22 Aug '13

News What can NQTs expect from their first year in school?

From setting the rules to learning the lie of the land, Danielle Egonu-Obanye shares her insights into the rollercoaster ride NQTs have in store

The last academic year was no doubt a hard slog. Balancing your teaching practice with theoretical assignments and trying to have a social life might have left you in need of a sip of your favourite tipple and a huge slice of cake. But now you have a new challenge – your NQT year awaits.

So what should you expect and what can you do if you are not getting the support you need?

The key things to focus on are getting to know your class and mentor. Your pupils are probably just as apprehensive as you about the first few weeks, but it won't take long for you to find a beat that suits all of you.

If you are new to the school, it takes time to find your feet, learn the systems, the dos and don'ts and the school layout. Your mentor or NQT coordinators should be a beacon of information in these early days. They will run through the structure of your first year, which should involve supervision, induction assessments, observations, training and continuing professional development (CPD). Make sure they have registered you with the relevant body – if they are asking for information about your qualified teacher status, university career etc that's what they are doing.

There is no easy way to say this but the autumn term is the hardest. It's long, the days get shorter and colder and you have to expand your knowledge base rapidly. This is the time where you have to set the rules and establish your position with the children – they will test you and you must win. Study the behaviour, marking and teaching policies to help you develop good habits in-line with the ethos of your school. This will also help you prepare for observations.

Not all schools and senior management teams offer an equal support. You will soon realise if you are in a setting that is going to leave you to fend for yourself, offering no guidance or support.

But there is hope. Don't suffer in silence; there will be other experienced staff who can and will support you. As you build relationships and trust with colleagues, don't be afraid to ask for help. They have probably been through the same difficulties and will have some tricks up their sleeves to help you.

Stay in touch with your PGCE friends and network with them regularly. Not only will their varied experiences will help you to develop your own practice, but they can also be a good source of support on good and bad days.

Be proactive about finding CPD. There are free TeachMeets all over the country and online, organised and run by teachers who are passionate about what they do. They offer amazing insights into teaching practices and provide great resources. Twitter is also a great forum for finding information and blogs are springing up everywhere on the internet – us teachers love to talk by any means possible. You usually get a response to your questions and they can direct you to practical resources too.

Ultimately, if you are really struggling and not getting the support you need, you might want to consider trying pastures new and restarting the year in a more conducive environment.

All that said, the first year of teaching can be amazing. By developing yourself and your practice the positive impact you can have on others is immense. Your days will never be dull and no day will ever be the same. Have fun, think outside the box and create moments of awe and wonder. You may be in for an enormous rollercoaster of a ride for the next year but hold on tight and enjoy the journey.

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