What advice would you give a newly qualified teacher?
Take your advice selectively
Everyone will have an opinion but remember there are many teacher types and they all have their quirks and foibles. Who you take advice matters so be selective, nod politely and don't be afraid to ignore a lot of what you hear. Schools are full of 'experts' who are paddling like crazy underneath.
Beware of educational cargo cults
Teachers are good at jumping on bandwagons but that doesn't mean you have to be one of them. Make your own decisions and follow what the evidence says. If you are convinced that Brain Gym, learning styles and ability grouping are the way to go then take a look at the research and think again. As Hattie and Hamilton (2018) say, "Education cargo cults must die. Instead, we must privilege evidence of impact and we must use this evidence to ensure that every learner gets at least a year’s growth for a year’s input…..Evidence is the rich jam at the heart of the whole education enterprise: it is to be relished and spread far and wide."
Your classroom comes first
You have a class full of eager beavers who need you. They are going to be hard work and so you will need plenty of energy to keep the show on the road. In other words, try not to take on too much beyond what you are doing. Newly qualified teachers don't need to prove themselves by going the extra mile every five minutes. There are no Brownie points for taking on extra responsibilities if this then leaves you stressed out. Just focus on your class and look after your own wellbeing.
Choose your battles
You might find that you work in a fabulous school with fabulous people who are all on your side. But then again, you might find that there are things you don't like about where you work and there are things that rub you up the wrong way. It's probably best that you avoid fighting the system in your first year and concentrate on thriving rather than being a victim. Getting drawn into toxic conversations will only end in tears so give a wide berth to the moaners and groaners.
Don't suffer in silence
If you need help then ask for it. If help is offered and you haven't asked then accept it. Working in a silo makes teachers very lonely. There should be no embarrassment attached to asking for support when you feel like you are out of your depth or just need to run an idea by someone.
Remember that children are children
The further up the school you teach they bigger they get and it can be intimidating when most of the class towers over you but they are still children who need you teach and care about them.
Children are not friends
Forget connecting to children on social media unless you want to be suspended under investigation. You have your own private life and sometimes it can be appropriate to share a little about yourself but there is a line to draw. We can be in loco parentis, professionally friendly and show warmth to those we teach but this isn't a popularity contest to get the most 'likes' across the school.
Plan but within limits
You definitely don't need to plan like a Ninja and re-invent the wheel with every lesson. Time management is crucial and that means managing your own workload so that it is sensible and in proportion. Sometimes a 5-minute plan is all you'll need.
Teaching is mentally and physically exhausting and your work is never done. However, there is a point in the day when you say that you've done enough because you'll need to recharge and rejuvenate otherwise you'll be sat in your GP's waiting room by half-term.
Never give up
There might be days when you get so overwhelmed that it just feels like it's all too much - that's normal but keep positive and keep trying and keep going. No one said it was going to be easy and it isn't but it is massively rewarding.
Your school needs you!
About the author
John is an ex-primary school teacher and Ofsted inspector who has spent the last 20 years working in the education industry as a teacher, writer and editor. John’s specialist area is primary maths but he also loves teaching science and English. John has written a number of educational and children’s books, and contributed over 1,000 articles and features to various educational bodies. John is eTeach’s school leadership and Ofsted advice guru, sharing insights on best practice for motivating and enriching a school team, as well as sharing savvy career steps for headteachers and SLT.