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A guide to getting through your NQT year - 5 key tips to follow

Successfully completing your teacher training no matter which path you took is an incredible feeling but it is topped by securing your first teaching post.  At this point the excitement of starting your career and having your own class and pupils far outweighs any possible negative thoughts that your NQT year in reality is going to be tough one (but a great one). You have taught great lessons before whilst training and you are 100% confident this will be the same in your new job (for the 0.001% of people that have a stress free & easy NQT year you can stop reading now). So what could possible go wrong? The answer: not everything. My first piece of advice is to stay positive throughout try and keep a log where you write down at least one thing a day that went well to help you focus on the positives (Tip 1). It is very natural to focus on the negatives but no matter what you are experience remember not everything is bad.

I personally completed my NQT year from January to January after securing my first job in an inner city London school (Ark Academy, Wembley) and feel there is a massive benefit for teachers of any subject to do it this way. There are some quite obvious barriers with this calendar year method, including been new to everyone (even the Year 7s who usually come as a stress relief to an NQT as that is the only year group that does not recognise you are "NEW"), but there is one massive benefit of this unorthodox method. Burnout is a massive issues in the teaching profession no matter how many years of experience you have but for an NQT this problem is magnified tenfold.  However, for me after two gruesome never ending half terms (learning curves). I was gifted with every teacher's saving grace...Summer holidays. This six week period off allowed not only time to catch up on my personal life, which had to take the backseat among many others things as lesson plans, fixtures and all things teacher related had took a hold of me. Alongside the new freedom of having time to visit family and friends this mid NQT hiatus allowed for use of the most important device in a great teacher's toolbox and the topic of this first blog. Reflection (Tip 2).

I am going to break reflection up into three stages: The holy trinity of improving your teaching:
1)Reflecting on observing others.

2)Reflecting on observation by others.

3)Reflecting on your own teaching. 

All as important as each other. 

Hopefully the school you are working at gives you the opportunity to observe other teachers. Ask to observe your head of department & ask if they could recommend other teacher's around the school from different subjects which you can learn from. Try to keep your observations down to 15-20 minutes and go with a clear aim and focus, for example, looking at the use of questioning or positioning around the classroom. I found it very beneficial to observe other practical based subjects for example, Drama, DT & Art that will have similar transitions and do not tend to have pupils sat in one place the whole lesson (there's a lot of moving around within those subjects just like PE). Just remember after you have observed another teacher reflect straight away on what you have seen and trial new methods learnt immediately. The practice of observing is pointless if you do not act on your new knowledge. (It is amazing how quickly you might forget so remember to write everything down when observing another teacher).

Teaching is very personal, so having someone observe you can feel a bit scary but stick with it and remember it is all for your own development. Do not look at an observation as something that is grading your teaching but as a learning process which is designed to improve your teaching. I had the same problem and at first I would feel nervous about getting observed but once I received feedback and saw how this directly improved my teaching I was sold and now I seek observations and ask different members of staff if they could observe me (Tip 3). Remember to cherish all the feedback you are given and do not let your "ego" get in the way it is important to remember even though you have a piece of paper that says you can teach and have secured a job you still must endeavor to keep learning your trade - teaching.

The final type of reflection - your own teaching. Please no matter how great or badly you think the lesson went you must reflect on your practice and use your analysis for future planning & organisation. Get in a habit at the end of the day (this could be on your commute home or at your desk) for 5 minutes reflect on each lesson. What went well and how can you continue this good practice? Why did something not go to plan and how could you do it differently? Do not feel like you must have all the answers already yourself and do not let yourself become isolated - speak to other teachers both at your school or via twitter and ask for their advice (Tip 4).

Personally, for me this final piece of advice got me through my NQT year. 

"Let it go and move on" (Tip 5)

If a lesson went terribly of course reflect, seek help and plan for the improvements but do not let it beat you up! Teaching is a hard enough profession without you having to beat yourself up too. However, do not just move on and forget about it. You must reflect about it. Look at every lesson you teach, every enrichment you run and every moment at work as your interactive learning environment where you are still a student looking to improve everyday. 

Top 5 Tips for your NQT year

1)Keep a log of positives - this your personal experience and you should celebrate every achievement no matter how big or small.
2)Be reflective in the 3 key ways mentioned.
3)Ask and seek out teachers to observe you.
4)Speak to other teachers and ask for their advice.
5)"Let it go and move on."

Thank you for reading and I hope this helps you in some way. Please feel free to message me on twitter @OPPE2715 or email if you have any questions.

Written by Oliver Parkinson 


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