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First week of being an NQT (The Rite of Passage)

Jim Riley

25th September 2016

Initial reaction:

Omg this looks like so much planning!

There aren’t enough hours in the day

I love / hate my classes

What’s the protocol for tea/coffee/fridge?

I can’t believe the future of these children is in my hands

Does it get any easier?

I already raised my voice in half of my classes!

It seemed so much easier during the PGCE year

I wish I was more organised

SO much data!

I think it is suitable to say that any teachers’ NQT (newly qualified teacher status) year will come as a surprise no matter how much you prepare for it. This being said, there are lots of things you can do to make life all that little bit easier – or should I say less difficult?

I have compiled a bullet point list of things I have experienced, and what other teachers have said helped them. Before that though, I would just like to share my own experiences on the comparison of my PGCE and NQT year. Pre the PGCE, I spent two years working across varied establishments including Mainstream, Pupil Referral Units and SEN schools; appreciating how different students learn and acquiring skills to manage their individual behaviour accordingly. This undoubtedly provided me with the confidence to excel through the PGCE year, with energy to spare. Unfortunately, it did not prepare me for the NQT year! I am certain there is nothing that does. A colleague of mine described it as a ‘rite of passage’ – similar to the final scenes of Shawshank Redemption.

The PGCE is equivalent to riding a bike with stabilisers, it’s pretty hard to fall off no matter how many mistakes you make. Similar to a child learning to ride a bike – the fear is reduced knowing their parents are behind to help them up if they fall; an AT (Associate Teacher) knows their university and school mentor are there to break the fall. When you start the NQT year though, it feels as though there are no stabilisers and no one to break the fall.

This is where you are wrong. Firstly, don’t be under the impression that mentors have an expiry date. I regularly speak to my university and placement school mentors – I still send my placement mentor pictures of potatoes (he got me into growing my own veg). In addition to this, you are now going to spend at least a year with a WHOLE bunch of teachers that have also been through the ‘rite of passage’ you are about to embark upon. Treat them like your family, and they will start seeing you as theirs.

Tips to survive your first year of teaching are listed below. Please feel free to comment and suggest any more!


- Say hello to everyone and get to know your colleagues. Not only will it brighten up your day, but you might just make someone else’s!

- Go in strict first, then ease off once the learners know you run things. Possibly the best advice my line manager has given me. I was apprehensive to do this, because ‘I want my class to like me’. However, I now realise if you give a hand, the class will take your arm.

- Enjoy your lunch hour! No matter how busy your day is, enjoy your lunch, AWAY from your desk. Go for a walk and get some fresh air, even if it is just for a few minutes – it will make a huge difference to your day / week if this becomes a routine.

- Sacrifice your free time at the start, so you can appreciate it when you really need it. Nothing is more enjoyable than managing to secure some evening and weekends to yourself, because you’ve already put the hours in earlier during the year.

- Make yourself as comfortable as possible – have all the little buffers ready for when you need them. Chocolate, paracetamol, kleenex, headphones…

- Organise, organise, organise and organise some more

- It’s ok to spend a bit of time at the start of the year in lesson doing fun things to get to know your learners – articulate, hangman, musical chairs! It works even better if you can relate them to your subject.

- Enjoy the ride! You chose this profession for a reason, remember that reason at the start of every lesson.

Jim Riley

Jim co-founded tutor2u alongside his twin brother Geoff! Jim is a well-known Business writer and presenter as well as being one of the UK's leading educational technology entrepreneurs.

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