Your NQT year: what they DON’T tell you

It’s the start of the year again! NQTs up and down the country are starting out in their first teaching post and this time last year I was one of them. So I thought I would share some of what I have learned in the last 12 months.

  • Find your song.

I was told this by a very good friend who was an NQT mentor.  Hers was “I’m still standing” by Elton John. Mine was “ROAR” by Katy Perry. Find your song and listen to it in times of crisis. Blast it in the car, sing it in the shower, set it as your ring tone… This song will be your mantra.

  • Tacky back!

If you don’t have hessian display boards; cream backing paper, tacky back and whiteboard pens will keep you sane. Tacky back your working walls. When I moved to my second school this was a revelation for me! You can write directly onto the wall and wipe off again easily. No changing backing paper or laminating resources for hours! It takes some time at the beginning of the year but worth every second.

  • Share, share, SHARE!

Share everything. Found a great resource? Share it! Got an idea? Don’t keep it to yourself. I’m a big believer in treating others how you would like to be treated. If you were struggling with assessments or needed inspiration for a lesson plan, wouldn’t you want someone to help? Even though you’re an NQT you still have great ideas. Share them.

  • Look after yourself.

It’s a hard year and everyone wants to hit the ground running, but don’t make yourself ill.  I’m not talking about eating your vegetables, drinking plenty of water, taking vitamins, getting plenty sleep… I’m talking about really taking time to feel human. Go home BEFORE 5 o’clock every once in a while. Buy yourself a chocolate bar just BECAUSE. Keep emergency jelly babies in your cupboard.  DON’T laminate that lettering that’s only going to be on the wall for a week.

  • Take risks

You are new, fresh, and full of wonderful (and possibly weird) ideas. But the weird and wonderful are usually the most memorable to the children. Want to build junk models in literacy? Do it! Fancy taking the children outside for a giant water/gloop investigation? Why not? Want a tiger to come to tea? YES! (All true events!) You will never get this time back again. Yes, it’s scary doing something ‘different’ that maybe does’t fit the mould. But as long as the children are safe, having fun and most importantly, learning, then have a go! You never know, you might just inspire someone.

  • Hang out with friends that AREN’T TEACHERS.

Those people who don’t use phrases like, “I need to laminate some tadpoles” or, “Well I was in the cupboard looking for a polar bear” on a daily basis. People that don’t talk in acronyms, “Sorry I can’t come out, I’ve got to place an order with YPO, update my APP, calculate the percentage of GLD, fill in the EYFSP and make a presentation to put on the IWB.” Sound familiar? Find these people and enjoy hanging out with them whilst NOT talking about “what little Freddie has gone and done again.” It will keep you functioning like a (vaguely) normal human being.

  • Find a quote, saying, story, person…

…anything to keep you going when you are getting stressed and wondering “why am I doing this?!” (it happens to us all) So on a rainy Tuesday afternoon when the carpet is covered with corn flour, your sink is blocked with spaghetti, you’re coming down with tonsillitis and you’ve got an LEA inspector arriving the following morning (again, all true events!), you have something to remind yourself why you got into this crazy profession in the first place! Mine was a poster I saw online. It simple says “Let them be little.” Find yours, print it, and keep it easily accessible for instant motivation.

  • Find your school Auntie/Uncle.

This might be the person who works alongside you in your year group. It could be your teaching assistant. It could be someone who works at completely the opposite end of the school to you. The point is, you know that you can walk into their classroom at any time to celebrate, laugh, cry, bang your head against a wall, or (depending on the situation) all the above simultaneously. Trust me, they are your saviour.

I could go on. Your NQT year will be like no other year in your career. You will laugh. You will cry. You will plan lessons and 5 minutes in think, “what was I thinking?!” You will make amazing friends. You will eat a lot of biscuits. You will learn more than you can possibly imagine. Most importantly, you will spend a year working with the most brutally honest, wonderfully creative, hilariously funny, fantastically unique people on this earth: children. And what a privilege that is.

Good Luck!

Hannah

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