‘Advice to my future- teacher self…’
So, you’ve completed the gruelling teacher training year, got through the interview and have been offered a post for your NQT year. You accept, you are elated! Joyous, you call your nearest and dearest to tell them the great news and they congratulate you, telling you ‘we knew you could do it’. Now you have the entire summer to relax, take a holiday, buy some proper teacher outfits and prepare yourself for what is to come. But, wouldn’t it be great if you could see 5 years ahead and give yourself some constructive advice? After all, the step from training to being in a qualified position have their colossal differences, especially with Covid-19 making an unwelcome appearance!
Well, stress no more. I am here to help. I trained in secondary History in 2015/16 at the University of Birmingham on their School’s Direct Programme and did the above; completed the training, got an interview, got offered the post…but when September came and I was alone with my very first class I felt like everything I had learnt, read and been told had disappeared from my brain capacity. Not to mention answering the hundreds of questions my new, year 7 form group had to ask. Questions that I didn’t know the answer to myself. It would have been incredibly useful if I could have time travelled, just to check that I had made the correct choice and that I wasn’t completely grey by the time I was 26!
There are quite a few things I would have like to have known and I have compiled my top tips below with a light hearted touch and I hope that as you grow into the teacher you dream of being, this advice may come in handy!
Don’t believe a word! Whatever you do, as a newbie in school, they will try everything. ‘Miss, we get to go to lunch 5 minutes early on a Thursday’ or ‘But Mr so and so used to let us out early on a Friday’ ‘Mrs always lets me on my phone to check…’. In my experience, the older ones are the ones to watch here! So, don’t believe a word, check everything for yourself- in the long run, they will see you are not to be messed with because you’re one step ahead and this will result in mass respect for you.
You are not a teacher. You are SO much more than that! Be prepared to pull out your mediator hat for tears, tantrums and tiffs! Within a few short weeks you will have more skills than Lionel Messi and the pastoral team will be your best friends! Just make sure you leave this at the school gates though and let it go when you step through your front door!
Get a life..! You must take care of your own needs in order to be a productive and happy teacher. My advice, take up a new hobby. Tennis, knitting, writing a blog… anything that means you are not constantly thinking about work or doing work. It is not sustainable to live and breathe every second stressing about school life. Take time to do things you enjoy or you will burn out faster than your laptop battery!
Write lists. This is crucial! I get it, this may appear to take time but in the long run you are building habits that will help you out by the middle of the school year. When you have 6 classes’ assessments to mark, a visitor coming in to school, a new scheme of work to plan and parents evening in the same week you will thank yourself. It is simple, but effective. Get a pad of sticky notes, now!
Ask for help. There is no shame in admitting that the year 9 bottom set group you teach last period on a Friday are driving you insane! Been there, done that, got the t-shirt! Invite your head of department in to observe that lesson so they, as a more experienced member of staff, can help you and advise you. It is always better to open up and share than to keep it under wraps, and if Miss what’s her name says they are perfectly behaved for her, ask to go and observe them yourself!
If you’ve just qualified and are the person described in the first paragraph then don’t worry, hundreds of NQT’s are in the same boat and remember every other teacher in your school has been there too! I hope you found this useful. I for one wish I had known these things before stepping in to the abyss. Teaching really is the best job in the world and I bid you good luck for September, break a leg (just not in front of your new class of year 11’s- they will sit and laugh at you before offering to help!)