You’re fresh out of your initial teacher education (ITE) and new to the job, but what lies ahead? While ITE is designed to support you in becoming a competent beginner as a teacher, how can you best take all your learning forwards, and build on it in the year ahead?
One of the most effective ways of continuing your development as a teacher is by talking to those more experienced than you. So, here’s a quick round up of some top tips from teachers with recent experience, as a springboard for your own success in the year ahead…
Relationships, relationships, relationships
There’s no doubt that the quality of the relationships that you build with colleagues and pupils will contribute to the easing of any issues you face. Work on them whenever you can!
Leanne C @lcatherine91 says: “Build relationships, observe different teachers as often as you can, remember you are always learning and don’t be scared to ask questions.”
Matt Smith @mr_geog agrees: “Go to the staffroom! It’s great for advice, your work life balance and regaining a bit of sanity. Hiding in your classroom is not healthy.”
If you approach the first term at a run, you’ll be out of steam by half term. Pace yourself as much as possible and carve out time and space for rest. The way in which you use your time will have a significant impact on your experience of the term. Manage it wisely, and seek help sooner rather than later.
Emma H @emmafrances12 says: “Prioritise and make sure you make time for yourself. Ask for help, everyone is happy to answer questions! It’ll cut down your planning time.”
Mr Hubbard @Mister_Hubbard echoes this sentiment: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help: it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength!”
Jade Guest @jadeguest urges organisation: “Put everything on your to do list in priority order (or you’ll go on forever) and always make time for lunch with colleagues.”
Laura @RQTweeter suggests seeking out the pay-off for organisation: “Be organised, work smart, believe in yourself and do something that makes you feel good every week (a hobby or seeing friends etc.)”
Miss Little @MissLittleTeach offers hope: “Try to be orgainsed and efficient with your time so you stay one step ahead of the game, and try to remember that it gets easier!”
Keeping it all in perspective
When you’re in the midst of a teaching term, it can be frighteningly easy to get swept up in the minutiae of teaching, planning and school life generally. Being overloaded can prevent us from retaining a balanced perspective and that can lead to a downward spiral and the feeling of not coping.
Jade Guest @jadeguest suggests: “I’d tell myself, “It’s not been a bad day or week, you’ve just had a bad lesson.” That helped me to keep things in perspective.”
Craig Elwood @craigElwood1 offers sage advice: “Don’t expect to be at the top of your game early on! It takes a long time to perfect your craft! Reflect on successes and mistakes.”
Whatareyoureadingfor @wayrf eases the pressure, too: “Make your classroom your own, observe as much as you can, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Becoming an excellent teacher takes years.”
Balance must come first
When stress becomes an entirely negative force in your working life you must seek balance. In fact, seek balance before stress becomes negative. This means knowing your limits and making changes so that your working habits are sustainable. Your health must come first.
Louise Atkinson @louiseatkinso14 cautions: “Make sure you get and use wisely your NQT time out of class.”
Lynette Clapham @deputyheadchps offers this advice: “Consider your wellbeing and work life balance even if your school doesn’t promote it. Go home by 4pm twice a week. Do something nice for yourself.”
Char @charmundo_ suggests: “Sometimes it’s okay to leave that pile of marking and leave school on time. A worn out and exhausted teacher is no good to anyone.”
Know where to get support
There will undoubtedly be times when you will need additional support and this is most likely to be found through your mentor, other trusted colleagues, your union, the Teacher Support Partnership and your family and friends. Never struggle on alone!
Murray Sackwild @mrsacky suggests: “Join the National Education Union and don’t let anyone take advantage of your goodwill and desire to succeed. Good luck NQTs.”
Let yourself shine
You’re starting out in your chosen career and may well feel overwhelmed at times. But remember why you’re there, what you hope to achieve and who you want to be as a teacher. You will be “in development” for decades!
Louise Howlett @lh16619 says: “Be brave and take the odd risk! It’ll work and you’ll do it again or you can learn from your mistakes (still true 13 years in!).”
Talk for Teaching @PaulGarvey4 recognises the learning that emerges from observation and conversation: “Watch others as often as you can, but always with somebody else, so you can talk about the learning as it happens.”
Isobel Potter @IsobelPotter94 suggests: “Enjoy it! Love your kids and remember why you’re doing it!”
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.