Eleven Tips for NQTs Tomorrow

Looking out to sea

The first time I went out for a driving lesson with my mum, I knocked off all the wing-mirrors down our road. It was mortifying. I had to go door-to-door, telling people what I’d done. Luckily, this was the mid-90s and wing-mirrors just reattached – there was nothing electric or digital about them in those days. One kind neighbour reminded me that ‘everyone was a learner once; we’ve all been there.’ And, of course, the same is true of teachers. We’ve all been new at one point. It takes a while to sort out spatial-awareness when you’re a learner.

So, here are some pieces of advice for those of you starting your NQT year tomorrow:

  1. Find out how you find out whether you’re covering a lesson, then check the cover-board every morning. It’s not a good look to leave a class out in the corridor, unattended, while a flustered person from admin (or the teacher in the room next door) searches for you.
  2. Turn up to break-duty and get there on time. Ten minutes late with a coffee in hand is no good.
  3. Get in the habit of taking the register within the first five minutes. I appreciate that this might sound obvious and may be well-enforced in some schools, but if it’s not then you need to sort out a way of remembering to do it. Why? When there’s a safeguarding issue and a member of SLT asks you if you saw X yesterday, you need to have that information to hand.
  4. There is always, always, always A Difficult Person on the staff. Always. Trust me. Just don’t take any of it personally. If this person is ever unprofessional towards you then note it down and speak to your NQT mentor.
  5. Don’t make the kids promises that will cause you lots of extra work. For example – ‘year 9, these essays are so brilliant that I am going to photocopy them all, mount them, laminate them and post them all home to your parents!’ You’ll end up disappointing the kids or killing yourself over it. There are other, more efficient and effective ways to praise.
  6. Don’t heat up fish in the staffroom microwave.
  7. If you need to teach with your door open and you have a noisy classroom, then either don’t have a noisy classroom or shut your door.
  8. Experience teaches you a lot. Listen to the experienced teachers. They will school you in ways you weren’t expecting, if you listen.
  9. A political one. Check with your head of faculty before you say ‘yes’ to anything significant. There’s an etiquette here and it might not apply in your school or faculty, but just check. For example, if you get invited away on a residential trip, just run it past your line-manager. If you decide you want to take on coaching the cricket team, just run it past your line-manager. If your HoF turns out to be The Difficult Person then, er, my thoughts are with you.
  10. Check you have a 10% reduction in your timetable.
  11. Enjoy the 10% reduction in your timetable. Don’t moan about your load to FT teachers without a responsibility point.
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