4 key pieces of advice all NQTs should hear

Starting out as a teacher is daunting – but it does get easier, says Yousuf Hamid, as he passes on his top tips for NQTs

Top Tips for NQTs

I still vividly remember walking home from school, trying to fight the tears that didn’t feel far away.

I was three months into my first year of teaching and every day just felt like one car crash after another. I felt overwhelmed by the feeling that I just wasn’t cut out for this job.


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I was writing my resignation letter in my head when I heard the melancholic lyrics to the Coldplay song The Scientist through my headphones: "Nobody said it was easy / no one ever said it would be this hard." Never a truer word spoken!

NQTs: Advice for new teachers

No doubt other NQTs will encounter similar emotions in the weeks and months ahead, but it does get easier. If I could wind the clock back, there are four things that I would tell my younger teaching self that I think other new teachers would do well to remember, too.

1. Colleagues have been there and are not judging you

It's hard not to feel humiliated when you have a class who are misbehaving and a member of SLT walks in and, without saying a word, suddenly everyone is silent. I remember having a feeling of despair when I first started that every time a teacher saw me with a class I was struggling with, it would be a black mark against my name.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Every teacher at some point has been where you are now. Ninety-nine per cent of the time they come into your class because they want to help you, so don’t treat it as a judgment and welcome their support.

2. Teaching is not a competition

The actions that led to my most negative emotions involved looking over my shoulder at what others were doing. This was especially the case when looking at other new teachers who were looking relaxed or getting positive feedback. 

I wanted to be happy for them but I kept repeating the same question in my head: “Why am I so much worse than everyone else?”

Remember there is not a league table for teachers and you don't know what other teachers are struggling with. Everyone has their own areas for development and just focus on how you can improve.

Other teachers are a wonderful resource, especially fellow new teachers going through a similar learning curve. Support and learn from each other, exchange tips and share how you are feeling but do not waste energy on comparing yourself to others.

3. Teaching really matters, but one bad lesson will not hurt your kids

I remember training with Teach First and being filled with a sense of the importance of teaching in deprived areas and the transformational role that a teacher can have in these kids' lives.

It is undoubtedly true and those values will be a great motivator through tough moments but it is important to not let that thought turn into a negative spiral where you start to feel like you have ruined a kid's future because of one bad lesson.

I used to really worry after a lesson that had gone wrong that I had damaged the future of my pupils. Learning takes place over time. Just as the most effective planning relates to learning over a sequence of lessons, one bad lesson does not a failed education make.

4. Kids are wonderfully forgiving

Linked to this, it is important to remember that, despite how it may seem at times, kids will forgive you for most mistakes. I’ve delivered lessons where I’ve given wrong resources, made errors in calculations, lost my temper and sanctioned the wrong pupil for misbehaving.

And yet, not once has it caused a long-term problem. Kids can see that you care about them and will forgive most things. So don’t spend time worryingly endless that you have damaged a relationship with a pupil – as long as you are always trying to do what it best for them, they will forgive and forget. 

They really are what makes this job so wonderful. They will give you those euphoric moments where you make a breakthrough and realise that this really is the greatest profession in the world.

Yousuf Hamid is a business and economics teacher at a high school in London


How to save a teacher

In the 20 September issue of Tes magazine, there is an in-depth look at the international research around why so many new teachers leave the profession within the first five years. Written by teacher Jamie Thom, the article identifies three areas that schools have to get right if we are to stop huge numbers of new recruits leaving. You can subscribe to Tes magazine here

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