If you only do 10 things this year ..
1. Check the small print Make sure you read your contract carefully. Discover when and what you'll get paid; most NQTs start on the main pay scale at M1 and normally your contract will start on September 1 and you'll be paid one month in arrears. If you've got a higher degree or have work-based experience you might be starting on a higher point, but this is at the governing body's discretion and is not a right.
Find out what is expected of you and what your professional duties are. Take a close look at the section on statutory guidance for your induction period. You will receive: a 10 per cent reduction in your timetable for induction-related activities (in addition to the normal planning, preparation and assessment time) among other things, and you will also be eligible for professional half-termly reviews of your progress.
Lastly, don't forget to look at what your notice period is.
2. Get prepared in advance Get hold of your teaching timetable and homework schedule as early as you can. This will help you plan your time - something that will be a challenge for you this year. Ask for your class list(s) in a spreadsheet or similar so you don't have to type them out. This will also help you with point 6 (writing reports).
Find out how to use the electronic register before the first day - you won't get off to a good start if have to ask for help with this seemingly simple task.
3. Make the transition We all know about the difficulties children face when they transfer from primary to secondary school. It's not much different for new teachers and accepting that you'll be going backwards before you go forwards will help you get through the transition. There will be new people to work with, new pupils to get to know, new procedures and protocols to get your head round.
To get through it you need to focus on three areas: teaching; time management and teamwork. You won't have time to plan in the kind of detail you did in your training year; you need to devise techniques for planning faster by using templates for your lessons, using readily available resources (try www.tes.co.ukresources). Create a list of the activities and assessment techniques that worked well for you.
4. Create an evidence folder Now is the perfect time to start putting together an evidence folder. In it keep notes about regular meetings, observations and targets, and evidence of other creative work. This will be invaluable when it comes to reviewing progress and it can become your CPD folder as you move through your career. You are expected to build up evidence to meet three areas of professional standards: professional attributes; professional knowledge and understanding; and professional skills.
5. Bond with other new teachers Sometimes there is nothing better than being with a group of people who are in the same situation as you. Whether you need reassurance that you're not the only one having second thoughtsstruggling with workloadmissing your freedomhating the kids, or you just want to spend some time with people who still know how to have a good time, keeping in touch with your trainee friends is a good idea. But if there are a number of new teachers in your school, you could forge great relationships with each other and develop as successful teachers. One group of NQTs wrote a book, directed a school show and became activity co-ordinators. These are all good things on your CV and in your evidence folder.
6. Don't panic over reports The key things for writing reports are start writing them early, plan ahead and don't get technical. Keep a file throughout the year and regularly note down information about each pupil to make it easier to remember details at report-writing time. Use a spreadsheet to record the results of test and other exercises. Make a note of pupils' best work or attach it to the file if you can. When it comes to writing them, give yourself enough time. It might taken an age to start with, but once you get into the hang of writing them you'll get quicker.
If you're suffering from writer's block, try asking a colleague for examples of reports they've written for pupils of differing abilities. You may be able to create a list of handy phrases that you can use if you get stuck.
Alternatively, your school might have report-writing software that you can use and choose phrases from. Finally, don't use acronyms or jargon. You're writing for parents who don't know what APP is or whether it is a good thing to be using on their child.
7. Get in there early to prevent behaviour problems This isn't about not smiling until Christmas, but it is about starting off as you mean to go on. Laying down the ground rules early on will save you the harder job of introducing a new regime after the year has started. It's normal for you to experience difficulties in your first year, but you need to have a plan for how you are going to deal with behaviour.
Don't expect to walk into a classroom and have authority and respect instantly. You have to earn it. Start by being fair, firm and consistent from day one. Build your authority and respect by setting reasonable expectations, planning good lessons and managing the classroom fairly and consistently. Don't let small transgressions go unnoticed as they will escalate and become harder to deal with. And don't give up. Be persistent over many months as it takes time to see the results.
8. Work with your teaching assistant You're new. The teaching assistant has been in post for more years than they care to remember. How can this work? By working at creating an excellent working relationship and partnership. However, you need to remember that this partnership should be teacher-led. Involve your TA in everything you do and be clear what you expect or want from them. They need to know what you are going to do so they can do their role effectively. If your TA has more experience with the children andor with the curriculum, you should be able to use this to your advantage. And don't forget the power of a box of chocolates to say thank you.
9. Learn about legal requirements The TDA says: "Teachers have legal obligations, rights and contractual entitlements as employees to work within the law and frameworks in order to protect and safeguard the rights and well-being of learners and colleagues. Legislation, statutory and non- statutory frameworks exist to ensure not only that all children and young people receive their educational entitlement but also to protect and safeguard their well-being, both in school and beyond."
You need to take the initiative and find out what this legislation consists of and what it means to you. For starters, familiarise yourself with the Education Act 2002, the Children Act 2004, the Children's Workforce Strategy of 2005 and the Every Child Matters agenda. Then have a look at the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document 2008 and the 2003 National Agreement on Raising Standards and Tackling Workload.
10. Talk to your Senco Collabor-ating with an experienced colleague, especially one with a specialism such as your special educational needs co-ordinator (Senco) is a must in your early days. You can't possibly be an expert, so seek support from those who are. You will be expected to plan effectively for children with special needs with your Senco, and they will also be able to offer a range of ideas and advice such as techniques for managing behaviour.
Learn as much as you can from this relationship, it's all useful CPD and knowledge in this area will improve your teaching and enhance your employability when it's time to move on.
11. Have a summer holiday OK, so it was supposed to be 10 things, but this is really important. You need a break. Make sure you have one.