5 Things NQTs can be.

Twitter is bouncing with advice to NQTs right now. If you have found your way to this blog, then you probably already know that. I’d say: read it all. The advice comes from good people, with sensible, practical things to say. But you cannot follow it all. I offer these 5 items as things you can be, not just things you can do.

  1. Don’t be afraid to say No, but learn to say Yes. Many of the most exciting things that will happen to you in teaching will have been suggested by others. Would you like to go on this science trip? How about joining the staff choir? The Year 7 footballers would love you to coach them once a week. If you can agree to do at least some of these things, your working life will be all the more fulfilling. On the other hand, you cannot do everything, and it pays to learn how to turn people down without shutting the door in their face.
  2. Build alliances. This could be counsel from Machiavelli, but you don’t have to be a prince to benefit from this advice. Everyone who works in your school (perhaps even some of your fellow NQTs) has more experience in that setting than you do. You have to assume (and hope) that it matters a great deal to them: in some cases, this is their life’s work. So, don’t criticise another teacher (‘they don’t seem to be able to manage 7A3); don’t diss the displays; don’t complain about the reception in the reception. If you need to vent, you should be mindful of who you let your guard down in front of.
  3. Be constructive – or have a ‘growth’ mindset. This should apply to all your dealings, including the above. Actually, you too have experience, and you have a valid point of view: find the forum where it can be expressed, and offer your ongoing help too. More broadly, this is the attitude you should adopt with all of your students. Those who say they ‘cannot’ do something, get excited on their behalf: you are about to show them that they can! Those who say something is too easy for them, discuss with them how you can differentiate for them too.
  4. Be on time. As with many walks of life (what would I know?) others are depending on you to get your bit done before they can do their bit. Obviously this relates to prompt marking and feedback: your students will learn better if they can attach what you say with what they have done. But it can also govern your relations with office and technical staff. You need to get your requisitions in for your lab technician; if you want your colour copies back, reprographics need your original in three days in advance; if your reports aren’t done on time, you are putting pressure on people further up the chain – those who proof-read, or countersign, or post the things.
  5. Be prepared to work extremely hard. Some well-meaning colleagues will urge you to hold on to your work-life balance. In the main, these are people who have found the shortcuts they can live with, or who have built up a fund of resources they can call upon in a tight planning spot. Look to them, and realise that one day, you too will be able to tell others to spend a little time with yourself. But, in the meantime, this teaching lark is tough: it does take time to get it right, and you should be prepared to put that time in.
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