Congratulations, NQTs: you’ve made it all the way to the Christmas holidays.
This means that you are now officially a third of the way through your journey as an NQT. Now it’s time to take a breather and − once you’ve consumed your selection boxes and finished your favourite box set – to spare a thought for the term ahead.
My key piece of advice for this term is to think about who you are doing things for. What impact is what you’re doing having on your students?
Here are four things that you should be focusing on.
1. Plan smart
Resist the urge to over-plan. Although you think it’ll do you good to get ahead, don’t assume that your students will return to school having retained everything from last term. So, make sure you build in some time to consolidate. Prepare the things you know you’ll use, but don’t get too ahead of yourself. Planning should follow learning, which you’ll know by now is never a smooth journey.
2. Make marking simple
This term is the time to begin honing you craft and looking at how you can make marking more efficient. Think about where you can trim the fat and dispense with the things that don’t matter, leaving behind everything that makes your feedback meaningful. Listen to the advice coming from Ofsted, and in particular Sean Harford, about stamping out detailed marking that is carried out just for the sake of appearances.
So, back away from the verbal feedback stamp and resist the urge to join the rainbow highlighter crew. Use your school policy, keep things simple and focus on making sure that your marking impacts progress.
3. Continue to seek support available to NQTs
You might not feel like a newbie anymore, but it’s important to put your journey into perspective. You are one term into what should hopefully be a happy, productive and lifelong career. Don’t be afraid to continue to ask for help, to ask the questions that you think are silly and to speak up when you are struggling. Use your colleagues, your mentor and your students to bolster your own progress. Becoming a great teacher is certainly more of a marathon than a quick dash across the playground.
4. Invest in yourself
Commit to putting your own health and wellbeing first this term. You might still need support, but don’t forget that you are already a real teacher. Congratulate yourself often and give yourself a pat on the back every day for something you did well. Rather than powering through with no break, make time to relax, switch off and just be you; this will leave you refreshed and ready to tackle your classroom. Think about your own professional development, too. Invest in quality CPD and become part of the teacher community. Attend Teach Meets, join Twitter chats and use these interactions to learn, share and collaborate.
Most importantly, remember you are doing one of the most important jobs in the world. It’s never going to be easy, but the difference you are making is worth it.
Sarah Wright is a senior lecturer at Edge Hill University. She tweets as @Sarah__wright1