Future NQTs, it’s true, you really will be.

A casual browse through Twitter in recent weeks will see reams of current ITT students understandably concerned about their NQT posts for September. They have missed out on a whole term of in-school placement, and, to paraphrase, they’re really bloody worried!

Now, before anything else, it’s important to say that every ITT provider I have engaged with over the past few weeks have worked tirelessly to provide support and continuity of education for trainee teachers. But, what they have missed is the hands on experience, the staff room dialogue and that subliminal learning that comes with being ‘at the chalk face.’

So, how can an NQT calm those nerves, feel prepared, and use their time between now and September to their advantage?

I’ve not got a job yet!

Seeing so many people celebrating their job successes is lovely, from my perspective. But, then, seeing the other side of the coin and many future NQTs genuinely worried not ye to have secured a job for September, it’s hard.

But, the reality is, even if you fall into the latter category, you don’t need to worry. Yes, it is true, lots of positions tend to become available before May half term, but not all of them. Lots and lots of people do not secure jobs until closer to the summer holidays. So, keep faith, keep fine tuning your knowledge and keep looking.

You can continue to do prep work, as if you have a job. There’s lots to learn, regardless of your future setting, so, try not to be disheartened. And ignore people who tell you to worry if you don’t have a job yet, they are wrong. You got this.

Inevitability

Firstly, regardless of whether you had completed your placements under ‘normal’ circumstances or not, as is the case, you would feel nervous about setting out on your own.It’s completely natural, feeling the responsibility of ‘being in charge’. I am not saying that to scare you, to add further burden, but to be honest. You can ask a room full of teachers, regardless of training route, teaching time, phase or subject, they will all agree. It is inevitable. But, it passes, set foot in your classroom, be with your class and enjoy it.

Reading

You could do far worse than using the next few months to read some pivotal educational pieces. The ones which have shaped my practice most profoundly and wish I had read when I was a trainee/NQT are here:

This is not an exclusive list, nor am I peddling sales or pedagogy in anyway. This is purely my opinion, based on crux moments when I have read something and made changes to my classroom practice, which has had a positive impact on my students learning.

Twitter

Twitter is a great community, full of subject specialists, phase specialists and professionals ready to help you. If you are already a part of the world of Twitter then you may know, but I shall say for those at the back! Use it wisely. Not everyone will agree with what you say, and you will not agree with everything on there. Don’t blindly copy a resource, activity or ideology because it looks good. Do what is right for you and your future class.

And, a word of caution. If you’ve not found your job yet, or if you have, regardless, be careful what you post. It is a public forum, and that means employers (current or future), parents and potentially students may see your interactions. My advice would be, don’t say anything that you would not say in school. Think before you Tweet!

Buying things

I know of very few NQTs who do not break the bank in buying things for their new job. I am not advising you not to do this, but I would also say, I have a box of 10 year old stamps that I have never used! So, be wise with your spending. Your school will (and should!) provide lots of resources for you and your class. Find out what will be provided before you start spending. You might need the cash for Friday night treats once you’re working!

For example:

  • Planners: Some schools provide these for all teachers. Not all do. which one are you? YOu might not want a paper planner, Excel or iDoceo may suit you better.
  • Scissors, glue etc: You really should have these provided. Although, as a word of advice, label them! They have a very strange tendency to go walkabouts!
  • Tissues & hand gel: These are likely not to be provided, but you’ll need them. Trust me on this one!

When you get your job

In the current time things will move at a different pace, so communication from your future school may not be at the pace you might expect. Be patient, people are under lots of pressure.

If / when you do get to speak with your future school try to gather as much information from them as possible (or ask for it once it is ready):

  • Which class(es) will you be teaching?
  • Are there any specific SEND children in your class?
  • What is the current curriculum for you class(es)?
  • Will you have a TA with your class(es)?
  • what are the school’s policies (feedback, behaviour etc)?

Once you have this information, you can really prepare yourself:

Classes & the curriculum

Study the curriculum for the children you will be teaching. Are you teaching long division? Do you know the best method for this? Does the school have an agreed method? What is it? Can you do it? Do you need to practise teaching it? Are you teaching the Weimar Republic? Do you know the relevant dates, sources and historical conventions of this period of history?

Repeat this for each component you will teach, particularly those areas you feel least confident with (RAG rate yourself against what you are going to teach most imminently).

SEND Children

Regardless of the make up of your class, you should have a well rounded knowledge of SEND expectations, your school’s SEND policy and provision. If there are SEND children in your class(es) ask for information on the specific need, their provision and known working strategies. Try to have this conversation (via email if necessary) with your school’s SENCO and the children’s key worker in school.

School policies

As an employee you will be expected to read and be familiar with school policies. It is a term of your employment. They often don’t make for the most thrilling reading, but will give you an insight in to the workings of your new school. This is especially true of your feedback and behaviour policies. These are often the ones that impact most on your day-to-day working in the classroom.

  • Behaviour policy: Read it, familiarise yourself with it and know that you will live and breath it in your classroom. Stick to it, unless it is your school’s policy to do so, don’t create your own rules for your own room. This will make your life tricky and make your colleague’s jobs more difficult too. The best advice I ever had on behaviour is this:

Be persistent, insistent and consistent.

  • Feedback policy: This will vary massively from school to school and will most likely be different from the schools you have done your placements in (unless they are one in the same of course!) Again, you will be expected to follow this. Do so. If you are able to do so, use whole class feedback where possible. This will save you time, help inform your teaching and provide lost of learning opportunities for your class(es)

Teaching Assistants

If you are lucky enough to have a teaching assistant with you (and this will vary from class to class, especially at secondary), find out, if you can: who they are, speak to them beforehand (if possible). Will you co-plan lessons with them? Will they support the class generally, or one child in particular?

Shoes & clothes

Now, to some this may seem like an unimportant section to include, to them, I say, you’re wrong! You will spend a long time in the clothes and shoes you will wear to school. But, I am going to break it to you now, they will get ruined! Board marker, snot, paint, chewing gum. You name it, it’ll get stuck on there. So if you have a penchant for Gucci, but an NQT salary, I’d advise you to keep the designers for the weekend and stick to affordable High Street Monday – Friday.

Whilst the clothes will get ruined, the shoes will do the ruining. The shoes. Oh the shoes! These will make or break your day. Make sure they are comfy, you will be on your feet lots. And wear them in before September, just in case there are any places they catch, you’ll know where to put your plasters.

Final prep

Right before you start do the first day at school ritutal:

  • Pack your bag
  • Get your lunch ready
  • Hang your clothes out
  • get your comfy shoes ready

And for goodness sake, take in an emergency kit:

Snacks, plasters, hair ties, baby wipes, tights, socks deodorant and the caffeinated beverage of your choice.

Have a rest

You can do all of the prep, follow all of the advice, do all of the reading, but don’t forget to rest. A tired teacher is no good to anyone, least of all their students. See your friends and family (once we’re all allowed to of course!) and most importantly, don’t forget them or yourself once you start your job. You’ll need them, Make time for them and yourself. Again, trust me!

It may seem throw away, I really do understand that, but try not to worry. You wil get the hang of it, reagrdless of missing a part of your training. It’s a bit like driving, you learn most once you’ve passed your test.

When we return, in these crazy times, many your new colleagues will be in a very similar position to you, whether they admit it or not. We will all be nervous, there will be a bit of the unknown and we will all be doing our best to support one another. Especially you, the next generation of this glorious profession. Welcome aboard!