The key to a successful NQT year

Adam Speight

Award-winning teacher Adam Speight is a Middle Leader in a secondary school in South Wales and also works as an FE lecturer specialising in ICT and Computer Science. Aside from Adam's teaching commitments he also runs his own education consultancy business - Mr Speight Consultancy and since qualifying as a teacher in 2011, he has worked in both Wales and England in the state and independent sectors in a variety of roles. He is always keen to share his ideas and is a frequent educational writer and speaker. Adam is always looking for new, innovative teaching ideas, so that no learner ever gets left behind.

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Learning how to become a teacher is just like learning how to drive a car. This is because when you learn to drive a car someone is always with you. Once you pass your test you are on your own, and this analogy is very similar to teaching, whereby once you pass the course you have been studying the door closes and you are now the teacher. When this happens you are given full responsibility for a class, and you are therefore accountable for both their learning and progress.

This is a pivotal time in your teaching career as ultimately, just like with driving a car, you’ll do things differently from your training. It is important that you get these different things right. Your NQT year can therefore be the best and worst year of your career, and this article is going to give you an insight as to some of the key ingredients which - I believe - can help you to have a truly successful one.

The first ingredient to having a successful NQT year involves organisation. Organisation is "Don't just organise your time around your social life."key, because not only does your timetable increase in your NQT year, so does the amount of responsibility you actually have. It is important that you don't just organise your time around your social life; organise it around the school calendar. This is really important, as during your NQT year - like any year in the school calendar - things will crop up. As such, it is important to know when certain events are taking place.

In particular, these events can include book scrutinies, data collections, additional meetings etc, and all of these things are non-negotiable. You have to make sure these deadlines are hit. What you don't want to be doing with these deadlines is rushing to meet them, as this is when mistakes can be made, and ultimately these mistakes will have a negative impact upon your teaching and learning.

Teaching and learning is obviously really fundamental in your NQT year. Although people in the staffroom will say to you at some point “Don't worry about your observation, you're only an NQT”, it is these observations which help to cement your reputation with your colleagues. As such, it is important you work hard in order to become good / outstanding as soon as possible. This is, I appreciate, much easier said than done, and the best way to do this is to seek as much feedback and guidance off other people as possible.

It is important not to wait for someone to guide you towards additional help, and as such you shouldn't be afraid of asking other staff for help if you need it. Asking for help isn't a weakness; it's being resourceful, and as long as you appreciate and are willing to act on the feedback you are given, staff will be pleased to give it. At the same time, never take any negative feedback to heart. If it happens it happens, and as such the key to success is making sure it doesn't happen again. Remember, the whole point of receiving feedback is to move forward and this is what your NQT year should be about.

CPD is a really important aspect of your NQT year, and this is because it is the year in which schools are most likely to allow you out for additional training courses. These are really important as they help you to close any gaps you may have in terms of both pedagogy and subject knowledge. It is important, however, that you try and find what courses you want to go on, and discuss them with the relevant people. This is a good sign of you being proactive, and it can ensure the courses you go on meet your needs and don't just provide you with a decent lunch (although that always helps!).

CsPD (continued self-professional development) is another"You shouldn't be afraid of asking other staff for help if you need it." important part of your NQT year, as not all your CPD can or should be directed by one person. It is ultimately up to you how you decide to do this. Some new teachers read books which certain teachers have written, and find these really help them to progress. For me personally, Twitter is my book and as such I use it to exchange ideas with other educators. It is important, however, that if you are going to use Twitter for your own CsPD you use it wisely. For example, just because you have lots of followers, it doesn't mean you’re a great teacher. You have to earn that right, and it is important you remain grounded when using this brilliant resource!

The final aspect of having a good NQT year, I believe, rests with you working hard. It is a stressful year. It is a year that will push you. It is a year which is unpredictable. It is the toughest year of your career. However, it is also a year when sets you up for the next 40 years of your teaching career (35 years to go for me!). As such, although your work life balance may suffer slightly, it is important to get it right. Getting it right also involves smiling. Ignore the teachers which say “don't smile until Christmas” - do smile, and remember it’s a privilege to be a teacher. The holidays will help you to recover!

What tips would you add? Share them below.

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