Tips for Teachers – Surviving your first year in the classroom
Getting through your first year in the classroom can be tough, as even though you are fully qualified, there’s still a steep learning curve involved. Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) often have an uphill battle to face, as the year can be emotional and exhausting, however it is important to keep in mind that the career path you are embarking on will be extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
- Stay positive
Remember a new day is a fresh start for everyone, and a chance to forget that Friday Period 5 lesson on Coordinate Geometry that perhaps didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. Be sure to remember the ‘Q’ in NQT. You are ‘qualified’ and you have your qualifications for a reason. Don’t be disheartened by temporary setbacks as your knowledge and skills are a solid foundation from which you can grow into an experienced teacher. Even bad experiences are an opportunity to take forward some valuable lessons. Take stock each day of the good and the bad. Something like a journal could be useful to help you reflect on how far you’ve come.
- Build relationships
It’s really important that you involve yourself as part of the school community, and that means getting to know staff and learners across all levels. This may be extremely important when you need to borrow stop clocks from PE, or if you’re patrolling on break duty and need someone to put on their ID badge. Learning names can go a long way to helping build positive relationships, and trying to speak about topics outside of study can also be an extremely effective way of building these relationships. Remember you may create a teaching persona or character when you teach, but you are allowed to let your personality show in this and learners/staff will engage with this. A top tip for learning and remembering names is to immediately repeat the person’s name back to them before offering your own. Often we’re so fixated on turn taking in conversations that we forget to listen and retain information.
- Reflect on your lessons
It may feel like lessons come thick and fast when in your first year of teaching, but try to take the time to reflect on your practice. This could be as informal on the way home in the car, or more formally asking colleagues to offer some feedback from observing. No one is ‘perfect’ at teaching, and everyone at all levels learns something new every day, so you should embrace this. Try to tap into colleagues’ knowledge as well, there’ll be a wealth of experience within the school and colleagues will welcome sharing their experience with you. Try to observe as much as possible, and not just within your own subject. You can often learn a lot from other departments, but also about how differently learners can react to various teaching styles and subjects.
- Find a balance
Beginning to teach is HARD. There are very few people (if any!) who aren’t challenged during this year, and it’s important to pace yourself so that you don’t burn out. A positive and productive learning environment stems from your own wellbeing. If you’re feeling tired, stressed, de-motivated or simply all of these, then this will be apparent to your intuitive learners. Take time for yourself, and find the balance between work and life that suits you. You’ll be a better teacher for it.
- Don’t forget that you love learning too
Learning doesn’t stop as you are qualified. It’s the beginning of a lifelong love affair with learning as no two days or two learners are ever the same. You’ll be learning with every day that you are teaching but you should also look at ways in which to formalise your CPD. NCFE offers a range of teacher CPD courses which are available through our premier partner, Learning Curve Group. These Level 2 qualifications include Mental Health Awareness, Stress Awareness and Managing Behaviour that Challenges. These qualifications could also be eligible for funding so it may not cost you anything to develop these skills. Find out more on our website.
Dean Blewitt is former maths teacher and now uses this experience to offer his advice to other schools as part of NCFE’s Curriculum team. Find out more about the events and support available from the curriculum team on Qualhub.
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