To help NQTs prepare to step into the classroom for the first time, Tes asks education experts for their advice

If you’re one of 2020’s crop of NQTs, congratulations and welcome to the teaching profession.

Not only have you now got the most rewarding job in the world, you’re also joining a profession with a huge sense of community spirit. 

Your NQT year will inevitably be a bit of a rollercoaster, just like your training was – but by now you know that the highs will always balance out the lows. And you will have experienced educators alongside you every step of the way.

So how are you going to prepare for September? We spoke with a group of education experts and asked them for their advice for new teachers, and summer reading recommendations. (Credit to Tes for image below)

Expert advice for NQTs starting this September

‘Don’t give yourself a hard time’

Jill Berry, a former headteacher and author

“You are joining a wonderful profession, which will give you amazing experiences and opportunities. It certainly has its challenges, and these will stretch you and keep you learning and developing. But you will make a significant difference to the lives of others, and that is energising and rewarding.

“There are many brilliant books on education, but if I could recommend one for you to read as you embark on the journey, it would be The Confident Teacher by Alex Quigley. Building your confidence will be key in the years ahead. You can also listen to Alex talk about metacognition on this Tes podcast.

“Keep an eye on education blogs and articles, too –  they’re quick to read and often very useful.

“My advice to you is to be kind to yourself. The work is never completed, so you need to decide when to stop, rest and refresh. If you find the job tough at times, don’t give yourself a hard time. Just reflect, learn, adapt and keep moving forward. Good luck!”

‘Take care of yourself’

Angela Browne, ex-headteacher and leadership coach

“It is so wonderful to welcome you to this amazing profession. I remember this period of time so keenly and am so excited for the journey that you are about to embark upon.

“I’m all about nourishment and I believe that the best way of taking care of doing a good job is to take care of yourself. My TED Talk explains what this means.”

‘Make use of subject associations’

Andy Connell, chair of the UK Council for Subject Associations

“Congratulations on becoming an NQT and welcome to the most exciting and important profession of them all. You will never cease to be amazed by what learners can do. 

“I would strongly recommend joining a subject association, whose members have hundreds of years of collective experience and expertise in all age groups to share with you. I therefore recommend you look at the Council for Subject Associations Directory and join.”

‘Don’t expect to get everything done’

Mark Enser, head of geography and research lead at Heathfield Community College, Tes columnist and author

“Welcome to the profession to all our NQTs. It is a brilliant job and I am sure you are going to love it. If I could recommend just one book, it would, of course, be my own. Why write it if you don’t think people should read it? Teach Like Nobody’s Watching is a guide to being free to teach simply, as you would if no one was looking over your shoulder.

“My one piece of advice for anyone coming into teaching would be to remember that the job will fill any time you allow it. Be really firm on when you are willing and able to work and then prioritise within that time. You will never get everything done because the job is infinite.”

‘Always remember why you came into teaching’

Sean Harford, national director of education at Ofsted

“This is a great time to be an NQT; but then, it’s always a great time to be an NQT. Welcome to what I am sure will be a lifetime’s fascination for you with education.
 
“My one piece of advice for anyone coming into teaching would be to always remember why you have come into the profession. If you hold on to that reason, you will be able to put into perspective a lot of what is asked of you and decide wisely what actions to take.

“Oh, and don’t worry about inspection, but do read the “Clarification for Schools” section of the inspection handbook, which will help discount the myths that abound.”

‘Marking can lead to burnout’

Carl Hendrick and Robin MacPherson, teachers and authors

“Welcome to teaching! It’s an incredible job and one that you could never get bored of. For a really good start to your NQT year, we both suggest you should read our book, What Does this Look Like in the Classroom? Bridging the gap between research and practice.

Hendrick: “I’d recommend looking at the chapter on marking and assessment with Dylan Wiliam and Daisy Christodoulou. For new teachers, marking is the thing that can lead to burnout quicker than anything else. As Dylan says: feedback should be more work for the recipient than the donor. In other words, if you are working harder than the students then something has gone wrong.”

