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Saturday, 25 August 2018

Top 10 Tips for NQTs

If you've followed me for a while, you might be aware that I qualified as a primary teacher in June 2017, taking on my first class in the following September. When I think back to my first year of teaching, I instantly think of one word - EXHAUSTING! The move from training to NQT year is insane, and I don't think anything could ever fully prepare you for it. A lot of the first term was spent absolutely knackered and with a tear or two. Teaching is definitely not an easy career to go into, but that first year is one of the most rewarding - you get to call a class of children your own (after muscling in on other people's classes during training), you get to decorate and organise the classroom how you want, and you get to teach how you want - this is what you've waited all this time for.

I remember during the summer before my NQT that I was so nervous. I was sure that I would've forgotten everything I'd learnt during my training. How was I going to get the children to listen to me? What if I was only a good teacher when my mentor was in the room? What if I don't have a clue what I'm doing? Quite simply, future me would tell me to take a deep breath and stop worrying.

So I thought I would share the main things I've learnt during my first year of teaching, which I'll definitely be taking forward with me into my second year.

Ask questions & be a sponge
You're just starting out in this crazy career, you are not expected to know all the answers. It took me a long time to ask questions about some things, but it was so helpful. And once I'd asked those questions, it was important to soak up every suggestion and piece of advice (even those I didn't wholeheartedly agree with). It's the advice from colleagues, as well as everything you learnt during your training, that is going to continue to shape you into the teacher you want to be.

Parents aren't as scary as you think
This is one of the things that I was really worried about. During my training, I had had little interaction with parents, so I wasn't 100% sure how to handle possible situations that might arise. I was worried that I wouldn't be taken seriously as a new teacher, but it's important to remember that you've had the training, so you do know what you're talking about. Parents are just worried about making sure that their children are doing alright.

Remember - you're just an NQT
This was something that I was reminded of numerous times during NQT year. During those times when you're panicking about not knowing something, or are asked to do something you're not 100% sure about, it's important to remember this. This is your first year, you're still learning, there are going to be things that you can't do.

Go in for a few days in the summer to sort displays, label trays etc.
Perhaps a little bit late, but if you have the opportunity to head into school before the start of term, use the time to get the big jobs like sorting displays done, and those jobs that take a while, like attaching tray labels and writing names on books. These jobs are sort of important for the start of term, and should make you feel slightly more prepared for the first day. But remember to enjoy the summer holidays too - you'll need all the energy that you can get.

Set those boundaries
This one is important, and not one that I necessarily accomplished last September. I spent a little bit too much time worrying about being the kids' friend and it made things a little more difficult for me during the school year. Lay down the law at the get go, so that the children know your routines, boundaries and expectations at the beginning of the year. This means you can ease off a bit as the year goes on, which is so much easier to do than bring it in if you're too soft from the start. I'll be doing of this when we go back to school.

Find the behaviour strategy that works for you
At lot of schools these days have their own, school-wide behaviour systems that you may be obligated to use. This was true for me, but I was also able to use Class Dojo as well. My class loved earning points, with the highest scoring girl and boy getting a prize at the end of the week. I'm hoping it'll work next year too. Each class are different - it's important to find out what's going to work with each group of children.

Get a notepad for a to-do list
Teaching is one of those careers where you will always have something new to do. Your to-do list will definitely never end, so it's important to keep on top of it. I have a notepad on my desk with my to-do list on so I can keep jotting down new additions. It's also a good idea to try and stop that list from getting too out of hand. Try to tackle the little tasks as soon as they crop up. I try and look at the list at the beginning of the week to see what needs doing so I can prioritise those. But be warned, there will always be things that just never get done - and that's ok!

Take some "me" time
This was another one I had to learn over the course of my NQT year. At the start, I was working ALL the time - I was late home every night, working at home in the evenings and at the weekends. It was like it never stopped, and that wasn't good for my wellbeing. I found it was so much better to have at least one day over the weekend that I did no work, and I tried to leave early-ish one or two evenings a week. This will be something I continue next year - it's essential.

Believe in yourself
So important! You've had the training, you got the job, you do know what you're doing! You have to believe in your ability! Easier said than done, I know, but so incredibly important.

Take it one day at a time
This is one of those careers where you literally don't know what tomorrow is going to bring. No two days are ever the same, and that's just something I've come to expect. You can have a bad day on Monday, but by Tuesday the kids will have done something so incredible that you forget all about it. It's amazing! But you've made it this far, you can handle these new challenges.

I hope that any nervous NQTs out there have found this useful! Anyone getting ready to go back for the next year of teaching - good luck, you'll be amazing!

Love Lexie

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