As an NQT, my first full year of teaching seems to have flown by. It's been a busy year, and I still find myself thinking “Wow, I'm actually a teacher now!” I trained through a School Direct route which put me right in the centre of school life from day one. I had training in Reception, Year 3 and Year 6, and I am now the very proud teacher of a Year 2 class. In light of my training period coming to a close, here are some tips that I have put together to inspire anyone who is about to take the leap into the best profession in the whole world.
1. Be prepared
In the world of teaching, organisation is key. I would recommend buying a USB with a large memory, and also splashing out on a portable hard drive. This allows you to back up everything. I keep every lesson that I ever teach, labelled so that I can find it easily if I ever need it again. Also, get a good, sturdy diary and use this to help you balance your time. My biggest help during the summer leading up to my training year, was Sue Cowley’s How to Survive Your First Year in Teaching. This book is fantastic in preparing you for the start of life as a teacher. She has also written a book called Getting the Buggers to Behave which brings me onto my second point…
2. Know your behaviour policy
As someone who has found behaviour management challenging, I know that the behaviour in your classroom can be a make or break factor in your lessons and observations. It is a good idea to read your school’s behaviour policy very carefully to make sure that you are able to apply rewards and sanctions consistently and as they are intended. If you do find yourself in a school where the behaviour management policy is minimal, don't be afraid to introduce rewards systems for individual pupils (after discussing with your mentor) or to try different approaches. Some approaches work well for one class but will have no effect on another. It's all about being flexible, and getting to know the children.
3. Try new things
Don't ever be afraid to try something new in the classroom. Just because you're a trainee teacher, it doesn't mean that your contributions and ideas are not valid. Are you experienced in using an iPad? Introduce it into your lessons. Have you thought of a school trip that would fit perfectly with a topic that you are teaching? Suggest it to your mentor. Some of my best observations have come from trying something new. Sometimes a trainee or someone who is new to a setting can provide a fresh perspective.
4. Share, share, share!
In teaching, ideas get passed around and shared again and again. Sitting down to plan a lesson can sometimes end up in re-inventing the wheel. Be sure to check sites like Twinkl and TES for resources that could knock hours off of your planning time. If you do your training in a number of different settings then I would recommend asking in each setting if they would allow you to copy planning and resources from their school network onto a USB. You never know what year you might end up teaching so having a bank of plans and resources that you can tweak is really helpful. Similarly, if you make a resource or plan a lesson/scheme that has worked really well then share it on resource sites and with other teachers in your school.
5. Don't be too hard on yourself!
As anyone in the education field will know, teaching is tough. There are days when you blame yourself for everything, and there are days when you feel on top of the world. There are days when everything bobs along nicely and there are days where you feel stretched so thin that you're sure you'll never ping back into shape. On all of those days, take one look at the children that you do all of this for. Remember the child that didn't speak a word of English on their first day and now won't stop talking. Take a moment to think about the children who say “I want to be just like you when I grow up.” You are doing all of this so that you can help and inspire young people, and you are doing it brilliantly. You are only human, and there is no such thing as a perfect teacher!
Prior to starting my training with Ark, I was a Captain in the British Army Intelligence Corps. During my service, I worked with vulnerable people from across the world. What I witnessed during my time in Helmand, Afghanistan, was a society where children were born into mostly hopeless futures. Futures where basic security was absent, hospital care limited and education non-existent for most. At home in Britain, I can think of no career more rewarding than one that is dedicated towards offering a fair chance and future for our next generation.
While there are many other teacher training providers, for me, Ark’s mission of giving every young person, regardless of background, a great education meant that I could take forward the sense of purpose I had serving in the Army into my next career.
Having just finished summer school, what really stood out the most were my fellow trainees and the sense of camaraderie that quickly developed; being with a like-minded group of people, with an assortment of fantastic achievements already behind them, was very inspiring. As a complete teaching novice, I found the training that we received was easily digestible and hugely supportive.
I am looking forward to taking the techniques and lessons from summer school forward into the classroom and really getting to know my year ones.
This was originally posted by Ark Teacher Training and is published with kind permission.
Gabrielle and Tom share their stories about why they chose a career in teaching:
I went into teacher training at 34, which was ten years after I originally thought about doing. However, for me, it was far better timing to have trained later on in life. I believe that there are pros and cons to training at various ages, but for me, I entered into the profession with a lot of life experience behind me, having been fortunate enough to do a lot of travelling and seasons living in the French Alps I have the ability to offer pupils an insight into potential life adventures and hopefully inspire them to want to explore the world and a variety of careers.
I believe that the SCITT programme I completed was the best pathway for me into teaching and am a strong advocate for this route. It offers a gentle approach into teaching that isn't weighed down with too much paper based university assignments.
I happened to teach six subjects in my training year which is unusual, but I do feel that it has proved the possibility to be multi-disciplinary and that subject variety can really motivate a trainee to be diverse from the beginning of their teaching career. This can be an advantage as once you become a qualified teacher you can be asked to teach various subjects.
I originally wanted to teach Art at college level, but after research I realised that there were redundancies in further education. I then looked at secondary level but there wasn't any financial help for Art, so I trained in Design Technology (having obtained a degree in Art & Design). In a large school, such as the one I trained at, there are several subjects in a D&T department, enabling me to teach several subjects. I quickly realised that I was best at Food Technology (having cooked in ski chalets in the French Alps for two years I had the experience behind me to be competent enough in this subject and it fuelled me to become passionate about food and cooking). My Food Technology mentor urged me to follow a path into specialising in this subject.
After applying for a couple of design jobs, I realised that my passion lay in food and so I applied for two jobs to teach this and got the second one, which is at a small, local grammar school. It has been a fortunate first teaching post, and there are plus points to working in private schools, for instance extra holidays and a more relaxed atmosphere.
My NQT year so far has been tough but manageable and helped by having picked the most suitable subject and working for a really great school.
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