Hindsight is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? I know all across the country there are going to be stressed and worried people at the very beginning of their NQT years, and the points below are what I’m guessing you’re worried about most. I’m here to tell you as well that you needn’t bother, and once you’re an established teacher, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Most of these things I guarantee will not be the things you need to spend most of your time and energy getting right. Hopefully in knowing this you can get the right perspective and balance and hit the ground running.
Number one on any new teachers list of worries is always behaviour. Everyone knows that all students when they see a new teacher ‘try it on’ to see what you’re really made of. You might be worried about enforcing a new behaviour strategy when you’re still getting to know it yourself. You will definitely at least worry that you won’t be able to manage behaviour properly.
Firstly, if a class is really that bad, you shouldn’t be teaching them as an NQT. It takes time to develop your skills, and you are not expected to deal with the most difficult behaviour right from the off. You should be supported heavily in all aspects of behaviour, and if you’re not being supported, then point this out.
You need to develop your own view on behaviour management, and not try things that are suggested by other people. What might work for one teacher might not work for you, and you probably already have a very good idea of what this looks like.
Finally, behaviour is much more about your status in the school over the long term than what you actually do in the moment in front of the class. You’re a real teacher now, here to stay, and there’s no escaping you when you leave at the end of your placement.
Sometimes your NQT year can seem like you’re just spending your entire time building up resources and sorting out schemes of work. When you get to next September, and you’re re-using virtually the same planning as you did last year, things will be much easier, right?
You might also get told several times throughout the year that your planning is not up to scratch in certain areas, prompting you to spend hours extra in preparation for a lesson that is over in 45 mins. If you word counted your entire NQT year, what number do you think you’d get?
Your planning is supposed to be a prompt for what you do in the actual lesson, to serve as proof of everything you are doing, and perhaps to allow another teacher to use as cover in your absence. It is not a script, an academic piece of writing or a portfolio of how wondrous you are.
It’s very easy to get bogged down in paperwork, and let your face to face relationships with students suffer. It does need to be memorised, to avoid you looking at it every 2 seconds and potentially missing something very important out.
Keep it simple, keep it flexible and allow yourself to make it come to life in person, during the lesson, and not on the paper. That actually requires very little planning at all.
What if there is something on your subject audit that you still don’t feel confident about? What if a student asks you something and you don’t know? What if you get something wrong in front of the class?
You might feel that you need to demonstrate perfect subject knowledge at all times, and if you don’t, you will not only look silly, but your line managers will start to have their doubts. Worse still, in some areas, like art or sport, you might feel that you need to demonstrate what a talented artist or athlete you are.
Out of all the things in this list, this is the one that you will need to worry about the very least. I guarantee that you don’t realise how much you do know, and you will surprise yourself when actually in front of the class.
It is much more important to be well versed in pedagogy than in your subject, and it’s true that ‘you don’t have to know it to teach it’. You might also be expected to teach PSHE or General Studies, as will a lot of other non-specialists, and that does not impact on the quality of lessons.
If all else fails, and you do get caught out getting something wrong, then repeat after me: “Oh yes, that’s a common misconception…”
Your NQT observations can feel like a massive, life or death deal and most NQTs stay up hours into the night preparing for them. Everyone knows that you are supposed to make your observed lessons extra special, even though you would never be able to keep up that amount of work for every day.
That doesn’t matter, the observer knows they are not watching a lesson, but are watching a lesson that is being watched, and as a result you are required to pull out all the stops.
Do not kill yourself over observations. Firstly, students will call you out if you do anything that is radically different to ‘normal’ operation, and even if they don’t, the observer’s first question to them is always, “Do you do this every lesson?”
The fancier and more complicated you make your observed lesson in an attempt to impress, then the more likely you are going to forget about fundamentals such as on the spot behaviour management or being available to answer questions.
Finally, you need to act as if you are being observed 24/7, because you probably are. You will get random visits from managers when you least expect it, and those are the observations that really count.
It’s very easy to get carried away worrying about these things and lose sight of other aspects of teaching that need your attention. The above are things I think you need to downplay in your mind, and if you are struggling to do this still, remember I’ve been there too and I’m only an email away. I do think there are certain other things that do need your attention though, which I will cover in a future blog post, “Things you should worry about as a new teacher”
Are you about to start your first post and want to talk? Email me or comment below.
Related post: New Teachers Want To Quit In The First Week