objective that has not been achieved. Make a note of anything that didn’t work so you don’t end up in this situation again.

Lisa Jarmin is an early-years teacher and freelance journalist