MacPherson: “I’d recommend the chapter on behaviour, as this is so crucial for all teachers, but is especially challenging in your first year. Jill [Berry] and Tom [Bennett] provide a nice balance and they offer a lot of practical advice.”

‘If you can’t manage behaviour, it will manage you’

Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion

“You didn’t take the job because you relished managing behaviour, but if you can’t manage behaviour, it will manage you. The most important thing to remember is that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

“Read technique number 51 in Teach Like a Championwhich is to be ‘on radar’ and be seen looking. Students pay attention to what you notice. If you show them that you see and care about what they do, you will eliminate grey areas and opportunistic behaviours.

“Perhaps strive to recall this perfect reminder from Jo Facer as well: ‘Having strict rules means you love children and want the best for them. Make sure you communicate that with your face and body language.’ Smile, in other words. Even (or perhaps especially) when you’re setting expectations.”

Listen to Jo Facer discuss behaviour on the Tes podcast here.

‘Look at how students learn’

Ann Mroz, editor of Tes 

“Firstly, huge congratulations to you all – you’ve qualified during one of the most challenging periods in education in our country’s history.

“As you look forward to September, my advice is, of course, to read one of our excellent articles about students and how they learn: “Here’s why students struggle to learn on tech at home” by neuroscientist Jared Cooney Horvath.” 

‘Give yourself a break’

Mary Myatt, education author

“You must be prepared to find your NQT year enjoyable, exhausting, but great fun.

“It’s important you pace yourself: the best piece of advice I had as an NQT was to go home one day a week as soon as possible after the end of school and don’t do any work that night.

“It really makes a difference. You should also find at least one person you can have a proper chat with about what’s going well and what you’re worried about. Make professional connections. Twitter is great for this.

“For an introduction to thinking about curriculum, listen to this podcast about what a creative curriculum means for schools, which I recorded with The Key.”

‘Deepen your professional knowledge’

Dame Alison Peacock, CEO of the Chartered College of Teaching

“Welcome to the greatest profession in the world! You are starting a job that you will soon come to realise is the most fulfilling, demanding and exciting job you could have chosen. 

“You have the opportunity to become the person that others look back on later in life and inwardly thank for making the difference. As a new teacher, one of the most important areas of your development will be to build and deepen your professional knowledge, practice and behaviours.

“The Chartered College of Teaching, as your professional body, is here to support you to make the strongest start to your teaching journey. Our webinars, including our recent discussion with Doug Lemov, are a great way to access advice and guidance to support your development and deliver excellent teaching.”

‘Your sense of achievement will make it all worthwhile’

Alex Pearson, executive principal at Aspirations Academies Trust

“I would like to welcome you to the teaching profession. You’ve made a fantastic choice in your career, and one that is incredibly rewarding and exciting.

“That being said, I’m not going to pretend that you’re not going to have your tough days. And at points you might wonder if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. However, the sense of achievement that you get from teaching will make it all worthwhile.

“My tip would be subscribe to the Tes News YouTube channel, and check out their videos and webinars.”

‘Navigating the issues that women face in education’

Vivienne Porritt, WomenEd

“#WomenEd is delighted to welcome NQTs to the teaching profession. You are the future of education and we are a career-long network for you. We support, connect and empower aspiring and existing women leaders and male allies. 

“We recommend you follow @WomenEd on Twitter or by reading our blogs and attending events shared on our website (womened.org).  We also recommend our book, 10% Braver: Inspiring women to lead education, which highlights ways you can understand and navigate the issues women face in education.”

‘You’re really important’

Sam Twisleton, director of Sheffield Institute of Education

“This must feel like a strange time to be starting your career. Feel proud that Covid-19 has shown us all just how important education is, and, as a new teacher, you represent the future of the profession – this makes you really important.

“The really useful source of evidence-based support I would like to suggest is the Chartered College of Teaching’s Early Career Hub. You can browse the site generally without logging in, but you’ll need to log in for the main content. Membership is free for trainees and discounted for NQTs.”

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