As with any new job, there is a steep learning curve when you first start. This is no different as an NQT. Many of the challenges you will face in your first year will feel mountainous and difficult to overcome but would probably seem minor to a more experienced teacher.
The challenges of the first 12 months of teaching are numerous and they contribute to four out of ten NQTs leaving the profession within the first year. The NQT Partnership doesn’t want that to happen to the NQTs we place in schools. Therefore, by helping you prepare for the most common challenges, you will know what to expect in your first year.
The most common challenges as an NQT
1. Behaviour management
Feeling underprepared and ill-equipped to handle pupil behaviour is one of the biggest difficulties NQTs face in their first year. This can present itself in many forms in a school. It could be that a last minute room change has left your class at the other side of the school, unattended and unruly. It could be managing a fight that breaks out in the corridor and you’re the only member of staff.
In any case, using your most authoritative voice to illustrate that you’re in charge is a great place to start. It’s always worthwhile speaking to other teachers to gauge how they would act in such a situation. Each school is different, so while you have learned about behaviour management in the lecture theatre, practising it in a school is somewhat different.
Behaviour management gets easier as you become more experienced. For many teachers with five years PQE it’s like water off a duck’s back. During this time you will hone your skills and understand what works for you, the school and the pupils too.
Every teacher regardless of experience is granted planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time. This time is crucial and allows teachers to carry out none-timetabled administrative tasks.
As an NQT, your timetable will not exceed more than 90% of your total contracted time. Which means you have more PPA time than most other teachers.
That being said, teaching is a vocation and it’s important to understand that it will keep you busy. You will have friends and family who will ask you where you have been and why they haven’t seen you in a while.
During your first year, take the time to speak to your mentor about ways to streamline your activities. Some practical solutions include:
– Having a series of stamps to provide feedback on homework
– Make sure your feedback is succinct and actionable
– Keep hold of your lesson plans because you can use the template (with a bit of adjustment) for next year.
– Use an online planner or diary
– Commit to activities you’ve planned outside of work
3. Life outside of the classroom
You may actually forget about your life outside of the school, but it’s important that you don’t! As mentioned earlier, your friends and family will be wondering where you’ve been. This is completely normal as you get to grips with your new role.
The biggest challenge for most NQTs is managing a work-life balance. However, it’s imperative that you find time for yourself outside of the vocation. Have a regularly scheduled activity which you keep to, whether that’s going to the gym, playing the piano or hill walking. Commit to seeing friends and family, whether that’s going out on Friday for a catch-up or having brunch on Sunday morning.
In doing so, you will allow your mind to rest and recuperate and you’ll feel more energised going back into school on Monday morning.
4. The school environment
Let’s face it, we all have an ideal image of what our perfect job looks like. We attend an interview, see the school, staff, pupils and we get a feel for the school’s ethos. Everything seems to be great and then you start and you realise it’s not.
Sometimes what you imagined about your perfect school doesn’t live up to your expectations and you may not realise until you start. Not all schools are the same though and if it’s not going well in your first school, don’t worry you can always look to change at the appropriate time.
It could be that you don’t feel comfortable with the other members of staff, your department head isn’t good at providing support or you don’t like the school’s ethos. Take the positives out of your experience, knowing that your next school is likely going to be a better fit now that you understand what you’re looking for.
In summary, being an NQT is an amazing experience but you will also be challenged. It’s a steep learning curve but the year offers the opportunity to hone your skills which will set you up in good stead for the rest of your career.
It’s important to understand that many of the challenges listed above become second nature as you progress; making life much easier. If you find that the school is not for you, remember you can always change at a suitable time.