To Get You Started… An Introduction

Happy New Year!

This is a short series of posts intended really for NQTs starting in their new schools this week, but they may also be useful if you’re moving schools this September and it’s been a while since you were in the situation where everything around you was completely new.  The start of the Autumn Term always comes as a shock to the system for all of us, but for those starting out there is, of course, the added pressure of knowing that you need to know much more than you do, but being so overloaded with information you don’t know where to start!

As a Head of Department, I had the privilege of supporting around 18 NQTs over the years.  It became clear a long time ago that those first few days were crucial to how confident they felt as teachers (they almost all felt overwhelmed on the first day) and how quickly they settled in to the job.  It was also clear that although they needed to read as much of the school handbook as they could before the first day, there was a limit to how useful it was.  Not because there wasn’t enough information, but because there was too much, and without knowing the school, the people and where things were, it was very difficult to take in.  Yet without that information, they would often feel they only found out too late and felt a bit ignorant in front of their classes.

That’s how these posts originally came about: Every day when lessons finished I’d give to each NQT a short list of things they needed to do or bear in mind the next day.  (Here, I’ve expanded the lists quite a bit so you can see what I’m getting at – of course, I was in the same department as my NQTs, so we could have a chat!)  It was my responsibility to make sure I’d drawn their attention only to the things they most needed to know and helped them to get into working habits that would help them to find their bearings.  Some of the bullet-points didn’t look very urgent, but they were important.  If you can deal with the important things early, you don’t end up with so many urgent things to cope with!  The idea was that by the end of the first fortnight or so, they were pretty much up and running as independent members of staff in their own right, but working within a team according to the same procedures as everyone else.

So, in response to some requests from PGCE students of last year who I met around the UK on various courses, here goes…

A health warning:  All of what follows is just my point of view and what I wanted NQTs to get to grips with in the departments where I worked.  Other teachers and Subject Leaders may well have very different approaches.  I’m happy to share what I’ve done, feel free to take what you like and leave what you don’t!  A fundamental consideration when reading all this is that you have to do things in a way that fits in with how your school does them.  For this reason, if you’re using this as an NQT you might want to run this past your Subject Leader.  They may have very good reasons for doing things differently which may not be obvious.  Some of the bullet-points here are questions for you to ask your Subject Leader – all 3 of the schools I worked in would have given different answers to them.  On the lists I gave my NQTs, I put the answers, but of course they may not fit with your school.  When we come on to some specifics about teaching a bit further down the line, keep in mind also that once everything was set up in the first lesson, from then on teaching would take place entirely in the target language.  If this were not the case, I may well have done some things in a different order and some would have ceased to be an issue.

So, with all of that rambling out of the way, here goes with my lists…

First one up tomorrow!

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