Tips for Teachers – Surviving your first year in the classroom
Getting through your first year in the classroom can be tough. Even though you’re fully qualified, there’s still a steep learning curve involved. Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) often have an uphill battle to face, as the year can be emotional and exhausting. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind that the career path you are embarking on will be extremely rewarding and fulfilling, even if you have some tough days to contend with. Here’s a few of my best tips as a former teacher to follow during your first year.
- Stay positive
A new day is a fresh start for everyone and a chance to forget that Friday Period 5 lesson on Coordinate Geometry that perhaps didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. Also, no matter how bad you may feel about one lesson or a bad day, be sure to remember the ‘Q’ in NQT. You are qualified and you have your qualifications for a reason. Don’t be disheartened by temporary setbacks as your knowledge and skills are a solid foundation from which you can grow into an experienced teacher. Even bad experiences are an opportunity to take forward some valuable lessons. Take stock each day of the good and the bad. Something like a journal could be useful to help you reflect on how far you’ve come.
- Build relationships
It’s really important that you involve yourself as part of the school community, and that means getting to know staff and learners across all levels. This may become useful if you need to borrow stop clocks from PE or if you’re on break duty and need someone to put on their ID badge or help you with something. Learning names can go a long way when building positive relationships. Discussing topics outside of school is an effective way of building these relationships. You may create a teaching persona or character when you teach, but don’t take this too seriously as letting your personality show will help learners and staff engage with you. If you struggle with names, a top tip for learning and remembering them is to immediately repeat the person’s name back to them before offering your own. Often we’re so fixated on turn taking in conversations that we forget to listen and retain information.
- Reflect on your lessons
It may feel like lessons come thick and fast when it’s your first year of teaching, but try to take the time to reflect on your performance in lessons. This could be as simple as going over them in your own head on the way home in the car, or more formally asking colleagues to observe a lesson and to offer some feedback. No one is ‘perfect’ at teaching, and everyone at all levels learns something new every day, so you should embrace this. Try to tap into colleagues’ knowledge. There’ll be a wealth of experience within the school and colleagues will welcome sharing their experience with you. Observe others as much as possible and include those who teach other subjects. You can learn a lot from other departments, but also about how differently learners can react to in other subjects and to different teaching styles.
- Find a balance
Beginning to teach is HARD. There are very few people (if any!) who aren’t challenged during this year, and it’s important to pace yourself so that you don’t burn out. A positive and productive learning environment stems from your own wellbeing. If you’re feeling tired, stressed, de-motivated or simply all of these, then this will be apparent to your intuitive learners. Take time for yourself, and find the balance between work and life that suits you. You’ll be a better teacher for it.
- Don’t forget that you love learning too
Learning doesn’t stop when you become qualified. It’s the beginning of a lifelong love affair with learning as no two days or two students are ever the same. You’ll be learning with every day that you teach but you should also look at ways in which to formalise your CPD. NCFE offers a range of teacher CPD courses which are available through our premier partner, Learning Curve Group. Qualifications include those in mental health awareness, stress awareness and managing behaviour that challenges. These qualifications could also be eligible for funding so it may not cost you anything to develop these skills. Find out more on our website.
Dean Blewitt is former maths teacher and now uses this experience to offer his advice to other schools as part of NCFE’s Curriculum team. Find out more about the events and support available from the Curriculum team here.