To Get You Started… the NQT on INSET Day

Things you really need to find out today:

  • Class lists #1 What should you do with a pupil who turns up to your class but they’re not on your register?  Find out the procedure from your Subject Leader before it happens!
  • Class lists #2 If you have the chance, run your class list by the previous teacher who taught them to see if there’s anything you really need to know from the start.  By this I don’t mean who the good workers are or who the naughty ones are.  They all deserve a fresh start and the opportunity to make their own impression on you.  I’m thinking more of situations such as: (because the topic of “family” may be coming up) any recent bereavements? Are there two pupils who it is essential to keep apart?  Does someone need a paper copy of everything you would show on the board?  Is there someone who won’t cope if you raise your voice?  In other words, things that all the staff know because they needed to last year …except you because you weren’t there!
  • Leaving the room  What are you expected to do if a child is taken ill or asks to leave the room for the toilet during the lesson?  What if you need a first-aider?  Are there any children with severe allergies in your classes?  It’s really important to know who these are and how you are expected to respond.
  • SEN  Check the SEN information of all your pupils before you see any, make a cryptic note to yourself on your register/planner, and put it in your diary to read it again in two weeks’ time.  Why?  Because if you handle a situation badly in the first lesson because you didn’t know something you needed to know, you’ll lose the pupil from the beginning.  Also, because you don’t know them yet, you’ll forget the information you most need and you’ll surprise yourself when you read it again in a fortnight.  It must be cryptic – this is confidential information and things can be left around by mistake.
  • ICT Technician  If you need an ICT technician quickly, how do you get one?  Find out before that moment comes!
  • Photocopier  How does that photocopier work?  Have a play on it before you need it and no-one else is hovering.  Wherever possible, though, put your materials in for photocopying and collect them later.  You’ll need to be ahead for this, it might take a day or two for them to be ready, especially at busy times.
  • Referring misbehaviour  In many schools, if misbehaviour occurs and you need to refer upwards, if it happens in your lesson, you go to the Subject Leader.  Outside the lesson, it’s the Head of Year.  Check if that’s the same in your school.
  • Mobiles  Make sure you know exactly what the policy is on mobile phones going off in your lesson.  It will definitely happen.  Your response in that moment will communicate a lot to the class about “who” this new teacher is.

Things you really need to do today:

  • Communication  Check your pigeonhole before school, at lunchtime and after school.  Same for e-mail.  Respond as soon as possible.  If you can turn admin round within the day, you’ll get a good reputation for being reliable and helpful.
  • Equipment  Make sure you’ve got all the exercise books (and spares), file paper, board pens, board rubber, glue, rough paper, etc., you need before you go home on INSET day.  Try out any technology you plan to use.
  • Seating Plan  Make a seating plan for every class and print it out.  Never let pupils choose where they sit.  Big mistake.  This is a subtle but important way of setting out your authority.  The SEN information will be useful here, too – there may be pupils with visual or hearing impairments who need to be nearer the front, or with their back to the window, or sat so their better ear is towards the front (easier if your tables are set out horse-shoe fashion).
  • First lesson  Don’t make your first lesson with a class utterly dependent on technology working!  It probably will, but what if it doesn’t?  You’ll be nervous enough, don’t give yourself unnecessary stress.  (Back in the olden days, my OHP blew up on my very first day as an NQT, 5 minutes before the start of school, with no chance of a replacement.  I laugh about it now…)
  • Plan B  When you look over tomorrow’s lessons tonight, think about what you will do if any technology you plan to use doesn’t do what it should.  In the eyes of a class, it’s not slur on you as a teacher if a bulb blows, your IWB pen doesn’t work or your laptop is stolen (oh yes, that happens!), but they must see that it makes no difference to how much they learn.  You are the teacher, not the technology!
  • Set everything out on your desk for tomorrow before you leave.
  • Go to bed – tomorrow will be a great day!   You’ll never forget it!  You’ve worked for years to get to tomorrow – enjoy it, and pay day’s not long away…!
See you tomorrow…

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