Have I got your attention?
It has been a while seen I was an NQT, but I have worked with a few and mentored several successfully along the way.
I still feel like this as I get ready to start a new year, I always will. I think if I ever stop feeling like this then it is time for me to consider my options! It should be a time of nervous excitement. You are keen to impress (aren’t we all?!). You don’t want to mess it up. Don’t worry you’ll do something daft early on! Just ask around the staff room – if anyone says they never did anything they look back on with their palm firmly on their face, is a liar – keep your eye on them! (I’m kidding – that’s probably just the ambitious DHT!)
There are lots of blogs out there now about how an NQT should get ready for the start of their first term in teaching – and lots say the same kind of things, some are painfully obvious and if you needed to be reading a blog about then perhaps it is a bit late.
So, you’ve done your training, through whatever programme. You have a certificate and a photo of yourself in a funny hat! I have one too!
Me & Mum June 2000
Now you’ve got it – what are you going to do with it?
I am going to throw together 10 things that I would recommend. It isn’t perfect. I haven’t spent hours thinking it through. It is just my thoughts on some things you might be well advised to consider. But you already have haven’t you!
There are wiser people than me who will, without doubt, add to or change this list and they might well be right, but this one is mine and I stand by it. If you want to argue, then please argue nice! I might end up agreeing with you!
Here we go…
Plan it out on paper or in your head.
What do you want?
Where do you want it?
Where will it be seen?
What do they need?
Can it be accessed?
And other such important questions.
Is it interesting? Will they like it? are good ones too!
Make sure things which you display are clear, purposeful and useful.
I have to be honest here. I really don’t like a ‘SparkleBox’ or ‘Twinkl’ classroom!
Those resources have their place but please, they are not a panacea – just because they have it, doesn’t mean you have to have it on the walls and windows!
Don’t be afraid to be a little bespoke – make some things yourself and if you do use commercial printed resources – please trim the logo off. It’s a classroom not an advertising hoarding!
Remember to celebrate learning as well as support learning. I was once part of a meeting in a school which was having some issues with their results, we were all discussing how to develop the environment for learning and it was very late on before someone (me) asked whether we should celebrate children’s success. It was deemed really important, so I asked why it hadn’t been mentioned?
I like ideas like this:
Just keep it fluid – always adding more, it builds a portfolio of things a child should be proud of. (Helpful at parents’ meetings too!)
Another idea I am considering trying out is a graffiti wall.
Cheap wallpaper and children can record thoughts, questions, ideas, images suggestions – anything they like. It just needs to be purposeful, even if it only is to them.
9. Use of Space and Seating
There is no hard and fast rule about how to arrange the furniture.
All the methods of arrange tables have their pros and cons. Groups, Rows, Horseshoes, Single Islands or a flexible approach where you move them around for different purposes and different lessons.
I apologise for stating the obvious, but ensure that whatever you have there is room for the children to move and that there is room for you to get to them. If you are zoning your room, then make it clear to children by how you use labeling, resource placement and space. Have you got an area for reading? Maths? A puzzle or independent extension?
Open space is also important – Y6 children CAN sit on a carpet, they are still children, not grown ups.
Have yourself a seating plan.
Where do you want children to be? Tell them, show them and as time passes you can modify it to improve it.
If you are going to group children in lessons, have a plan for who sits where and when. If there is going to be more flexible grouping then again have a plan for how it will work. Doing it on an ad hoc basis will just create more work in the long run!
8. Labels – By hand, by computer or just Buy?
I assume that like most teachers, your class room will be labelled to within an inch of its life!
That’s fine – but how are you going to do it?
Will it be, or does it need to be multi-lingual? It is a good way to show everyday vocabulary.
Are you going to hand-write them? Is there a correct style and letter formation you should use?
(Although it is important that children see different fonts and forms over time of course!)
Are you going to type them? Is there an agreed font?
There is always the option to buy them pre-done! Check on eBay!
7. Your Desk – Are you having one?
If you do, be sure that you don’t build a barrier.
It may seem obvious but I have still seen it done, indeed once upon a time I did it myself. Although this isn’t me, the teacher here has built walls to hide behind (whether they sit here is lessons or not, like a little bolthole), be open not defensive.
