NQT Special Edition: Year 2 - Preparing for September

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Last year’s SecEd NQT diarist is now in her second year at the chalkface. We asked her to advise this year’s NQTs on making a success of their second year of teaching

So, you’ve got through your NQT year – something you probably didn’t think you would manage at times.

If you’re lucky you’ll have found your swing and the summer term will feel like a breeze as you prepare for the new year ahead. If you struggled through the year with difficult classes, drowning in planning and marking and can’t wait for the bell to go on the last day, you are not alone.

It can feel like things just don’t let up in your NQT year, but do not fear, your second year will be so much easier. Take it from someone who is about to finish year two without the dark circles and the stress eczema that had plagued me since the PGCE.

Here I will offer a few nuggets of advice for those due to embark on their second year of teaching which will hopefully make you feel excited (or at least less filled with dread) for when September comes around again.

The first thing I would suggest for September is to get involved with staff and student activities as much as possible. If you’re anything like me, you probably had great intentions of attending every staff social and every student concert this year, but these fell by the wayside as soon as the realities of NQT life hit.

I’m not suggesting that next year will be so chilled that you will be volunteering at all the weekly evening recitals, but it is something to consider. The more you show your commitment to the staff and students, the more they will start to see you as part of the institution.

This will help your wellbeing (it is always nice for people around school to smile and know your name), but it will also help your behaviour management with students and your visibility with senior leaders.

You may not have promotion in your immediate plan, but it is always good for the headteacher to notice you at extra-curricular events.

My second piece of advice links to this – now you have got into the flow of your school and you know what’s going on, it is a great time to take on some extra small responsibilities.

I am not talking about getting yourself a huge TLR budget or taking over a whole department, but some small duties to show your extra competency could be great for your career.

I took on the more able and talented coordinator role within my faculty (not whole school). This was a great (and fairly easy) step where people would notice if I did it well, but it wouldn’t have awful long-term impacts if I was rubbish! Look out for these roles as you become more comfortable and don’t ever agree to anything unless you are completely sure that you are happy to do it.

This leads me to my third nugget – don’t say yes to everything. If your colleagues and line managers smell a whiff of a keen and high-achieving young teacher, they will pounce.

It can sometimes be hard to say no once the barrage of favours and pleas start sliding into your inbox. But remember – it is not (always) your job. Do not let someone take advantage of your hard-working attitude. Do what you can to help people, but if it is getting too much, don’t be afraid to say no.

It is important to remember that you are still new at this. The past two years probably feel like a whirlwind and you have learnt so much, but you are not supposed to be perfect (yet). If you still need to ask your head of department “silly” questions, do it (and don’t feel too bad about it).

I am at the end of my second year and I still wander through to my head of faculty’s room to ask about school policies and procedures. There’s no way that you will have covered every little policy in your school so far, so don’t feel silly if you still have to ask.

My final piece of advice may be hard to stick to, but it will be worth it if you can manage it. Continue to plan your lessons as if you are new. I don’t mean plan every lesson as if it is being observed by the head, but try not to pick up bad habits.

The teacher next door may have been there for 20 years and be one of the best in the school, but just because she doesn’t use a PowerPoint or a lesson plan to teach her lessons, doesn’t mean you can (all the time).

It can be tempting to ease off on the planning and feel confident enough to wing it, but ultimately, you’re probably a better teacher when you have spent time planning a good lesson.

Overall, you should enjoy the coming year. It may still have its challenges, but it should be a lot easier than the last two years of your life! 

  • The author of this article was SecEd’s NQT diarist last year and is a teacher of citizen- ship, RE and humanities at a school in England. Find out about how our current NQT diarist is doing here.

NQT Special Edition

This article was published as part of SecEd’s NQT Special Edition. The publication offered eight pages of specialist best practice advice for NQTs and trainee teachers across the UK. Supported by the NASUWT the special edition published on June 28, 2018, and the eight pages are available to download as a free pdf from SecEd’s Supplements page: www.sec-ed.co.uk/supplements


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