Becoming a newly qualified teacher is both daunting and exciting at the same time. You have worked so hard to get to where you are and although you have been through years of hard work and training, I can pretty much guarantee that you probably still don’t feel ready for your own class. The first thing I will say is don’t worry, because there are millions of teachers that have been in your position and all felt exactly the same, and quite frankly I think they would be lying if they said that they didn’t feel uneasy about being responsible for a class of 30.
Unlike other jobs, teaching is a career that you have to incorporate into your life. You always need to be on your ‘A’ game even when you’re having a bad day. Being a teacher is a big responsibility, you have 30 little faces staring at you every day and you have to put your life and soul into providing them with an education that will help them to achieve their full potential. Even on days when you simply think ‘I just can’t be bothered today’, you still have to put on a smile and be as enthusiastic as ever and make sure that not a single day is wasted.
As some of you may be aware, I am a qualified teacher and completed my NQT year in 2017. I have since decided to take a step back from teaching to focus on my blog and finding a passion for a new adventure. However, I do hope to go back one day. My NQT year taught me a lot and there are things that I learnt and discovered that I definitely wish that I had known prior to beginning my first year on the job.
Finding a Job
Do your research
When it comes to finding a job, look around as many schools as you can. Teachers have to give a least half a terms notice, so after May half term there will be so many jobs being advertised. Look at what jobs are going and ask for a visit. I would strongly recommend visiting the school when the children are there, if possible, as this will give you a feel for the environment and you can talk to the children about what they like about the school etc. Also, think carefully about applying for a job at a school that has multiple jobs going, it may be a coincidence but I always think it is a bit worrying that so many teachers are leaving at once.
Ask LOTS of questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when visiting the school. Ask the staff if they enjoy working there, talk to them about how long they have been there. You must make sure you have a feel for a school before you apply. There are schools for everyone and some work better for others but might not necessarily be the right school for you and that’s okay.
Don’t jump straight in
There is a national shortage of teachers so don’t feel like you need to just jump straight into the first job you get. Make sure you are certain with where you want to go and weigh up your options. So many jobs are around, especially after May half term and there is definitely something for everyone.
If you have already secured yourself a job, Congrats! It really is the best feeling and it is so exciting to think that your hard work has finally paid off.
The Job Itself
Remember: You will always have something to do but find the balance.
During my first teaching practice during University, one of the first pieces of advise I was given was to always remember that you will always have something to do and not to feel like you have to finish every day with a clear ‘to do’ list. The idea is to prioritise your tasks and do the most important first. Teaching is a career where you can always find something to do and although it is important not to let your work bog you down, you will very rarely find yourself with nothing to do. One of the biggest things that I can’t stress enough is that you need to make sure you set yourself restrictions. Sounds odd and I know you will be wanted to do everything you possibly can to make your first year perfect. Simply keep on top of every day and prepare in advance where you can, but don’t over stress about things that are not essential for that day.
The money you earn is for YOU.
As I mentioned above, Teaching is the type of profession that can easily absorb your life and when you are out shopping you will quite easily think ‘oh that would be great for that lesson’. Please don’t be fooled into thinking that the money you earn is for you to spend on resources for your classroom. Don’t get me wrong, the odd pencil pot or personalised cushion is all great, but I was spending almost £25 a week on resources for my classroom environment and lessons. I would hate for someone else to be fooled into thinking that this is what is expected of you. Every school has a budget and always ask what the procedure is for claiming money back before you spend.
Give yourself time off
This is a career where you are always thinking of work and this can be draining and it so important to make sure that you give yourself a break each week. It is very easy and tempting to work through your weekend and be ahead for the next week, but that is so unhealthy and you must make time to relax and try and switch off. Spend time with your friends and family and do things you love to do. I pretty much switched off my social side during my NQT year and it is one of my biggest regrets. Remember you work to live, you don’t live to work.
