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'Remember, NQTs, mistakes happen – don't panic'

For NQTs the first year will be far from easy – but a few simple rules will help them along the way, writes Colin Harris

A few simple rules can make the first year of an NQT's career much easier, writes Colin Harris

For NQTs the first year will be far from easy – but a few simple rules will help them along the way, writes Colin Harris

New staff are the life blood of all professions, but those who enter teaching at the moment should be applauded form the rooftops. Pay isn’t great, workload seems to be ever-increasing and we can't say that job satisfaction is at an all-time high. New teachers are, however, entering the greatest profession of all. The opportunity to change young lives for the better is not something to be treated lightly, and I still get the thrill of walking into school each day.

We shouldn’t sugarcoat the fact that the first few years are far from easy, and it’s crucial that all teachers receive the support they need from their school.

However, there are a few simple snippets of wisdom that a crusty oldie like me can pass on to new teachers: 

1. Recognise that you are a new teacher and take every opportunity to talk to colleagues and glean from their expertise. Pick their brains about planning, and techniques in front of the class. Ask if you can share your planning with these colleagues so they can show you how to adapt and improve it.

2. Have in the back of your mind a very simple model for planning. This will then help when you are left alone in front of the class, for example:

  • Establish a good hook for each lesson;
  • Share the lesson objective early;
  • Model the learning;
  • Ensure you have planned for opportunities for assessment;
  • Deliver task with time for a review.

3. Remember that you've got plenty of time to get to grips with the school's overall planning format. To begin with, it's crucial you do things your way and get to know your class. 

4. Keep this planning simple – you do not need to write an essay about the lesson nor one about how well it went. But do reflect critically. If things went well remember why. If they didn't, find out why and ask someone what they would do. Don't bury your head in the sand if things don't go well.

5. Use your release time and PPA well. Don't spend it all talking to colleagues...

'If you have a problem, talk to a fellow teacher'

6.  Ask an experienced colleague to help you map out the year, so you aren't surprised when reports are suddenly six weeks away.

7. Keep absolutely clear in your head what you want the children to master in the lesson.

8. Don't be frightened to think like a child to establish whether the task is appropriate. Most excellent teachers are not far removed from children.

9. Aim continually for good lessons but recognise that perfection does not come straight away.

10. Risk-taking is great, but not every lesson. The year is a marathon, not a sprint.

11. When using the internet to support the lesson, set a time limit on it. Otherwise, you'll end up wasting far too much time.

12. Make sure you establish a life outside school. Children need well-rounded, happy teachers.

13. If any aspect of the job gets too much, make sure you talk to someone: we have all been there.

14. Speak to the teachers who have taught your class in previous years. It's the best way to learn about the characters you have and adopt the best behaviour strategies.

15. Last, but not least, remember that nothing can prepare you 100 per cent for being left in charge of a class of 30 individuals. You are expected to make mistakes, and each mistake feels smaller when you talk to someone about it...

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were 'outstanding' across all categories

To read more of Colin's articles, visit his back catalogue

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