NQT boot camp: five ways to ensure you develop a unique teacher identity

4th August 2016 at 11:52
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In the third part of her summer advice series for newly qualified teachers, teacher educator Sarah Wright lists five ways to ensure you create your own identity as a teacher

So, your summer thoughts may have started to wander towards September and you are now working out how you will approach your first class or classes. That's tougher than it sounds, as it is easy to slip into a performance of someone else rather than being the teacher you really are. Great teaching depends on you upholding your true identity. Here's five ways to ensure that happens. 

1. Forget Miss Honey, Albus Dumbledore and Mr Keating…

There are plenty of fictional role models for you to try and emulate. And there are plenty of personalities that you have seen on placement, or even remember as a learner, to mimic too. But resist. It’s got to be about being you. 

2. Don’t be afraid to smile…

You will need to set a clear, authoritative tone with high expectations from the very first day.  This does not, however, mean snarling or having an ever-present grimace.  Enthusiasm is infectious, so don’t be afraid to tell your new class how much you are looking forward to working with them and how confident you are that they will surpass your high expectations.  This also goes for the rest of your body language. Stand tall, use open gestures and you will emit a ray of confidence that shows your students you mean business.

3. … and let them know you have a life beyond teaching

I am convinced that some children think that their teachers are popped into the cupboard and plugged in to charge overnight. Offering snippets of information about who you are will help your students understand you.  Whether you have a year 4 class running a playground sweep on your first name or your year 9s asking your sporting allegiances, small signs that you are a human being will have a big impact on your students and your own teacher identity.

4. Choose how you spend your time wisely

Although we will come back to this in more detail later in the series, becoming involved in extra-curricular activities is a crucial part of developing your teacher identity.  You will be time pressed as an NQT, so pick your battles. Is it really worth taking on the school choir if you have no interest in it whatsoever? Choose an extra-curricular option that reflects your personality, specialism or hidden talents.

5. Engage with children outside of the classroom

Your break duties are a prime opportunity to get to know a wide range of students. First and foremost, remember that this is their break and not yours. You might think that showing off your killer volleying skills will earn you some ‘yard cred’ but will it really help you to establish a position of authority? Instead, talk to children.  Show a genuine interest in them and you will reap the rewards.  Sitting with children at lunch is also a great opportunity if you can overcome the concoctions they inhale at break neck speed.

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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