The summer holiday is time for a rest or preparation for September. We, as teachers, are always lured into the abyss of preparation and planning. New teachers constantly ask how to prepare for the training year. The need to organise everything and solve all the possible problems is present but impossible to fulfil. Preparation for new teachers is like an abyss, bottomless void because it is never ending. What can you do to over the summer before starting you NQT year?
I have had my NQT year. Looking back I would have done couple of things differently.
There are plenty of books and blogs to read. Don’t get them all. Choose one (if you have to) and take time to digest it. Or don’t choose any.
Teaching and the training is hand on activity and can not be mastered while reading a book. The knowledge in the books if not implemented in practice is lost and forgotten. The first aim should be getting to know the school your work in. You have to be the master of the teaching sequence and the specification that the school is using. Every other printed material is to support that.
If you have to read anything get to know your specification you are teaching and the policies for the school you are working in.
I bought number of books to read based on recommendations from my training provider or colleagues, but used none. Some were not applicable in the setting I was in. Others were describing principles I did not fully understand. Short online articles, discussions with teachers ( online or in person) offered more insight and help for my practice.
Read the specification
The Specification is available online. Use the original document and get to know it as a bible. It will help you guide your students from what they know to what they need to know. It will help you decide better if the power points slides, books, materials ets. are compatible or in line with the specification. There is nothing wrong about teaching outside the specification. as long as you have a good reason for it. Ultimately your students will sit exams based on that specification and they rely on you, as their teacher, to prepare them. You need to know the way to lead them through the forest of available resources and point them to the best.
At the start I was not sure what the difference was between combined an single science. I followed a book but the book changed when I changed school. The book we used change again when the Head of Department decided to change it. The sequence of teaching and the names of the lessons changed 3 time in my 3 years of teaching. I had time review the specification at the end of my second year of teaching. I regret for not doing it at the start. It would have allowed me to organise my materials in better way and scrutinise the resources I had more effectively. Changing of books would not have been so daunting and most of my resource could have been reused.
Read the behaviour policy
Become an expert in the policy because student will challenge you. You will need to align your behaviour strategies and expectations with the behaviour policy. Students will challenge you and having firm knowledge of how you can follow up the positive and the negative behaviour will help you in a long way.
I had training during the inset day in my school about the behaviour policy, but it was challenging to remember it in one day. I wish I had more time to make notes and remember it. I needed to refer to behaviour policy the most, and students knew it better than I did on the first week in my school.
A great school all teachers consistently are following the behaviour policy. I was not lucky to be a part of that type of school. Teachers changed often through the year and we had number of new teachers each term. Lack of time to learn the policy led to challenging behaviour being left unchallenged.
Plan for routine transitions
Have a clear plan/routine for the transitions during the lessons and insist on them. Read a book, article or think about what you have observed and how you would like the students to enter your class and leave your classroom. It will be hard to do this without knowing the expectations from the department and the school. Talk to your colleagues about how do they do it and decide on your own practice. Ideally the routines should be the same across the department and school, but teachers tend to do things in various ways.
Think about :
- How are the students going to enter the classroom?
- Where are you going to stand as students are entering?
- How are students going to pick up their notebooks?
- How are you going to distribute equipment mid lesson?
- How and when are students going to return equipment?
- How are you going to ask students to start or stop writing; start or stop listening to you?
- How are students going to answer questions? Are you going to use “no hands up”?
- How are students going to be dismissed ?
- How are late students going to enter your classroom?
Through your NQT year these routines will develop and mature. But you will need to start with an idea. Students will have to be told explicitly what you expect them to do.
I started my first lesson with some ideas of what I will expect from the children. In my second year of teaching I knew how I am going to impose that. My biggest mistake in my NQT year was changing my routines often , at least once in a term. I would change my sitting plans even more often. Bringing in new reward systems and complicating the routines unnecessarily. Keep them simple and consistent. Students would love to walk in your classroom if they know what to do as they come in, know where to sit and know what is expected from them. They are more likely to follow your instructions if those are the same set of instructions in each lesson.
Book in time for for yourself and your family
Start with protecting your free time and your family time. The workload and the training will demand every second of your day. Do not let yourself being consumes with planning, writing, marking, teaching, learning.
I did get to the mental break down during my NQT year. To the point of not being able to hold back my tears, crying for no obvious lesson, drinking energy drinks to keep me up during the night, not having quality time together with my family. Simple things helped me manage my time, my emotions and my life in general. Setting boundaries. For me- I was staying at school till 5 pm each day. Between 5pm-8pm I was with my family. From 8pm -10pm I will do a bit work. from 10pm till I fall asleep I would be with my husband. During weekend I will spend 4 hours preparing lessons. I will stop working when the working time expired, whether I have completed or not. I would prioritise what needs to be completed first. and start with that. The to-do list will never be completed and the work will always be there.
Take ownership of your own development
Mentors are great companions in the development. I have had 3 wonderful mentors that I have become friend with. But this training is yours. You will need to learn through reflection and be able to self- assess. Find your strong points and work on improving your weak points. As NQT you are building your own career.
As NQT my mentors were relying on my plan for the future in order to give me advise and guidance. If my mentor were unable to observe me, I would ask colleagues that were available. Choosing to go to training sessions or not would be the stepping stones of your own professional career. It has to be your decision.