James Williams, our NQT and teacher trainer expert, on making the move from trainee to NQT
The start of the school year is always exciting: new pens, pencils perhaps a new ruler and a nice clean eraser. It also brings a whole host of worries, big and small. In an online chat that I hosted for the TES some ‘obvious’ questions came up – dealing with nerves, establishing good behaviour, dealing with pushy parents, how to introduce yourself to the class. Well, many of you will have overcome those first day nerves and awkward introductions already. I bet that some of the more experienced teachers will be talking in the staffroom about the ‘honeymoon’ period for the new boy or girl, perhaps even laying bets on how long it will last.
Something to remember as a newly qualified teacher (and something to remind yourself about if you are an ‘old lag’) is regression. Feeling that you are going backwards, that you seem to be less able, that some things you had mastered are now difficult to achieve is actually quite normal. It’s not just the pupils moving from primary to secondary school who can have regression problems. Moving from being a trainee to a NQT or just moving from job to job as an experienced teacher brings with it new people, policies, procedures and challenges. It will take time to adjust.
As a NQT your teaching practice files will be your best friend. Use them to recycle old lessons and successful lesson structures. Dig out those successful worksheets and interactive whiteboard files and adjust and adapt them for your new school. Remember also that your planning as a NQT cannot be as detailed as it was during your training, so develop some short cuts and short hand notation to make the planning more manageable. The faster you learn the school policies and procedures and the quicker you can learn your pupils’ names the better.
And what about dealing with those pesky parents? My best tip is to remember that what parents hate most is being talked down to or being treated like a child in your class (mind you I’m willing to bet that at some point, if you have a non-teaching partner you’ll be told to stop acting like a teacher and treating them like a child when you have a heated discussion or disagreement).
You do have one advantage over the vast majority of parents, you are the professional. You are the education expert who has had the training. Provided you know your pupils you should be open and honest about any issues or problems with their work, but the biggest thing is to remember that you need to attack problems, not people. To a parent their child is (almost) always the angel. Attacking their angel will not win you any friends, but attacking the problems they have and suggesting ways in which a parent can help their child is the best way to go.
But do remember to enjoy your job, hard as it is. Your work and effort can, literally, change children’s lives for the better and that’s something that very few jobs can claim to do. Oh, and don’t forget, if you find out who won the ‘honeymoon’ bet, remind them that they owe you at least sticky bun at break time!
James Williams is a lecturer in science education at the University of Sussex. James answers your questions in our Advice Clinic
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