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A School Survival Guide for NQTs

Posted by. Omaira Mohammed
Posted on 02 July 2019

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Leeds Trinity alumna Omaira Mohammed graduated in 2018 with a Secondary PGCE (English) degree and completed her NQT year at Tong Leadership Academy. She's written a School Survival Guide for NQT; covering everything from managing the workload and getting into a routine, to being flexible and asking for advice. Here are Omaira's top tips… 

September is around the corner and the nerves are setting in. How will I manage behaviour? Will I be able to handle the new timetable? Is this what my weekends will be like from now on? Stepping out from the safety of your mentor's classroom can be daunting to say the least but as your PGCE comes to an end remember you have already survived an entire year in the jungle of school life. 

As an NQT at Tong Leadership Academy, an inner-city Bradford school I have lived to tell the tale. Although there have been a few challenging moments, being able to witness students achieving and growing into well-rounded young adults definitely makes it all worthwhile and is immensely rewarding. 

The following are a few do's and don'ts to help you out at the start of your teaching journey:   

1.      Start as you mean to go on  
Although students can be incredibly quick to make judgements about teachers, the old adage 'don't smile until Christmas' just doesn't sit well with me. You have just spent a year developing your own teaching style so just be yourself and remember consistency within your routine is key. Stand firm with all of your rules and remember that you will get there (even if you have to repeat the countdown a few times). Try to motivate them through positive reinforcement: use a stamp, call parents or just a simple well done can make the world of difference to the climate for learning within your classroom and in forming those all-important relationships.   

 2.       Managing the marking
Marking. That dreaded seven letter word but why make it a chore? Contrary to popular belief, sitting for hours painstakingly writing individual comments is not the most effective way to provide feedback. Look at your school policy, figure out what the marking requirements are and speak to your department about the best ways to approach it. At Tong Leadership Academy, live and coded marking are strong favourites. Both my mentor and my department advised that I always lap around the classroom with a pen in my hand, a simple idea but one that I have found is incredibly powerful. Not only do the students respond well to immediate feedback to combat misconceptions that empower and enable them to complete tasks more effectively, but alongside symbols and coded marking, I have found that it saves tons of time after the lesson, try it and trust me you won't look back!  

 3.       Join the community
Don't be afraid to ask for help. You already know that teaching can be stressful and just like your PGCE year there will be times when it can all get too much.  The English department at my school are nothing short of amazing and have helped me out countless times with and without me asking. Remember that you are not expected to know how to do everything. We all have our strengths and weaknesses (even those with years of experience) so reach out to your mentor, Head of Department or Headteacher and ask for help on that challenging class or on tips to reduce the workload. They all want you to succeed and do well! Beyond that, I cannot stress how important it is to join the wider teaching community, especially on Twitter. Besides offering some of the best CPD, Twitter is great for resources, tips or just general conversation with those battling through the teaching whirlwind.  

 4.       Prepare to deviate from the plan 
Let's be honest, things don't always go as planned but life will go on after that bad observation. Make time for you and prioritise what needs to be done. Don't make the same mistake that I did and spend your entire summer trying to plan an entire term's worth of individual lessons; not only will you forget the specific way you wanted the lesson to be delivered but you may realise that the needs of your students are actually different to what you planned for. Instead research the topic, produce a medium and long-term plan and create individual lessons as you go along, this will allow you to be flexible and effectively cater the lessons to your students' needs.  

Noone's going to promise you that it won't be challenging but remember the reason you started teaching in the first place:

"To nurture today's young people and inspire tomorrow's leaders."