No one would call the NQT year easy. I finished mine in July and the adrenaline is still fresh in my mind.
About a year ago, I stepped into my own classroom for the first time. I’d just relocated from the North to inner London and couldn’t imagine the journey I had ahead of me.
There were times when I felt worthless and incompetent, but, by the end, the experience had taught me how capable I truly was.
So, if you’re working with NQTs this year – or just thinking back to your own time as a new teacher – don’t forget the things that make them great:
Like most new teachers, I entered the profession with rose-tinted glasses firmly in place and dreams of creating a positive impact on the lives of my inner-city students. One year on, I’m proud to say that, overall, I’m still an optimist.
More experienced colleagues may see this as naivety, but enthusiasm is an essential driver for NQTs and an asset to any department. This attitude often pushes NQTs to be the first to offer to help run extracurricular activities, contribute resources and attempt to be the one to build a relationship with a challenging student.
Their knowledge is up to date
NQTs have spent a huge amount of time with the latest educational research, and most will also be undertaking a formal training programme where they will frequently be updating their knowledge even further.
No matter how experienced you are, this can be beneficial to you. Encouraging NQTs to share what they have learned with the department doesn’t just introduce new techniques but increases the confidence and agency of the NQT themselves.
They ask tough questions
During my first year, I was initially nervous to ask too many questions for fear of being seen as needy. Little did I know, a lot of the questions I had were also playing on the minds of my colleagues.
I felt like I was constantly asking questions about a certain aspect of the scheme of work, for example. Later in the year, one of my seniors revealed that my concerns were actually pretty helpful in addressing where there was room for development.
NQTs often need things to be crystal clear, but this is actually a benefit to everyone, as absolute transparency encourages consistency across the department.
They’ve got useful outside experience
NQTs come from all walks of life. Some may have switched careers, bringing valuable industrial knowledge, while others will be fresh out of university and fully up to date with the A-level and university system.
These alternative experiences, whatever they are, bring a lot to a school.
They offer fresh perspectives
Tried-and-tested techniques will always be valued but a fresh pair of eyes can be surprisingly effective. When new teachers know their opinion is valued, they may be likely to put a spin on old ideas or build even further on the ideas of our mentors.
If we want our NQTs to be the very best they can be, we need to help them realise how much they can contribute, not only to the lives of the students they teach but to the running of their departments.
The next time you’re looking for a suggestion or a solution, try asking an NQT for their opinion. When we open our minds to the possibilities they bring, the results can be surprising.
Nicola Tweedy is a secondary science teacher in Camden, London. She tweets @ms_tweedz