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NQT boot camp: five ways to make the most of your school community

In the latest instalment of her advice series for newly qualified teachers, Sarah Wright explains how to make your new school community work for you

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In the latest instalment of her advice series for newly qualified teachers, Sarah Wright explains how to make your new school community work for you

A school is a complex ecosystem. Senior leaders, colleagues, parents, support staff and learners will all have an impact on the work you do. And the quicker you can find your place within that ecosystem, the better.

So, how can you make the most of the school community in your NQT year? Here are five tips to help you.

  1. Learn the rules of the staffroom

    For many NQTs, the staffroom can feel like the scariest place in the school. Stepping through the door means running a gauntlet of fridge rules, tea rotas and designated seating. But this room is an important place for getting to know your colleagues. So, ask questions, chip in and smile. Your colleagues will quickly become an invaluable source of knowledge, camaraderie and support.
  2. Reach out to parents

    Whether you like it or not, parents will want to get to know you. This is to be expected: after all, you do spend a great deal of time with a person who happens to be their whole world. Make yourself available to them when you can, within reason. An introductory letter suggesting some informal drop-in times or ways to get in touch is always useful. A meet-the-parents evening is also a good way to show that you are open and interested.
  3. Appreciate your teaching assistants

    If you are lucky enough to have classroom support, make sure that you make the most of it. As an NQT, it can be somewhat overwhelming to have an experienced TA. But getting off to a good start with them will make a world of difference. Communication is key, so involve your TA in your classroom ethos as well as in practical things like planning. Have clear boundaries when it comes to decision-making. Although you will retain control, it’s important that you present a united front.
  4. Connect more widely

    You will quickly become close to the colleagues you work with on a daily basis. But make sure you get to know other people in the school community, too. Whether you connect with colleagues in a different department or key stage, or spend some time chatting to the administration team, this will help you to build up your presence in the school.
  5. Be yourself

    When you are trying your hardest to fit into your new dream place of work, it can be easy to overdo it. Don’t be tempted to be someone you are not. Quality relationships don’t happen overnight, so take the time to sit back and reflect on your new surroundings. More experienced colleagues might seem intimidating at times, but remember that they are just people who will want to get to know the real you.

Sarah Wright is a senior lecturer at Edge Hill University in Lancashire. She tweets as @Sarah__wright1. You can read new instalments of her NQT boot camp every Wednesday and Friday during the summer holidays

For more advice on how to prepare for your NQT year, visit our dedicated New Teachers site, where you can find videos, hints, tips and job listings. 

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