Tips for NQTs in Primary Schools
1 Pace yourself.
As a trainee teacher you can tick off each day of the six week teaching practice, knowing that after it is all over, you can relax back into normal life and sleep once again. But it is very different when you are a full time teacher. The light at the end of the tunnel is in nearly fifty years. Fifty years! Think about it. Fifty, long interminable years of planning, marking, and trying to be enthusiastic with Class 5B on a wet Friday afternoon. So don’t try and do everything in the first week. After all, there’s another two thousand, five hundred and ninety-nine weeks to go.
2 Find out who controls the ordering of resources.
Let’s face it, school budgets are never going to be huge under any government and are only likely to get smaller in the future. As an NQT, by the time you are a school leader you will be expected to run your academy purely on hope, a smile, sharing the school hall with the local hospital as an out-patient department, and any small change you can find down the back of the chairs in the staffroom. So find out who controls the purse strings for purchasing resources. Be nice to them.
3 Listen to advice.
You don’t have to take all of it, but listen to it and then be discerning. Make it a rule to ignore any doom and gloom merchants and perennial moaners in the staffroom. Instead, tune in to the colleagues who have positive attitudes and a wealth of experience to share. It’s far less draining for a start. And you will pick up a good idea or three along the way.
4. Use your skills of acquisition
You will have to do enough begging, stealing and borrowing at home to pay off that student loan for the foreseeable future, so why not use these skills of acquisition to good effect in your new job too? Teachers are great magpies when it comes to ideas and resources. You can always spot any primary teachers on their summer holidays. They are the ones on the beach busy collecting seashells or feathers for that display they have in mind, whilst their non-teaching partner rolls their eyes in wistful acknowledgement of this is what they can expect every time they go out anywhere for the rest of the relationship. You can also tell primary school teachers on courses at conference venues – they always take as many complimentary pens as they can fit into their handbags or pockets. And they’ll take the highlighting pens as well if you don’t count them all back in.
5. Don’t forget the parents and carers of the children in your class.
You are looking after for the most important thing in the lives of the majority of them, and if the child isn’t the most important thing in their lives then you need to be well aware of these issues too. Follow school policy in working with parents and carers, make time to communicate with them and build up relationships. Some parents are scary, some are confrontational and some will have ridiculous expectations of you, of their child or of both. But most are just nice people who want what’s best for their child and want you to teach their child well. Make the most of their help and support. And check school policy on accepting gifts and presents at the end of the term, however much you might like to keep that suspiciously generous present of jewellery that didn’t come in a box, “From a mate of me dad’s uncle. He can get cars too”. Or the box of wine that arrives – just before teacher assessed SATs.
6. Take up the professional development opportunities that are available.
Research suggests that teachers make the most improvement in their practice in the first three years in the profession, so the clock is ticking… It can be a big step up from the final experience in a school as a student to having your own class to manage day in, day out. So seek to improve, note what works well and learn from your mistakes. (And don’t be that NQT who got great feedback for their lesson observations whilst at college, so therefore believes they can tell experienced teachers in their new school how they should be doing the job properly. In any profession it is far better to be known for having a bit of humility than for being a pompous git. Except for stockbrokers and estate agents obviously.)
7. Above all else, never, ever be that member of staff who leaves their dirty cups and crockery in the staffroom sink.
These colleagues are the lowest form of humanity (or science) teacher and deserve to be stuffed headlong into the dishwasher. Tidy up after yourself. You are no longer a student.
8. Enjoy it. Kids are great.
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Tim has been a headteacher with a successful track record; his last school had a reputation for innovation and their initiatives have been utilised by others and presented internationally.
School improvement has been at the heart of his career, working as an LLE, a School Improvement Partner, Professional Partner as well as an Ofsted inspector and mentor for trainee inspectors.