Honestly, the worst is over by this point. It’s the new year. Last term was a test of physical and mental endurance, but the spring term is a different prospect altogether.
This term is about getting moving and, dare I say it, actually enjoying your job. All being well, you have begun your new term well rested and refreshed, but you won’t be alone if you find it hard coming back from your holiday and feel that you can’t cope with the punishing school routine again.
But don’t worry – the pace of this term will be a good deal calmer. It will also be one in which pupils and teachers can make heaps of progress without too many pressures and undue distractions.
Use whatever’s on offer
The journey to being a really good teacher is a long one, but the induction process and all opportunities for professional development can help you to pick up speed en route. Use your reduced timetable and any observations and discussions of your teaching to develop professionally – these will all help you to keep up to speed.
Keep looking both ways
This is an excellent time to take stock and appreciate what you’ve learnt so far and how far you’ve come in your first term. For any number of reasons you might have had to stray off course from teaching the way you wanted. For example, it may have turned out that your pupils behave better sitting in rows, although you disliked the idea at the start and don’t want to work that way in the long term. But now is the time to plan where you want to get to and to use your induction to help you get there.
Don’t get derailed
Have you got a clear picture of how well you’re doing? Your end of term assessment report should have detailed this. Most new teachers will be making satisfactory or better progress.
You’ll always be thinking about what’s going to help you to be a better class teacher, but don’t allow yourself to get distracted from this most important part of your journey. Forget the running clubs and after school activities. However tempting they might seem, it’s best to leave these until your second year. Even if you feel as though you’re flying through your first year, don’t take on additional responsibilities just yet. Focus on your induction and leave the extras until September.
If you need help, get it
If your headteacher and your induction tutor have decided that you are not making enough progress, you should take steps straight away to get additional support and monitoring from your school and local education authority to give you every chance of meeting the induction standards by the end of the year.
Remember that if you fail to meet the standards for qualified teacher status and induction by the end of the third term, then you will never again be able to teach in the maintained sector or in non-maintained schools. This might seem like an insane rule, but one in 500 newcomers do suffer precisely those consequences.
Look closely at your induction entitlement – the reduced timetable, your individualised induction programme, half-termly observations, regular meetings with your induction tutor. Did you get all of those things last term? If not, you need to make sure you get them this term. It is your professional responsibility to raise these concerns before it’s too late.
There is often a tendency for people in school to forget that you are still an NQT (often because you’re too good) but you must guard against that. Even if you’ve done well in your first term, don’t let your support fall away or allow yourself to be left to get on with it alone. You need help throughout the year. On the other hand, perhaps you feel ready to do without some of the support you had last term, or to have something different. Be clear about exactly what support you want and pin people down to dates.
But does it suit you?
Make sure that your induction programme is individualised and focused on what you need to get better at and has the right balance of support monitoring and assessment for you.
What are your objectives? Learn from how they went last term. Many people don’t meet their objectives – not because they’re lazy or hopeless but because the targets are too big or too numerous. This term, address just one or two areas at a time and make objectives clear and bite-size.
Perhaps this term you will get into assessment more and have an objective such as ‘Improve how I use assessment to feed into planning’. That might involve noting down how three pupils did in each lesson and adapting plans for the next lesson. You could address this in your marking by focusing on your key learning objective.
Finally how many teachers have you observed since September? Try to see heaps more this term. There is a wealth of activity going on around you. Be a sponge and soak it all up.
This article first appeared in the New Teachers supplement
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