NQT boot camp: Five tips for planning your career
As you stand at the cusp of your brand new journey as a teacher, all of your attention may be focused on just surviving your NQT year.
But, there is a whole world beyond this year and the choices you make as an NQT can have an impact on what will come next.
It’s important to remember that your teaching career should be a marathon and not a sprint. Still, it’s never too early to think about the future – and here are some pointers to guide you.
- High expectations are different from astronomical ones
The energy and enthusiasm that NQTs bring to a school is often welcomed with open arms. You'll have high expectations of what you want to achieve, but take care not to make your goals unachievable. You might very well have that peer who is suddenly catapulted into a more senior role, but that doesn’t mean it’s right that you should follow. Have ambition, but be realistic about what you can achieve.
- Develop your identity
In a previous instalment of boot camp, we looked at how the NQT year was a chance to create a unique teacher identity. This year is also an opportunity to start developing an idea of the direction of your teaching career. If you fall in love with a particular subject or aspect of your role, don’t be afraid to tell your mentor of your developing strengths; they can help to guide you onto the right path and begin to think about opportunities for the future.
- Not every school is forever
The pressure you felt before you achieved your first appointment was probably enormous, only to be met with the delightful relief of actually getting your job. Some teachers have spent their entire careers in one school, but you certainly don’t have to follow that example. Don’t be anxious if you discover that your new school isn’t right, or doesn’t offer the opportunities you need. Be brave enough to consider looking for other posts if you need to.
- Let research inform your practice
As a teacher, you're a lifelong learner. Excellent practice is always rooted in sound theory. Consider doing a part-time masters qualification, or work with experienced colleagues on some action research in your classroom. This will keep you current and give your teaching a clear focus.
- Become part of a community of collaboration
Teaching offers incredible opportunities to connect and collaborate, so start to share your experiences, ideas and resources as early as you can. Whether you share your planning online, start a blog, dip into the excellent TeachMeet community, or even just engage with other teachers on social media, make sure that you hook into your profession. Having a wide network of colleagues around you will help keep you buoyant through tough times.
Above all, let me wish you a whole-hearted welcome to the best profession in the world. Good luck... and enjoy it!
Sarah Wright is a senior lecturer at Edge Hill University in Lancashire. She tweets as @Sarah__wright1. She will return next week with the 30-second briefing, her series on teaching ideas and pedagogy.
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.