Tuesday, 31 March 2015

NQTs: What to expect in your first term

It's crucial to pace yourself from September to December to make sure you don't burn out by Christmas
Your first term at school will be a busy and exciting time. As you get to know the students and find your way around the buildings you will start to grow in confidence. Half-term will seem to arrive very quickly and your workload may even seem manageable. There are, however, a few factors to be aware of at this stage:


Take care that you don’t become overconfident and consequently relax with your classes too early. Your students may be responding well to the boundaries that you have set, but if you allow your standards to slip they could quickly lapse into poor behaviour. An air of over-excitement can develop as the winter holiday arrives. Remember, though, that you will have to face your children again after Christmas. Come January the end of the school year suddenly seems very far away and teachers often feel tired and overstretched.

Extra activities

Be careful about getting involved with lots of extra activities: the Christmas concert, the school play, working parties, the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and so on. It is very tempting when you start teaching to join in anything and everything to make a good impression. More experienced members of staff will have learnt how to refuse excessive demands on their time. You might find it hard to refuse if someone asks you to help out. Ensure that teaching and learning remain your top priority.


You want to keep going, to prove to your school that you are a reliable, hard-working employee. So, when you catch flu you muddle through and then you wonder why you can’t shift the succession of colds that follow. Teachers are notorious for going to work when they should be at home in bed with a Lemsip. A lot of teachers keep going and going and then every holiday, without fail, they fall ill.
A few points for you to think about:
  • Are you really so irreplaceable that the school cannot do without you for one or two days?
  • Do you really want to pass on the flu to all the other staff?
  • And isn’t it better to take a day off now and then when you need it, rather than two weeks of when you finally realise that you just can’t keep going any longer?
When you need to take time off sick, make sure you follow the school policy on absence. This will probably involve phoning the school to notify them that you will be away, the reason for your absence, and your likely return date. You may have to phone in for each day you are sick. You will need to set work, and you may have to ’sign in’ on the day you return to school, registering your return with the office.


As an NQT your progress will be officially evaluated and some of your lessons will be appraised. Get into he habit of doing self-evaluations either formally or informally. This is one of the best, quickest and most readily available ways of improving your teaching, If one of your lessons goes particularly well, take a few minutes to think about what made it good, so that you can repeat your success in the future. Similarly if you use a strategy that doesn’t work, or if you get into a confrontation, think about why the problem occurred and whether you should stop it happening again in the future.
This article is an excerpt from Sue Cowley's How to survive your first year in teaching (2nd edition) published by Continuum. You'll also find the latest on Sue's books on the Continuum blog.

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