Firstly, a little about myself… My name’s Matt, I’m a secondary school geography teacher working in West Sussex straight out of completing my PGCE at Brighton University. When everyone was warning me that my NQT year would be the hardest year of my life I had no idea what I was setting myself up for, a month down the line and I have a much better understanding. Here are 5 things I learnt during my first month as an NQT.
- Firstly and foremost, don’t listen to what everybody tells you! I ended this summer with hot sweats and heart palpitations due to the amount of “see you in a years time” and “kiss goodbye to your weekends” I received from friends and family. This was heightened by my Dad sending me a newspaper clipping quibbling about the number of teachers who quit the profession within their first 3 years the evening before my first day! However, I quickly found that shutting the negativity out was one of the best lessons I could have learnt. I started September with an exact picture of how my NQT year would go and I am not going to let other people’s preconceptions affect that.
- Work life balance (ok, well as much as possible…) It’s a phrase thrown around by most in the profession, however it wasn’t until I was three weeks in and 150 exercise books deep that I truly understood it’s importance. Coincidently, September is the month where 95% of my closest friends have their birthdays. I did not want to be that guy who blew his friends off for marking or planning or anything related to work! Conversely however, I quickly realised the benefits of a quiet weekend and how it makes the following week blissful. Striking a balance is important, hence the phrase work life balance.
- Make a timetable, for everything. And then once you’re finished make a timetable for making timetables. As a geography teacher I am blessed with having 15 classes, that’s 450 pupils and then a brand new tutor group to top it off. This means 15 loads of marking, setting homework, report writing, seating plans – the list is endless. I quickly found that having a timetable for all these jobs was essential. It meant when I went into school each day I knew exactly who I was setting homework to and whose books needed marking.
- Get to know everyone, especially those behind the scenes. I was at a slight advantage on my first day at my school due to me having completed a PGCE placement there the previous year. However, you cannot underestimate how important it is to know every member of staff working in that school. It might feel like you’re making small talk for the sake of small talk, however this small talk will ensure you always get a TA in your lessons or that your printing is done on time (and if you’re really lucky that you get a free pudding in the canteen!).
- Finally, enjoy it! I spent the first fortnight of my NQT year shattered and braindead. I then quickly realised that I am doing a job I love, in a school a love, teaching a subject I love. How many people can genuinely say they love every aspect of their career? Once I had gotten over the initial hump I began to realise how much I enjoyed teaching. Compared to my PGCE year it felt liberating, I had my own autonomy over the pupils I was teaching and I found it much easier to show my own personality within my classes.
Sometimes it is very important to sit back and remember why you came into the profession in the first place and enjoy every second of it!