Have you started to love your job? Once the winter is over and you have two terms of induction under your belt, the teaching career you've trained so hard for can start to be a pleasure. It's like cycling downhill - so much easier.
That's certainly how Tamsin Ford feels (see page 2), now she's hitting the last straight. If you've done everything you're supposed to, you're probably as relieved as Tamsin. Even so, the year still has another term to go. Follow these tips, and your last NQT term can be a smooth ride, not a bumpy one.
For teachers with a traditional three-term year, it's a long way to the summer holidays. But despite the weather and your new-found confidence, it's still a full-on couple of months. The run-up to half term is very busy, and you still have to face the endurance test of getting to the end of the school year. Summer term is a busy time, with exams, tests, trips and reports to cram in. You'll need to manage your time well.
REPORTS: FIND 40 HOURS
They can seem overwhelming, but it's useful to set yourself an objective before you start. Have you worked out how long they'll take? If you have a primary class of 30, I reckon the first five will average out to two hours each, which makes 10 hours, the next 20 will average out to one hour each, and the last five might get knocked off in about half an hour. So you have 32.5 hours worth of writing ahead of you, plus the preparation and proof-reading afterwards. Let's call it 40 hours of extra work that will have to get squeezed in by about mid-June.
How on earth are you going to find 40 hours of extra time? Construct a timetable and work back from the deadline to organise the time to do them.
Pace yourself - they're not something that you can knock off in a rush. And write yourself an objective about reports so you can spend some of your 10 per cent reduced timetable writing them.
Preparation is everything. Speak to your induction tutor about what's required: whether there's a computer programme; who will work out the attendance figures; and how much detail you're expected to write. Ask pupils to do a self-assessment - what they're good at, have enjoyed and need to improve. Their information will help you make one or two personal points that give a flavour of the individual.
Getting into the style of report writing is a real skill. Read last year's reports and talk to other teachers to see how you can be both honest and positive. Choose a straightforward child to write about first to get you into the swing of it, but show it to a senior member of staff for approval before doing the rest.
GET COURSED UP
Your time on induction is running out, so you've got to make really good use of it before the end of term - but don't hang around waiting for your induction tutor to organise things. Be proactive.
Speak to any teacher in their second or third year and they will tell you that you should make the most of the opportunities and protection that come with induction. You'll have professional development throughout your career, but it's heavily weighted towards your first year, which means there won't be a lot for you next year. NQTs in secondary schools who have found it impossible to get out of the building will be offered plenty of chances for professional development once Years 11 and 13 are on exam leave.
See whether there are any gaps or weaknesses in your practice against the standards - and remember two things: you're being judged against the standards for qualified teacher status and induction, but you're also being inducted into the whole profession, not just particular classes in a particular school. For instance, you may not teach many pupils with English as an additional language or special needs. You should still know how to identify, plan and assess such pupils' needs, so you might want to do some reading on the topic and look for opportunities to find out more. Do you feel confident you could cope with a new arrival to the country or a child with severe special needs?
Once you've chosen the area you want to develop in, you need to set a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) objective or goal. Remember the KISS rule too: keep it short and simple - or keep it simple, stupid!
Be creative in selecting the activity that will get you nearest your goal.
Look around your school - there's often someone you can learn from, so ask if they can be freed up to work with you. Advanced Skills Teachers (ASTs) are great. There are hidden riches among local teachers, and you won't be able to get away with the excuse that a new teaching strategy (or whatever it is) won't work with your kids.
When you've done some professional development, don't forget to evaluate it and think about its impact. Like the plenary in a lesson, it's a way to firm up what you've learned. How can you use this new learning to help your pupils?
SHINE IN THE SPOTLIGHT
How can you make sure that observations of your teaching in the last term show you at your best? Really go for it and learn from the feedback, making the most of someone's insight into your work. Push your observer to be rigorous with you, in helping you get better. Take some risks. Ask for observations of lessons that are tricky. If the headteacher hasn't observed you already, get that in the diary. After all, it's his or her judgment that counts on the assessment form.