Your NQT year is not too dissimilar to your PGCE experience, but the familiarity of university and studying has finished and you’re greeted with newfound accountability when it comes to the progress of your classes. The pace picks up from here on out and although a lot of advice from the PGCE Survival Guide will still be relevant, here’s a few more tips and advice to help make this year more manageable.
Make the most of your mentor
You’ll still be assigned a mentor within the school and it’s important to utilise their experience and advice. Ensure that your time with them is protected and doesn’t disappear under marking or other meetings. Make checking in with your mentor a priority and communicate with them if you’re finding it tough. It’s better they know straight away than finding out through someone else later down the line.
Continue to observe other teachers
Use the extra time you’ll have to go and see other teachers in the classroom. Once you have a full timetable the opportunity to observe will no longer be there. Continue to learn from other members of your department, senior leadership and observing lessons in different subjects. If you find yourself struggling with a certain class or student, observe them with another teacher to see what works for them.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
You’re fresh out of your PGCE and it’s always tempting to try and plan something totally from scratch all the time. However, you can still take ownership of your planning whilst utilising schemes of work that have been created by people with more experience. Give yourself that breathing space as you continue to grow and learn in your new role.
Become a part of the community
Join teaching groups on social media platforms such as Facebook. You’ll find community support and a place to ask questions or share knowledge and information on specific schemes of work or marking practices.
Pick up the phone
Make contact with parents as soon as possible. Hopefully, you’ll have had the experience of this last year, but it’s equally as important to make this a priority as an NQT. Contacting parents can be intimidating but it will make your life a lot easier to build those relationships early in the year.
Keep gathering evidence
From the beginning, start gathering evidence of everything you do. This will make report writing less challenging. However irrelevant it may seem at the time; you’ll be able to use it in the future.
Fully utilise feedback
This year you won’t be watched as closely. There’ll be less observations so make the most of feedback when you get it.
Enjoy your free time
Plan nice things for yourself because this year can feel overwhelming at times. Having something to look forward to on the weekends or during the holidays will help when things get a little tense.
You’ve now moved beyond Getting the Buggers to Behave by Sue Cowley and it’s time to move on to further reading that is specific to the environment you’re in. One suggestion could be Boys Don’t Try by Matt Pinkett and Mark Roberts. You’ll also start being asked to write longer schemes of work so it might be worth looking into texts about planning for inspiration and advice.
Think about the future
Start thinking about where you want your career to go. Are there any opportunities or extra roles available within the school that you’d like to take up? Let your mentor know your intentions and ambitions as you progress throughout the year.
Finally, just remember, it does get easier.
About the author
After completing a BA in Creative Writing and a Masters in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester, Tammy worked as a Learning Support Assistant, with a focus on helping students develop their literacy skills. She then taught as an English teacher at an all-boys comprehensive school in Berkshire. Now she has turned her sights to a career in writing, with education at the heart of it.