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September. For some of you, you are beginning your career as a newly qualified teacher. Others, returning as an experienced or recently qualified teacher. Whatever stage in your career, I can imagine we all share the same anticipation, excitement and quite possibly, nerves. What is my new class going to be like? How can I make this the most successful year yet? How can I ensure that every child makes maximum progress and is happy in the process of doing so? These are all questions running through our heads before we have even considered what colour backing paper to mount, how our desks should be arranged and whether we consider introducing a new class reward system this year.
I am returning this September as a recently qualified teacher and despite having learned a great deal over the past academic year, I am ready and eager to learn more and further develop. Reflective practice is a key to becoming a successful teacher and I have tried to incorporate this wherever possible. I know it is sometimes hard to fit this in; with lessons to plan, books to mark, meetings to attend – considering how a lesson went can be the last thing on your mind. When you work in a profession that is constantly moving forward, always changing, moving on to the next lesson and the next, it feels pointless considering one that has already happened. Through this blog, I hope to impart some helpful tips as I detail how I managed to build in time to reflect and improve my practice.
‘The three Ps’. That is how I organised my life during my NQT year: personal, practice and pedagogy. I found that categorising my responsibilities in this way allowed me to maintain a balanced NQT year and ensure that I gave sufficient time to all areas of my first year in teaching.
Manage your workload
I write lists for everything. Sometimes I write a list for the lists I need to make! I know how it feels having one hundred things to do whirling around your head; you will feel so much better knowing they are on paper. Once you have written your list, prioritise. I have quite a complex way of prioritising which is involves four variants. I consider whether something is urgent and important which I mark as high priority 1, important but not urgent which I mark 2, urgent but not important which I mark 3, not urgent and not important which I mark a 4. Viewing your work in this way will encourage you to realise what is important. I allocate 60% of time to 1 tasks, 30% of my time to 2 (it is so important you carve time to do these tasks), and the other 10% is spent on 3 and 4 tasks. Often, I scratch 4 tasks from my list. You already have so much on, you don’t need to be worrying about wedging cardboard under a wobbly table leg or meticulously tidying stationary caddies. Ensuring you make time for what you consider to be important is vital – in the classroom, we are constantly responding to needs and requests from pupils, staff and parents. You may have a pile of marking to do or resources that need photocopying at the end of the school day but set aside half an hour to discuss with a colleague behaviour management strategies, review a SEN plan, or annotate your planning with children that excelled during a lesson and children who need extra support. Getting into the habit of doing this will pay dividends and you will be thanking yourself later on.
Embrace a positive attitude
At the beginning of the year, we are feeling refreshed, excited and determined to do everything to the best of our abilities. During the year, this zeal may fade as we become tired but it is so important that you maintain positivity. Sometimes, schools can become a breeding ground for venting frustration and blowing off steam, once the bell rings. Stand out from the crowd and be positive. Positivity breeds positivity – be known as the person who encourages and supports others. It is also of equal importance that you seek out a circle of hard working, friendly, positive and helpful people to surround yourself with too.
Relationships are key
In addition to relationships with staff, make sure you build time to meet with and speak to parents. Throughout the year, I aim to speak with at least one parent every night to say how well their child is doing and communicate something positive. Parents want to hear good things about their children. All too often we only call home to tell a parent when their child has misbehaved or there is a concern about their learning. Build a trusting and positive relationship with parents by communicating their children’s successes! The same rule goes for the children. If they are doing well, make sure they know. If a child is not doing well, find something positive to tell them anyway. 9 times out of 10, this affirmation will be the boost they need in order to make progress.
We ask children to reflect on their learning all the time – what went well? What could be improved? How can you avoid the same mistakes in the future? We also ask children to set targets for themselves. As practitioners, we should be doing the same. As part of the Masters’ NQT module, I gathered evidence throughout the year, which demonstrated how I had met the teaching standards. This served as a great opportunity to review marking, photos of displays, lesson plans and other forms of evidence. I was able to do this on an ad hoc basis and it fit in easily with everything else I was doing. I would ensure I made time to jot down a few thoughts immediately after a lesson or at the end of the day. I would then do an overall reflection in greater detail every few weeks. It is very important to be reflective – If you know a lesson didn’t go well, don’t ignore it but identify the reasons why so that you can avoid the same things happening.
Learn from others
In addition to being self-reflective, it is important that you welcome suggestions and advice from others. As an NQT, you will have a mentor and your peers. As a more experienced teacher, seek advice from others around you. Don’t feel shame in asking someone less experienced, as they will have trained more recently and will be able to offer fresh perspective. Frequently participate in learning walks and book moderations - I have gained a wealth of ideas from my colleagues through doing this. I have also been able to share some of my ideas with them. Remember, you are a team!
Refine your practice
Once you have taken all feedback into consideration, put the advice into practice and tweak the way you work in order to make improvements. Comprise a plan containing areas to improve and give yourself a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic target) to work towards.
Marking work is very important and your school will likely do moderation throughout the year; ensure your books stand out by marking succinctly and meaningfully. As a rule, I only write something if it extends the child’s learning further. It is of equal importance that the child responds and completes this challenge too.
Refine your lesson plans – once you have completed them, don’t stop! Check over them to see if you can add, remove or change anything. Better still, ask a colleague to look over your planning to see if they can inject anything into it.
This is the one where most of you will think ‘Who has time for that?’ - I agree. This aspect can be time consuming, feel counter-productive and we feel guilty reading an article on teaching when we need to be preparing to teach the very next day! That’s the thing though. Research will only enhance your practice, it will prepare you to teach, it will equip you with new and exciting ideas to share in staff meeting or trial in your classroom. It will be the difference between despairing over the child who ‘just never seems to get it’ and being able to cater towards the needs of that child by trialling methods within your classroom. You will then be able to share this with a colleague who is going through a similar problem and it works for them too. All of a sudden, 10 minutes spent reading an educational journal doesn’t seem like a waste of time! Do however, approach new theories with an open mind. They may work, they may not. Ensure they don’t add too much extra time to your already full workload and they are simple for students to understand.
In addition to research, check to see what your union has to offer by means of conferences and events to inform your teaching further. Often, these events are free of charge, offer great resources for you to use in school and it is a great way to meet with other teachers and share examples of good practice.
So there you have it – the ‘three Ps’. I do hope some of this blog was useful to you in your preparation of the new academic year, which is fast approaching. I am sure there will be lots of highs, some lows and lots of hard work involved. I hope you all have a fantastic year and good luck!
Our NQT conference will give the opportunity to meet-up with colleagues, network and develop new skills to enhance your performance in the classroom.
This year our keynote speaker will be ???? and you have the opportunity to attend a range of workshops including:
- Mastery Mathematics
- Technology to enhance learning and teaching utilising outdoor spaces
- Evidence-based Teaching
- Growth mindset
- Promoting the needs of diverse learners
- Using ICT to create a stimulating learning environment
- Measuring pupil progress
- Behaviour - The Secret Diary of a Pupil Referral Unit
- Working with parents
This section will include resources to support you in your teaching it contains useful videos and links to relevant sites.
Information on government priority areas
This link will provide users with relevant documents that will enhance their teaching and keep you abreast of developments on government priority areas.
We offer a whole range of opportunities to support your career development, from a newly qualified teacher level right the way through to subject leads and middle management roles
MA Education -Designed to help you develop personally and professionally, this course will expose you to the latest in educational theory and policy.
EdD Professional Doctorate in Education - Earn a research degree with equal outcomes to a PhD through a substantive study considering the relationships between theory and practice.