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As an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher), starting your first teaching job can be a daunting, anxiety-inducing prospect. Even after years of theoretical study, placements, and examinations, the responsibility of having their own classtoom and set of students can still be a serious cause for concern for young teachers.
But remember every teacher has to start somewhere – and no NQT is the finished article by the time they start working. As a teacher you will constantly be in a process of learning what works well in a classroom environment, what engages kids, and what simply doesn’t.
Here’s 5 vital bits of advice that you should consider worth taking before you start your first teaching job in September.
Getting organised can have a seriously positive effect on your state-of-mind. Use the 6 week summer period to decorate, arrange, and organise your classroom just the way you want it well ahead of time so that you can truly focus during the first week of term.
A tidy, well-arranged classroom will make your pupils more focussed and more compliant. Consider stocking your classroom out with extra paper trays and pencil holders to cater for any influx of materials that your classroom may experience (we recommend IKEA).
During this time, you will also have the opportunity to familiarise yourself with your school - making sure you that know where everything is.
It’s the small things like this that, if left to the first week of term, can weigh heavily on your mind, making you more anxious – distracting you from setting a great first impression as a teacher.
Because of the nature of your work, as a teacher you will be required to literally think on your feet. With the first work of term being quite an overwhelming experience for most teachers, you will need to rely on your good knowledge of the syllabus that you are teaching to stay on track during moments when your new class are challenging to direct.
Knowing the syllabus inside-out should give you extra confidence and peace-of-mind, especially during the first few weeks of your career, when you are still discovering what kind of teacher you are.
In compliance with school policy, creating your own unique rewards system will help you become more identifiable as a teacher. Remember that children respond far better to praise than they do to criticism, therefore praising your students metaphorically through cleverly chosen rewards will help encourage good behaviour, and help create a healthy, positive environment for learning.
A lot of young teachers make the mistake of over-thinking their first few weeks in their first teaching job, leading to unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety. This is both impractical and unnecessary.
Half of teaching well is in the preparation, therefore, if you have prepared well you are far likely to be a more effective teacher. You must also remember that you have been specifically selected by an employer for this role; you are the right person for the job.
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, have the confidence to take a colleague that you respect aside and air your concerns with them. It’s highly likely that they will have been in a very similar situation to you during some parts of their career, therefore it’s likely that they will be able to impart highly valuable advice to you.
Make sure you are a dynamic personality in both the classroom and the staffroom, and work hard to make friends quickly who you can trust. There’s nothing worse than feeling lonely in any profession, let alone teaching.
Working in a school you will also have access to a ‘professional mentor’ – someone who you will be able to support you during any tough patches that you have during your career – who will be particularly attentive during you first year as a teacher. Teaching counselling is something that happens in every school, and is important in dealing with the psychological challenges of being a teacher. Make sure you schedule regular sessions with your mentor, if the school hasn’t done it for you already!