Hi, I’m Anna and I’m one of the Career Consultants working with students at the UCL Institute of Education. I know a lot of you will be coming to the end of your teacher training, and I imagine you’re probably having mixed feelings right now…
On the one hand – PHEW! And a big virtual high-five to you for making it through one of the toughest professional training programmes out there. Whether you took the School Direct Route, a PGCE or have been with Teach First or any other route, I can hazard a guess that you’re emerging out of a year that’s been challenging, eye-opening, rewarding and like a big old emotional rollercoaster ride.
You’re probably looking forward to a well-deserved Summer break – and this should be your top priority (see the first point below) – but there’s probably also part of you that’s already looking ahead to what’s in store from September and wondering how you’re going to make the most of your NQT year.
Well, to help you out, I’ve put together seven top tips to ensure that you don’t just survive but THRIVE in your first year as a fully-fledged new teacher. This isn’t a definitive list but it should give a few pointers over the key things to consider…
- Rest – You’re probably sick of hearing it by now, but this year IS going to be hard work – maybe even harder than the year you’ve just had, and looking after yourself is going to be absolutely KEY to success. It may sound obvious now, but self-care is often the first thing to go out of the window when the responsibilities mount up. Whatever you do, make sure you schedule in time for non-work activities and whatever relaxes you, whether it’s time with friends or walks in the country. And get as much sleep as you can – we’re far more effective when we’re well-rested so staying up late to catch up on work might be a false-economy.
- Reach out – You don’t have to do it alone. Don’t be afraid to draw on more experienced colleagues for support and ideas. People love to help so give them the opportunity to feel like a wise old sage with you newbies! This is also an opportunity to network and build relationships with colleagues, so be a familiar face in the staffroom, and be curious about others work (be sure to judge how busy they look and perhaps ask when it would be convenient to talk – you could even offer to buy them a coffee in return!) Remember too that you have access to UCL Careers for up to two years after you graduate, so if you want coaching on anything related to your career, do book in to see one of us via the UCL Careers Graduates
- Reflect – You will probably be heavily observed during you NQT year, but rather seeing this as a threat, try to see observations as genuine learning opportunities. It can be good to employ a growth mindset – in the same way that you might congratulate a child on their effort rather than their natural achievement, you could appreciate your own attempts to learn and grow rather than berating yourself from not being perfect from the outset.
- Resilience – You could say this is the most important teaching skill and it links to the point above about not being a perfectionist. In any career, there will be challenges and setbacks – what’s important is how you bounce back and learn from them without being consumed with self-criticism – remember that it’s all part of the journey! One way to develop resilience is through mindfulness practice, which helps to regulate our emotions and stay calm. UCL Student Psychological Services offers a free programme called the 10 Minute Mind where daily mindfulness practices are sent to your inbox or, if you no longer have a UCL log-in, you could try the app Headspace.
- Responsibility – This one needs to be handled with care – what you DON’T want to do is overstretch yourself in your first year and agree to every opportunity put on the table (new teachers can even be promoted to a head of their subject within the first year or two due to staff shortages!) However, it CAN be good to look for opportunities to take on extra duties that will help you grow in areas of interest (e.g. sports, SEN, drama activities, management) and gain extra skills that could come in handy in the future.
- Research – Every year, thousands of people become qualified as teachers, and so the internet is full of handy tips about how to prepare for your NQT year, including things like checklists for all the things you need to get done when you start and countless forums like the TES New Teachers You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, so learn from the experiences of others who have been through the NQT year and lived to tell the tale!
And last but not least…
- Remember why you’re doing this! I’d imagine it wasn’t JUST for the long holidays, was it? It’s important to keep sight of the bigger picture, so when you’re swamped in marking and feeling overwhelmed, put the pen down, go for a walk and reflect on why you were motivated to become a teacher in the first place and the impact you wanted to make. And above all, remember that it WILL get easier. Teaching may be hard work, but it’s also one of the most rewarding jobs out there, so it will be worth it in the long run.
Good luck and have a wonderfully relaxing Summer holiday!