Teaching tips for NQTs

Teaching tips for NQTs

It’s September, the start of a new term and your first proper teaching job. Thinking how you will get through your first few weeks, let alone the first year can be quite daunting. The first few weeks in a new job can be both mentally and physically draining, for new teachers this can be very overwhelming. It is important you put yourself first during the induction period to absorb as much information about the school, taking in lots of advice and getting to know the staff – it is almost being like one of the children and will become an invaluable part of your new life at school. Teaching can be one of the most rewarding careers for you and life changing for the children you teach. But it does take a lot of dedication and a lot of work behind the scenes to help make it work.    

Here are our top 10 tips to help you get through your first year…  

1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Lesson planning is crucial to your success. Understand the curriculum and prepare exciting, engaging and challenging lessons. Be your own teacher - take time out to experiment and take risks to establish your own technique. Think back to your own school days and how the teachers who inspired you made you love your subject. Learn from experienced colleagues, find out what’s worked for them and also see what other NQTs are doing. Have ‘back up’ lessons plans ready in case something does not go to plan, always have something hidden up your sleeve and be ready to pull it out if needed in an emergency. It is also a good idea to build a portfolio of lesson plans, the portfolio should include your lesson plans, notes, activities, worksheets, quizzes, exams, etc. It will be time consuming to start with but this will save you a lot of time in the future and you will have a comprehensive teaching resource that will make your job much easier from that point on. This is your chance to put into practice all that you've learnt.  

2. Get to know the class

Understanding the children you are about to teach is invaluable and can really help you in the long run. Firstly you will need to remember all the children’s names which can be quite difficult and then their interests, their behaviours, family members and what they like to do. You can do this through in a number of interactive games and classroom activities. It will show the children that you care about them, gain their trust and also help the children get to know on another.  

3. Networking

All first year teachers should rely upon a mentor teacher to assist and guide them through the first year. Having a support system of other teachers is invaluable. It is also essential to forge healthy relationships with all personnel in the school. Each staff member has a particular area of expertise that you will likely need at some point. Make sure you go into the staffroom regularly and talk to your new colleagues. Where possible take part in school functions and projects. The best schools are based on teamwork, and while everyone appreciates you have a lot to do, it is important to build positive relationships. It will make it much easier to ask for help and support when the time comes.  

4. Tidy classroom, tidy mind

Your classroom will be your home away from home therefore being organised and ready is key to getting through each day. Once you have planned all your lessons ensure you have enough resources in the classroom, it is kept clean and tidy.  Set classroom furniture up according to your teaching style (traditional rows, clusters or a horseshoe shape) and position your desk where you can see all the children and they can see you. Spend some time making the most of an extra space i.e. create a reading area with a selection of books, or a building area with construction equipment.  

5. Establish a relationship with parents

Parents are always wary when a new teacher joins a school and it’s vital to put the parents at ease as soon as you can. To ensure you have prosperous relationship with the children take time out to get to know their parents. It will help you understand the children better, provide both sides a clear channel of communication and builds a solid partnership through the year. Your school may have a ‘meet the teacher’ evening at the start of term and if so, try to get to talk to as many parents as possible. You could write a welcome letter to all parents detailing information about yourself, how you can be contacted, school policies, classroom rules and curriculum overview.  

6. Use social media and the Internet

The internet has a wealth of useful information you can use to help you get through your first year and beyond. There are hundreds of websites full of teaching resources and forums, spend some time find one that work for you and keep referring to them throughout the year. Follow the right people on social media will also be very beneficial. There are many supportive teachers on there who will help you. Surround yourself with the positive, helpful teachers. Take as much as you can, ask questions and you will be answered. There is always someone willing to share plans and resources. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Take full advantage of this help and remember to publicly say thank you. A little thanks goes a long way as we all know.  

7. Maintain a healthy work/life balance The first year is exhausting and you will need to dedicate a lot of time to it. But you must learn when to stop. Prioritise your life over anything else. You won’t be as effective of useful if you are worn out. If you are struggling speak to your mentor, peers and colleague, don’t suffer in silence; there is always help out there.  

8. Understand mistakes happen and it’s ok

Recognise that the only true way to learn is by making mistakes. The important thing to do is reflect on how you can improve and spend some time each week to your own development. Revisit notes from your teacher education programme on learning theories, talk with and observe colleagues that are known for making excellent use of behaviour for learning strategies, and evaluate your own practice. Don't hide your mistakes, share and embrace them. It may seem surprising but your colleagues have all made mistakes, and probably far worse ones than you have.  

9. Keep a journal

A journal can be a valuable tool for a first year teacher. There is no way that you can remember every important thought or event that happens throughout the year. Writing it down makes it simple to access and review at any point. It is also gratifying to look back and reflect at how far you have come at various points throughout your career.  

10. Enjoy it

The most important you should do is simply to enjoy teaching. Each day is different and rewarding from a child finally ‘getting it’ to the thank you card or cake on your desk in the morning. Teaching is tough but for most of the successful, happy teachers, it is a vocation, not just a profession – and don't forget the long summer holidays!  

Good luck and enjoy the epic journey you are about to begin…