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The 7 R’s of Success for Newly Qualified Teachers

UCL Careers27 June 2017

One student rises her hand and asks question

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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…

  1. 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!

 

UCL Alumna Profile: Christina Sparks, Primary Teacher with ARK Teacher Training

UCL Careers16 April 2014

 Christina graduated from UCL in 2011 with a degree in English. She is currently training to become a primary school teacher at Reach Academy with ARK Teacher Training. Here, Christina takes some time to talk about her experiences at UCL, how these have helped prepare her for her career, and how she is able to make a big difference with ARK Teacher Training.

Christina Sparks photoAfter she graduated, Christina worked for a major global investment bank. Between her second and third years of study, she successfully completed an internship with the bank who offered her a job upon graduation. There, she worked as a Document Management Analyst, managing client relationships and contracts. Despite this being an interesting experience, Christina felt that there were other ways in which she’d like to be challenged, including making better use of her English skills.

Throughout her time at UCL, Christina worked as a student ambassador taking part in school visits and showing students aged between 14 and 18 what life was like at university. It was this experience that first piqued an interest in teaching, especially when she discovered that some children have had a very different experience of education compared to hers. ‘I was always pushed, and we were told that we could be whatever we wanted to be’ she recalls, ‘but it seems that there are a lot of young people out there who aren’t getting that encouragement’.

She left the bank after a year and joined Reach Academy as a teaching assistant, and this was where she discovered ARK Teacher Training. She had spoken to colleagues about becoming a teacher, and they mentioned ARK’s highly supportive programme. ‘The programme sounded great. It looked really tough, and it is, but the multi-layered support from ARK has been fantastic. I meet with my mentor (also a UCL alumnus) really frequently and get weekly training from ARK’s experts. The course is also academically very rigorous’.

The rewards are also great: ‘I love teaching primary. There is more fun, more joy in the classroom. It’s an amazing experience when you teach a Year One child to read and they turn round and say “I can’t believe I’ve just read something!”’

Looking back, Christina recalls UCL’s impact on the success of her teacher training year: ‘my time at UCL prepared me very well for teaching. The emphasis on self-reliance and self-motivation from UCL is vital to teaching and training with ARK, because there is a huge amount to get done and it is very much down to you to sort it. That said, I have had a huge amount of support from ARK, and the excellent mentoring arrangements they have feel similar to the relationships I had with my tutors at UCL.

‘My degree from UCL has also equipped me with some useful skills for the classroom and work more generally. We were always encouraged to be inquisitive, and this really helps when dealing with small children since quite often, if something is wrong, they can’t really explain what or why. My self-awareness and communication skills were also really improved by my time at UCL.’

Christina’s main advice to current UCL students thinking about their careers is to do their research before applying for a role; ultimately it is something they will be doing every day and they should be motivated by the organisation’s mission and ethos. Equally, students should remember that if they outgrow a role, they will have plenty of transferable skills to take forward to a new job or even career, as Christina herself experienced!

ARKTeacherTraining logoARK Schools is an education charity and one of the country’s top-performing academy operators. Its aim is to create outstanding schools that give every pupil, regardless of their background, the opportunity to go to university or pursue the career of their choice and they are taking part in UCL Careers’ Employability Summer School – a 2 week programme running between 2nd – 13th June.