Advice for NQTs

What they didn’t teach you at uni

I am currently writing some short no nonsense guides for NQTs, with a colleague of mine. Cutting through the fluffy stuff you learn at university and instead giving you the nitty gritty real life tips on areas that I certainly felt unprepared to deal with in my first few years of teaching. We are hoping the guide will let you enjoy your journey into teaching more, and feel like you know what’s going on a bit more. This will allow you to relax and enjoy your new career, with less stress and more control.

Whilst the book is still in it’s final stages, I’d love to have some feedback on the snippets below…

Managing Behaviour

No matter what your experience in the lead up to your NQT year there will always be that moment where you are first stood in front of a class, 30 pairs of eyes transfixed on you, waiting for you to begin the process of imparting knowledge. It is this moment that represents a crossroads for many children. Their subconscious mind will decide whether to behave or not depending on which path you as a teacher lead them down: will you encourage intrigue, or will they sense the nerves and prey on your inexperience? 

Rule 1 – YOU are in Charge…

You will be terrified when you first lead your class from the playground to the classroom, but this is where it all begins – the foundation of respect that will ultimately determine the road your class will lead from. First of all, ensure that the children are lined up properly. Sounds simple, and obvious, but if you lead them as a rabble they will behave as such en route! Remember to outline the expectations. YOU will lead. Why? It will stop the children running and it also outlines the strength of you as their leader. You lead the class, you teach the class, you are in control of the class. Yes, you will be terrified, but those children will never know how terrified you are or the psychological line of respect will immediately be challenged. 

Laying these foundations from day one is crucial to the success of you as the leader of your class. Developing that high level of respect will allow you to relax at certain points in the year and then ‘reign in’ when necessary. With no foundation laid early, you will struggle to establish firm boundaries from which your children can work from.


Dealing with Parents

There is no getting away from it, to be a successful teacher you will need to have some contact with the parents. Try to think of working closer with parents as an opportunity to get more success out of your children. 

All parents want is understanding, time and action. Over the years I have never had a parent who has been angry with me, and this is associated with having strong leadership who deal with the bigger issues with you (or on your behalf), and also how you act and behave as a teacher. I have only ever found parents to be angry at a situation rather than you as a class teacher. That is presuming, you know you’ve done your job properly! Which I am sure you have.

Realising that the issue you are dealing with in regard to a parent may seem trivial to you, but appreciating that to a parent their child is obviously their world and they only want the best for them allows you to understand where they are coming from. Meeting the parents can be one of the hardest challenges for a new teacher, some of the tips below should assist in guiding you through the murky water! 

And remember:

Happy Parent = Happy Child = Happy Teacher

However your school office deliver the news, you will at some point receive notifications from the office about ringing a parent. I have no doubt that the first thing you will think about is the potential negative conversation you are going to have, even if you have no idea what the phone call is about! This is perfectly normal, so the first thing I do is ask the office if the parent gave a reason for the phone call. Sometimes you will get a detailed answer; this is the good situation where you can be prepared for the phone call before ringing back. When possible, having an answer or an understanding of the situation before ringing back, will make for a far more successful phone call from yours, and the parent’s, perspective.


Lesson Observations

Lesson observations don’t have to be a scary thing. You’ve got this far after a number of lesson observations, however it is a little different when you are holding your first official teaching position. At university you could use your strengths and weaknesses, especially the weaknesses, to produce an excellent essay! And yet in your new job, you fear that it will affect your reputation within your school. Well I say to you now, that is nonsense! 

I have been there, terrified about my first observation. Up all night preparing, over preparing looking for a wow factor all the time. Nervous to the pit of my stomach, sweating, being incoherent sometimes. Then I arrived in class, the whole observation I was rigid. I was so concerned about my body language and movement around the classroom, I seemed to replicate the movements of a praying mantis after a espresso. So this advice is for you to take a professional and practical view on what observations really are for, and how you can use them for your benefit. 

Don’t doubt your everyday teaching!

First of all you would not have been employed if the senior leadership team didn’t believe in you. You have been hired for a reason, the school must see potential in you! This is the key, they have not hired an NQT because they see you as the finished article. The school has hired you as they see potential in you as a teacher, and also because you are cheap. Don’t be hung up on being cheap though, we all had to start somewhere and the school wouldn’t have hired just for monetary reasons!

You must learn to take lesson observations as an opportunity to get better at teaching. Teaching is an ever changing environment, and we can all ALWAYS get better. This is why it is important not to put on a ‘bells and whistles’ lesson which WOWs the observer. That might be what your school is after, and after putting on this incredible and fake lesson you might get this glowing report about how wonderful you are. It will leave you feeling marvellous, and you will start to think you know are the best teacher ever and all the old hacks in the school need to follow your lead. That feeling might make you warm inside for a little while, but deep down you will know that your everyday lessons are never anywhere near that standard. The problem with this situation is that you won’t get real feedback to make real improvements as a teacher. 


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