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Surviving your NQT year - Harry Silo

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Completing teacher training is the first step. Will you be ready for what comes next? Here are my top five tips for surviving your NQT year:

1. Behaviour
I believe behaviour is the foundation of education. Without it, nothing else matters, i.e. resources, subject knowledge etc. Most of the advice you will be hearing includes phrases like, “Be firm but fair”, and, “Don’t smile until after Christmas”. Whilst I don’t agree with the latter, being consistent in your approach at this time of year will pay dividends. I was very firm and strict (not unreasonably) within the first two terms and it was noted that I issued the most reward and consequence ‘points’ in the school. The amount I issue is now at 10% of what it was and I’m happy to report that my lessons are generally calm and pleasant. Be firm, remain objective and give plenty of praise for those mini ‘win’ situations.

2. ‘Get them in, get them started’
Stand at the classroom door, act as a greeter, have a bin ready to discard chewing gum, correct any uniform issues and enforce the silence you demand as they come in to your classroom. When I shut the door it signifies the start of the lesson. I always have a starter ready. Even if I’m teaching in another room, I can quickly pose three differentiated questions on the whiteboard and get them started. A bored student can easily become a disruptive student.

3. Your department should be your rock
The maths department at my school are nothing short of fantastic. Great subject knowledge, consistent behaviour protocols and a wealth of experience. Don’t let any unanswered question or ambiguity stop you from developing. If you need to know something, get it answered ASAP.

4. Self-evaluation
We ask this of the students during and after every lesson and it’s reasonable to expect teachers to as well. No teaching experience is perfect. You can therefore always make improvements, especially in your first year. Ask yourself:
 
  • How could that have gone better?
  • How would a more experienced colleague have completed task X? 
  • How could I make my and the students’ life less stressful?

5. Efficiency/Organisation
These seem fundamental to teaching but I was startled at how many teachers – new and experienced - were disorganised. It creates more work in the long run, unnecessary stress and leads to a negative feeling towards the profession. This is a tough profession, so get the basics right. As soon as you have your timetable, begin the following:
 
  • Homework schedule – when to set and mark homework
  • Inspect your scheme of work (SOW) and chunk into fortnightly objectives
  • Create seating plans, SEN, data spreadsheets for record keeping, etc.
  • IT account setup and familiarisation of.

I appreciate the above will not work in all schools but the framework can be adapted to suit bespoke situations. Good luck and enjoy the ride!

Harry
 

 
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