This incredible story from Chris Bravery, “NQT Kindness – A Short Guide to Being an NQT,” offers guidance and insights for newly qualified teachers (NQTs) as they embark on their careers.
I’ve spent much time contemplating the future and what next year might hold for us as a profession. However, I have also found myself looking back and thinking about how my NQT self might have coped with the current climate within education. The answer could have been better. My act of kindness is to dedicate this blog to you, the new crop of NQTs heading into schools for what is likely to be one of the strangest academic years on record. This aims to give you guys some helpful hints, tips and encouragement for the year ahead and remind me and other grizzled vets about some basics that we can all easily forget or ignore.
When I left university, I felt completely prepared for what was coming. The truth is, I wasn’t. Not even a tiny bit. I had a vision in my head of what it would be like and how life at school would pan out. It took me a long while to realise that vision needed to change. Dramatically. So, my first tip is to remain as open-minded as possible. For the first half term, at least, things will be happening around you that won’t be easy to understand and digest, and you may find yourself wondering why you feel so overwhelmed and begin to judge yourself. It seems easy to say, but try not to. If you remain open-minded, you can ask questions and adjust accordingly without fear of reprisal or judgment. A good teacher or leader will support your questions and give you the time to help you get the answers.
That brings me to my next point quite nicely. Relationships. A vast array of complex relationships and dynamics is happening in a school, and finding your place can feel like an immense task. Every school has different atmospheres, and I am not here to judge, but there can sometimes be cliques of people here and there or a very distant and aloof SLT or support staff who generally don’t feel valued and make it known. It can feel like a minefield. However, you may find that you are going to a place where these atmospheres don’t exist, and I genuinely hope that is the case. But forearmed is forewarned!
The most important relationships that you will nurture are, of course, those you have with the children. Those 30 little faces will become your world for a large part of the day, and nurturing your relationships with them is vital to your success. I could talk for hours about this subject, but we are looking at more general points here, so that can be a subject for another time. Some of your most valuable relationships around school will be with those who keep school ticking daily. The cleaners, the caretaker, the lunchtime supervisors, the office staff. Take your time to get to know them, learn about them and take an interest in them. Without them, school life day to day would not work. You may find your classroom cleaner if you do!
For me, one of the most enduring and meaningful relationships is the one you have with your LSA. An LSA has it in their power to make you and your teaching shine and can take massive pressure off of your shoulders. They can be an understanding ear when you need it most. They also are from the local area, so they can have an in-depth knowledge of the children and their families to give you a heads up on issues that may be useful for you. Many years ago, I was told that an LSA can make or break you, so treat them well. It’s a lesson I have lived by throughout my career.
Another important relationship is with your SLT. These mysterious groups of people come in all shapes, sizes and types. I have had the absolute privilege of working with some incredible leaders. One in particular will always be special to me and has been a driving force behind my journey. I owe her an awful lot. It is vital to forge a good relationship with your SLT or one person within your SLT. Someone that you know you can talk to, confide in and will support you as you move forward. Some exceptional leaders are out there, and I hope you are lucky enough to find one.
Don’t lose yourself.
Now, this is the part that we teachers are intensely poor at. Maintaining a work-life balance. The veritable Holy Grail. Many teachers have tried, and many have failed. Fortunately, more have succeeded in their quest for balance than you might be led to believe. There is no secret formula or potion to be taken. It revolves around a few simple rules.
Make sure you make time for yourself. It is vitally important that you keep up with the things that you love. As many of you who are regulars to my blog will know, I’m a musician and have been playing in bands for a long time. It is my passion, and I would be lost without it. I have always ensured that it has been given my time and devotion even during the busiest times as it, like teaching, is a massive part of my identity.
Whatever your hobby may be, please don’t lose sight of it. It’s so essential for your mental wellbeing, and pressing that ‘off’ button occasionally.
Don’t stay late every night of the week. You will need help knowing when to go home to begin with. You’ll spend time looking at others and trying to work out when it is ‘acceptable’ to go home. The short answer is the time to go home is when it is right for you. We all work differently, and you could be more productive at home than at school in the evening. It is a personal choice. However, if you choose to stay at school, take at least one or two nights a week to go home before 5. Eat a dinner that isn’t warmed up in the microwave, spend some time with those you love most, and go to the gym or the pub. Whatever works for you.
Lastly and most importantly, enjoy it. Enjoy being with the children and everything they offer, whether good or bad. Learn and soak up everything you can and work out those little teacher hacks that make life easier. Hoard stationery, sit in the staff room at lunchtime, laugh at the crazy things the children say, take every positive you can, and, for Goodness sake, stick around. Our profession needs you.
Conclusion: NQT Kindness – A short guide to being an NQT
In conclusion, as you embark on your journey as a newly qualified teacher, remember it’s a path filled with challenges, learning, and growth. Stay open-minded, build meaningful relationships with pupils and colleagues, and retain the invaluable support staff who keep the school running smoothly. Cherish the connection with your LSAs and strive to establish a positive rapport with your SLT.
Equally important, maintain a work-life balance by dedicating time to your passions and taking moments for yourself. Know it’s okay to leave work when it’s right for you and find what works best in your unique situation.
Above all, relish your time with the children, as they offer abundant good and bad experiences. Learn, adapt, and discover those little tricks of the trade that make your teaching journey smoother. Hoard stationery, share laughs in the staff room, and treasure the positives.
Remember that your presence in teaching is invaluable, and your dedication keeps it thriving. Stick around because education needs committed educators like you. Best of luck on your NQT adventure!
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