Since its National Digital Learning Week (I know I haven’t blogged probably within the last year) but since reading my NQT final report and realising I have 6 short weeks left with my first ever class I thought I would share my advice for the new NQTs.
Don’t panic – just trust
For some NQTs they do not get their first choice of local authorities, others do not get their first choice of stage. I was in the second category, after an extremely enjoyable placement in P1 P3 in my third and fourth year of university, I really wanted to stay in the infant end of the school. My new school placed me in P6 and I think I spent most of my summer in blind panic at how I was going to cope. Whatever situation you are in do not panic. Your school have been doing this for years and they probably know the challenges you need more than you do yourself. I know can’t imagine being out of upper school, I probably wouldn’t have achieved half of the things I did this year with a younger class. Nevertheless, I look forward to the next challenge.
Do not spend your whole summer planning
The children will lead their own learning. This is one of the biggest things I have learnt this year. Now that you do not have to have paper plans to stick to, you will go off on tangents far more often when you get comfortable with your class and those hours you spent planning over summer will not be needed. Some school may give you set topics and you do not want to have drafted plans for a topic you do not even get to teach. Be patient, get to know your class and enjoy the journey and new experience of planning alongside them.
Do something to engage in your school journey
My school are on a big digital journey and it was my weakest area of practice going into my NQT year. I remember thinking the Google Drive and Classroom lecture I got a university was a big waste of time because I had never seen a school with enough computers for one each per child. Never did I think a year on Google Drive and Classroom would be an everyday feature in my class. It has had the biggest impact on my NQT just because I thought I better give this ago after a CPD/CLPL to engage with the school. My class now have their own set of Chromebooks to see how far we can develop their digital skills. Yes, I said we and by we, I mean the children and I because 9 times out of 10 they are leading their own learning. This last week alone I have had visitors from another primary school in to watch my practice, presented my practice at the Tayside Regional Collaborative (with my learners) and been featured three times on Education Scotland’s National Digital Learning Week Blog because I gave something I was scared of a go. Next week HMIE are coming to observe. The biggest message, even if you think it is going to go down like a lead balloon, at least give it a go first. You never know where it will end up. If it does go down in flame, great reflect on it with your mentor and use it as a learning opportunity. If it doesn’t, then let it flourish.
Ask for advice
This is what your mentor is there for. They want to help, support and guide you because they want the best for you. I cannot believe how lucky I got with my mentor, she has been amazing all year round and there’s been no silly questions or judgement because I didn’t know something. Just ask if you don’t know.
Appreciate your colleagues’ knowledge
Ask questions! Similar to your mentor, they have probably been doing this for several years or at the school for a year or many more. They know the way things work in the school. They have tried different things; they have resourced ready which my colleagues have been wonderful with sharing. If you don’t ask the answer will always be no. I would not have achieved half as much without the support of my colleagues, they are fantastic and I am so fortunate to have been blessed with my school encouraging me along this year.
Get to know your learners and what works for them
Everyone is an individual. They all have things which work for them, spend time getting to know them all. I had 29 learners to begin with, all unique all with a different set of needs all needing to be challenged in a different way. I have become so proud of them all in different ways because I have got to know all their talents. They’re your first of many classes potential but give them your all, show them you care about them as individuals as well as about them as a whole class and they will do the same back for you. My class love the Chromebooks, they engage with them so well and that is the sole reason I continued to try out new things and go home in my own time to learn about it.
Make a to do list for your days out
Simple. And priorities it with what needs to be done first otherwise you will sit and procrastinate. I was fortunate to have two other NQTs in my school to learn alongside and support each other but on days out sometimes we had to separate ourselves to stop us from just chatting. You have to make the most of them, you only get them for one year. Observe good practice, take online CPD, mark your jotters, write reports whatever it is that needs doing use these days to their full potential.
Self-care is key
In the first term you will want to do EVERYTHING and you will soon come to realise it just isn’t possible even with the best will in the world your to do list now and will forever be endless. However, you need to make time for yourself. In the first term I got so consumed in work I forgot to have a work life balance. You need to work smarter not harder or you will burn out so quickly. It is a long but quick and exhausting year. Make sure you make plans with friends to force yourself to have time out because you will want to make a great impression on your school. You do not need to spend all your time working to do that. It isn’t a placement anymore, you have a whole year to prove yourself. Yes go in with great intentions and smash your goals but have time out and a time to leave work at work.
You are all in the same position, whether this be your friends from university, other NQTs in your school or at the NQT days – ask each other questions, learn from each other and support one another. It isn’t a competition you will all have different ideas of what works in your class and it might work in yours as well.
It has been the hardest but most rewarding year of my life. I have enjoyed watching my class grow and learn new things. I cannot believe I am almost leaving them, but I hope each and every one of them have learnt or taken away something for their future. Just enjoy spending time getting to know them – you’ll never get another first class!
Good luck and enjoy your journey!
I apologise now if any of it doesn’t make sense, I am exhausted!