It is okay to say no
It is very easy as a new teacher to say yes to things in order to impress your work colleagues and sometimes you may find yourself taking on extra work that you don’t necessarily need. It is so important to remember that you can say no and no-one will think bad of you. Being an NQT is stressful enough and you are learning how to balance everything out. Taking on extra jobs and responsibilities looks good, but I would really advise you save these things for later on in the year when you have got to grips with everything and you know how much more work you can take on.
If you need more/less support
Having a good working relationship with your colleagues, mentor and headteacher are so important and you want to be able to speak to them about anything. This may include asking for more or even less support. As an NQT you are provided with a mentor to guide you through the year and help you find your feet in the profession. In general, you mentor should essentially be your ‘go to’ person for any problems you may encounter and guide you in the right direction for success. However, if you feel like you need more/less support, you must speak up sooner rather than later. Everyone will want you to succeed and if something isn’t right or doesn’t feel like it is working speak to your headteacher and they will support you.
Be prepared for the never-ending ‘another holiday!?’ comments
From anyone outside of the teaching profession, teaching looks ‘easy’ and you are constantly reminded about those 13 weeks of holiday a year. However, they don’t quite realise the work that goes into the job and the fact that during those ‘stupidly long holidays’ you spend at least 75% of your time is spent either in your classroom or planning for your next term. Be prepared to let any comments go over your head, even if you’re tired and feel like your dying from the current illness going around your class. Trust me, not matter how much you argue your case, they will never understand.
“Cover your own back and make sure to minute every meeting/conversation you have and keep a record of things when you are directing people. This way when you direct people and if something isn’t done, you can say why not, whereas in my experience I’ve had people say they didn’t know they were supposed to do something which was getting me into trouble as they were covering their own back. Likewise, the other way round if people say they are going to do something get them to put in an email or any way that gives you a paper trail so you can’t be held responsible if it’s not done.
I would also say to stay extra organised by printing off the calendar and training calendar to make sure you hit deadlines. My school is very hot on deadlines and even if it is something little that you miss they make a record which follows you throughout.” Laura Floyd (Reception Teacher)
“Having survived Ofsted on day 5 of the job and a scary move from EYFS to KS2, I have learnt about the importance of asking for help. There are no silly questions when it comes to this mad job. It will be hard but making time for a chat and a giggle with others at lunch helps keep you going. Trust me, there will be plenty of classroom moments to giggle about!” – Caroline Hutchins (Year 3 Teacher)
“You’re braver than you feel, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” ‘My advice would be to treat every lesson as a learning curve and don’t expect perfection. Although it doesn’t seem like it at the time a bad lesson only makes you a more passionate and motivated teacher. I would also say don’t strive to always complete everything on your ‘to do list’ as you will burn out and soon realise you will never achieve it (a teachers work is never done) Set priorities and realise that sometimes tasks have to take a back seat. Good health, sleep and family play as just as much of a part of succeeding as planning and working!!’ – Lily Wilson (Year 2 Teacher)
- Make lists! It will help you to prioritise and make sure what you get what you need done.
- Do the small jobs ASAP, or you won’t do them at all!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Find a planning and marking schedule that works for you. Do give yourself a break!
- Do not take things personally, especially poor behaviour!
- There is always something that needs to be done but you need the balance.
- Enjoy it!
Nikki Kerr (Secondary Mathematics Teacher)
Completing your NQT is an achievement in itself and everyone has their own views on it. I personally found it a very difficult year but I do know that I learnt more in that one year than I did in my whole time at University. I think that most important thing to remember is that you are not on your own and that there are so many support systems out there.
One last thing, ENJOY IT! You have only one year with your first class and make the most of every second, give those children a year for you both to remember and cherish.
I really hope this has helped and guided some of you and hopefully put you at ease. Feel free to message me/comment any questions should you have any!
Thank you for reading!
*Just a little note to say a BIG thank you to my fellow teachers who contributed towards this post. Always stay in touch with your teaching friends because they will be the ones you can have a good rant to and they will always understand!!*