Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to head back into University to deliver the ‘Life as an NQT’ lecture. When my old mentor got in touch to ask me to do it, I was really humbled – her thinking of me for something like that is a great compliment.
Last year we had a few trainees pop in with different viewpoints and so I asked around and a couple of guys from my PGCE came with me. We had varied experience in that Mike is working at a SUPER posh school, I’m at a school that is part of a large MAT and Simon has been working at a smaller LA school. I think we gave a nice balanced view overall… and we didn’t scare anyone TOO much!
The full presentation is here: Life as an NQT blog
My Top Tips are as follows:
- Make lists!
If it’s not written down, it doesn’t get done. There are 1000 things going on in your room or your head at any given moment – lists are a life saver. I personally like the list pads from Paperchase because they have tick boxes which are incredibly satisfying… it goes pretty much everywhere with me in school so that everything I need to do gets written down. I tend to write a new one for the next day before I leave and prioritise as I go.
- Do the small jobs ASAP… or you won’t do them at all!
Goes along with the above, but if you have analysis grids to do/ detentions to log etc before you go home… do it. Or you’ll never stop thinking about it until the morning… or you’ll SWEAR you’ll do it when you are watching Netflix later. You won’t. (Or you will but it will take 4 episodes of House of Cards to do rather than 20 minutes in your classroom)
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – about lessons/topics/specific students…
Talking is the key. To your mentor, others in the department, other NQTs, other staff in general… it’s nice to get a feel for if what you are doing is right, or if Bob is a pain in Lisa’s lessons too. You aren’t expected to know it all!
- Find a planning & marking schedule that works for you.
This is a contentious issue on Twitter. Personally, I work until 6pm at the latest at school in the week & then I take nothing home (I try to also leave one night per week by 5pm). I then work one day at the weekend, usually Sunday, to plan Monday- Wednesday because I have no time for planning during my 5 period day on Monday. I also HATE marking, and at the start of the year took it home ALL the time, but as in point 2 watching Netflix and marking made it take longer rather than being more bearable – so now I mark in my frees. Every free is used for marking.
This would not work for other people. I know people that would rather work at home, or have kids so HAVE to work at home after they are in bed. I know others who NEVER work at the weekend unless it is mock season. But it works for them. Find what works – it may take a while – then make it routine.
- Do not take things personally – especially poor behaviour!
This is also easier said than done, but at the start of the year I would take it personally when my difficult class didn’t like the topic I was teaching, or got angry at a homework detention, or, at the worst, spat expletives in my direction as they stormed out of my room on a C4. Now, I don’t. None of this is personal.
Think back to when you were in school – did you enjoy all 5 lessons every day? Was it because you hated the teacher with a passion? Or was it because you’d had and argument with your mum before you even left the house, then 3 other lessons already, where you got a detention in Spanish and then Lauren said something a bit catty at lunch and put you in a right mood?
Also, kids forget things really quickly. Jim can swear at you P2 and then see you at lunch and ask you for a high-five. They don’t dwell on it…. neither should you!
- Make work/life balance a priority – ‘Me time’ is important.
This is a hard lesson to learn. My huge breakdown before Christmas taught me this one. I am still not good at it. But I try to have 1 day off at the weekend, and leave school at 6pm latest (5pm at least one day a week). I cook, I see friends, we walk Milo, I go out on Date Night… sometimes we stay in and eat pizza and watch trash TV… but I do all of that for me! Happy teachers are better teachers, fact.
- Join Twitter – the CPD, resources & support are phenomenal!
Speaks for itself. I love tweachers.
- Do not reinvent the wheel!
Every lesson you are going to teach has probably been done before. Check Twitter, subject blogs and around your department for ideas… heck, even check TES (just don’t pay… more on that another time!). Adapt them and mould them to be more ‘you’ by all means… but use what’s out there! It will save you so much time while planning a 90% timetable.
- Get to know your students – they make it worthwhile (sometimes with cake…)
This one speaks for itself. Knowing about the kids in your room makes life so much easier for behaviour management, adapting lessons to their interests and just generally makes your day brighter. The kids we work with are wonderful.
(On the cake topic – I mentioned to a Year 9 one Friday that birthday cake was my favourite cake when she was talking about her 3(!!!) birthday parties… on Monday she turned up early with a slice of it for me!)
- Enjoy it! This is the best job in the world!
I think that’s it! Though if you have any questions, please do let me know on here or via Twitter.
Through writing this, I have reminded myself how lovely blogging is – I’m going to make an effort to do it more often – I’m starting to feel a little more in control of my time! I may even try to bring some teaching ideas to the table soon…