If you’re just starting out in your teaching career, here are some reassuring pointers to give you the confidence to take the classroom by storm.Being a newly-qualified teacher (NQT) can be stressful. Although you’re likely brimming with enthusiasm and are up to speed with the latest teaching methods, the thought of trying to consistently engage a class of thirty may keep you up at night.
There’s no need to despair, however. All teachers have to navigate the uncharted territory of a new school, so there’s nothing wrong with feeling apprehensive or anxious at the beginning of your teaching career. If anything, you can leverage these feelings to your advantage by planning for what may lie ahead.
To give you that extra little bit of preparation, we’ve compiled these seven top tips for NQTs.
1) Be yourselfThis is the biggest favour you can do yourself and your students. By making a commitment to be open and honest, you’ll remind yourself why you pursued teaching in the first place. Besides, young people respond well to honesty, and colleagues can quickly detect a fake.
As you plough through your first year of teaching, you’ll find yourself honing your own teaching style, which may vary in line with different classes or subjects. You’ll also become more comfortable in your unique approach — one of the things which can make teachers such valuable role models to young people.
Remember, your teaching style in five years’ time will be different from your current teaching style, so have confidence in your abilities. Take pride in the fact you’ve made it this far already.
2) Befriend other members of staffIf you find yourself having an off day, the staff room can be your place of solace. Acquainting yourself with all of your colleagues — from the headteacher to the caretaker — will help you forge a network of emotionally engaged people on the same page as you. Camaraderie is important in any working environment but is particularly integral to the tough world of teaching.
In particular, seek out teachers or colleagues who effectively manage classrooms with compassion and dignity. If you find yourself dealing with a problem student, having a confidant or mentor close by will provide you with measured advice to make you a proactive, not reactive, teacher.
3) Ask for help if you need itSwallowing your pride can be hard, but not asking for help when you really need it can snowball into an even bigger problem. Whether you need tips on a more efficient marking system or advice on how to approach the parents of a troubled student, your colleagues can call on a bank of experience to help you out.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. If anything, it demonstrates a proactive, measured approach. Remember that every teacher was once an NQT (even if it’s harder to imagine for the older heads), so they’ll likely be happy to impart some wisdom. Just make sure you don’t become overly dependent on the help of others. After all, teachers are busy at the best of times.
4) Get organisedWhether you like it or not, organising a heavy workload is one of the main responsibilities of a teacher. If you want to stay on top of things, then good planning is vital.
Though the old adage “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” ignores the complexities and fast-moving nature of teaching, you'll find that good organisation will prove pivotal on the manic days that seem to pass you by. Write to-do lists for the day, week and month, and keep a work journal to store all your thoughts and tasks in a tangible form.
Lesson plans are likely to take up most of your time, so it’s best not to try and cram them in at six in the morning. By completing all of your plans well in advance of your lessons, you can substantially reduce the volume of work on your plate.
5) Learn your students’ namesThis may sound obvious, but getting to grips with the names of your students should be your top priority when you set foot in the classroom to teach.
Learning theories show that students respond well to the sound of their own names. Matching faces to names, therefore, will help you navigate the vagaries of the classroom and create a diverse, inclusive teaching environment. It will also set the tone for highly effective long-term behaviour management.
There’s one thing worse than forgetting a student’s name, and that’s consistently mispronouncing it. Take care to show you’ve acknowledged and celebrated cultural difference. This will help to ensure you build mutual trust and give the students the respect they deserve.
If remembering names is not your forte, use seating plans and prompts to help you out.
6) Accept that you’ll make mistakesAcknowledge that every lesson will be a learning experience. You’ll make mistakes along the way - some insignificant and others less so — but the important thing is to learn from them. Instead of beating yourself up, reflect on how you can improve and develop. Your students are learning with every lesson you teach, so use the opportunity to learn things too.
7) Look after yourselfNewly qualified teachers can often feel so under pressure to prove themselves in a new environment that they’ll put everything into their work. A good thing, of course, but it’s also possible to overdo it. If planning, researching and marking come at the expense of your free time, you may soon find yourself resenting your job — as may those close to you.
That’s why maintaining a healthy work-life balance is vital. You’re bound to have stressful days that leave you feeling completely overwhelmed but try to leave this stress at school and leave space in your schedule for a healthy dose of downtime. Only by eating well, getting enough sleep and creating time to socialise can you inspire the next generation.
If you’re struggling to separate your work life from your home life, speak to your colleagues about how they strike a balance. There’s no perfect way to plan your free time, and most teachers find their own groove through a process of trial, error and plenty of organisation.
The final wordWhat better way to finish than with some advice from someone who’s been there and done that? Here’s what Rhys, an English teacher based in London, has to say to NQTs:
“Your first teaching role can feel like a big step up from your PGCE year (teacher training), so share and receive resources from others and encourage emotional solidarity. Make sure you have in-depth knowledge of your subject’s curriculum, as this will stand you in good stead for when things go awry (as they inevitably will at some point!).
“Finally, listen and learn from the kids and your peers. They can tell you more about schools in one honest conversation than a thick prospectus. Ask if you need more, but the main things are to listen and share. Good luck!”
If you’re seeking a permanent role for the new teaching year, you’re in the right place. Celsian Education has a track record of success when it comes to finding the right role for the right teacher — putting square pegs in square holes. Click here for the latest teacher jobs.