Here we are again, mid to late August and Twitter is lighting up with the panicked NQT’s wondering how they are going to cope with September. This year though, is different, these NQT’s and Early Career Teachers (ECT’s) have had a very difficult training and despite the excellent support they have had from their providers, they will still be a bit lost in the woods. So here is my (and some excellent EduTweeters) advice to you beginning teachers. It’s going to be ok!
When I was asked to blog for NQT/ECT’s my first thought was to turn to Twitter, so that’s what I did.
I got some fantastic titbits that I have aimed to limit down into some top tips. I have previously blogged on this, and it was nice to see some things don’t change https://nexus-education.com/how-to-have-a-life-as-an-nqt-top-tips/ But, I particularly loved some of the advice given by my colleagues, people I trained with and who have become my best friend, have met through Twitter, have coached me, people who I now count as friends as well as colleagues and even people I went to university with and reconnected with through the power of Twitter! So, if you’re not on Twitter, get yourself on there!
I love this one from @AlMacHistory and I can’t believe I’ve never heard it before! I have seen lots of NQT’s and ECT’s exhaust themselves with planning, re-planning and trying to do it all. It also made me take a look at myself, especially this year. I have made myself ill this year, not appreciating that I am my greatest resource. If you need a day, you need a day. Prioritising your health, physical and mental is very important. You have had a stilted 2020/2021. It may come as a shock to your system this year, I’m not sure how I will be yet and this is my eighth year of teaching. I will either have incredible stamina after teaching 3-hour lessons (the two-period day will be engrained on my brain forever) or I will be knackered. So be prepared for the unexpected, be prepared to be more tired than you’ve ever been. Look after yourself. Have that weekend, look at what your colleagues have already made, ask for help and if you need time, take it. You will be a better teacher, and your colleagues and students will thank you.
I wish this one would go without saying, but we see it year after year! A former colleague of mine spent hours changing lessons, did he make them better? No. Did it burn him out? Yes, and sadly he left the profession. You will most likely have a wealth of resources that you can use. We do not expect you to reinvent the wheel and redesign lessons. Take responsibility for a small SoW if you wish, but use what you already have. Make it your own, don’t start from scratch. That’s not a good use of your time. I also loved what @HughJRichards says about talking to colleagues about resources, making sure you’ve understood them. Maybe observe if you have time, or even better, ask them to teach one of your resources so you can see that it can work with others. They want what’s best for you and the department. You teaching poorly planned lessons because you’ve run out of time, or because you felt you needed to plan from scratch is not the best for anyone.
Right, now we’ve made sure you’re not too tired to function lets work on being in school in front of the students. I really love @ThebigCteacher’s advice here. For a lot of students, you are the most consistent adult in their lives and I know a lot of people say, ‘Don’t smile before Christmas’ but for me, there’s a difference between exerting authority, gaining respect and actually building relationships. Which is what @freereed59 also advises. Know your behaviour policy, get to know your students and use those routines, you can smile and have a presence. Students will respect you a lot more for being consistent which is the way to do behaviour management. Also… please don’t go rogue, there’s a SoW there for a reason. I’ve had to do a lot of clearing up because of NQT’s, ‘going rogue’ without checking. If you don’t communicate, it will damage your relationship with your department, as there will be resentment that nobody needs. It also looks like you have something to hide because you knew it wouldn’t go well. We could and will help with that!
Your provider has been and will still be there for you, plus your colleagues in your schools. As well as your families. It does sometimes feel like people don’t get it, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be there for you! There is also a wealth of support online with #EduTwitter #NQT #ECT I would start with following @UoNSoEHistory, if you’re an NQT, an ECT, a mentor or have any involvement with beginning teachers.
Having a strong support system will be crucial, to how you get through the year. You will laugh, you will cry and you will have moments of euphoria. You will also have regrets, but I guarantee you that you will not be the first, or the last person to make that ‘mistake’. Plus, if you’ve learnt from it, is it that bad?
@teachwithmrst has written an excellent blog on tips here https://www.teachwithmrst.com/post/10-tips-on-how-to-kick-start-the-new-school-year and I particularly love number 9. I wish I had said no a few more times than I did. No one will judge you for it and if you’re worried, speak to someone!
If that’s not your thing, you could also read about how other people have coped and what they would say to themselves @MrColesDrama recommends @ATT_Institute’s ‘Letter to my NQT Self’. I guarantee you, some of it will ring true.
Whatever happens, you are not alone.
Lastly, @MurphyHistory has some excellent advice that I cannot stress enough.
Unless I have a very significant deadline, I will not take anything home over the weekend. Although this may seem unrealistic please remember, it can and will wait.
It will still be there on Monday, it will still be there the next day. I would suggest that you would do a far better job of it if you did it properly. Rather than rushing it at the weekend to get it done, or because you want to get home before 5. What would you prefer? To be refreshed and ready for the day/week, or to be exhausted because you were marking to silly o’clock or spent your entire Sunday doing work?
Think about it!
So there you have it, 5 top tips from people who have done it, made it and are still doing it! Well done for making it through last year and have an incredible 2021/2022. Go, follow all of these people, ask questions, stay in the loop and look after yourself.