I think it is important to maintain a small space that is yours, even if quite quickly it disappears under piles of paper, sticky notes, marking, lists and other such things. You need a place to put your things. Children do, why shouldn’t you?
To the left hand side of a focal point (IWB/Screen/TV etc.) is most common and seen as a position of control, the right hand side is seen as less formal. I read that somewhere, see @TomBennett71 I think. Mine is on the left of my IWB. What matters is that there is somewhere you can call ‘home’. If you choose not to have one, or your school has a policy where you don’t have desks for teachers. Consider where you will be putting things you need quicker than in a cupboard or a box.
6. Planning – Know what is expected of you – before you go nuts!
This one is a no brainer.
Are there agreed set formats everyone has to plan on?
If not, what exactly do you year leaders or SLT require in terms of planning?
It should be a pretty fluid document really, so how are you annotating and using this to move learning on?
(OK? Do you feel confident in egg sucking now? Good!)
Make sure you have the Long Term Overview – if you are being left to make it up for yourself, someone has missed a job! Especially in these changing times!
Remember, you are planning for the children, not the Head – s/he isn’t in your class as a learner – but if they are – make sure they’d have a great learning experience!
5. Know the policies/Behaviour Management
I once worked with a ‘Policy Writing Policy’ – Yep, you read that right! We try not to speak of it and it was ‘unofficially official’.
There will be so many policies that it will be next to impossible to know all of them inside out, but you will need a working knowledge of all of them. So, start with the Key ones:
Behaviour Policy: See Point 2 below.
Teaching and Learning: How should things look? Planning expectations should be in here too.
Marking and Feedback: How much? How often? 3 Stars and a wish? Pupil reflection etc? What does marking look like in your school? It is important to get this right.
Internet/Web Access: What can you do and what can’t you? What can children do and what can’t they? Blogging, use of Social Media should all be in here, if they aren’t ask about it.
If you are getting these ones right, you’re probably on the right track!
4. The 3 Rs: “Roles, Responsibilities and Routines”
@MrsPTEach puts this one really well here: Classroom Management – My tips for NQTs
She is absolutely right, that the early development of a clear routine will help you enormously. It will take some organizing to start, but will be well worth it in the end. No amount of repetition is too much if they get it right without you asking them!
And I quote:
“Routines – For certain parts of the day, having routines mean you don’t have to spend a lot of time dishing out instructions. It takes a bit of time at the start of the year but it is worth it. End every lesson the same – I choose for them to tidy, put books away and stand behind their chairs. This gives me an opportunity to extend any plenary activities and continue questioning those who are ready to go. It makes it easy for children to leave as chairs are already tucked in. It’s a small thing which makes life easier for me. In the same way, they know what to do when they walk in the door in the morning … We have routines for lining up, collecting and handing in homework, using the laptops and handing out books and work.”
“Jobs – make them work harder than you. Give over time (5 minutes a day) for children to do jobs. Handing out letters, jumpers, writing tomorrow’s date on the board, sorting the timetable, tidying and locking the laptops, stacking chairs, tidying tables and picking things off the floor. That 5 minutes will save you 50+ minutes at the end of the day tidying, sorting and organising and will mean you can put your time into assessing and re-planning. If, throughout the year, you find yourself doing the same meaningless thing over and over, simply add it to the jobs list.”
I have been a little naughty in lifting this section, but if I didn’t there would the risk of being accused of stealing it, when I would just have written the same thing – there are more very good tips on classroom management on Jo’s blog: http://www.mrspteach.com/
3. Get connected – inc. Twitter/Blogging
You are reading this, that tells me that you have started.
To be honest, I have covered this before on this blog.
Why should Teachers be using Twitter? Cup of Tea CPD Part 1
How to get started with Twitter – Top 10 Tips Cup of Tea CPD Part 2
Finding the best teachers to follow on Twitter
Make sure though that you connect with your colleagues too – make sure that you talk to them and make the most of what they know. They have the inside track on the children you teach. You are all there to make things better for everyone, you can’t do it on your own and the rest of the staff can’t do it without you.
I once worked with a new teacher who tried to work in isolation. They didn’t really join in with the staff, despite encouragement and open doors, they found it hard. They weren’t interested in the advice that was being shared. They came round eventually, but it made everything a little uncomfortable for everyone.
I was just in the process of writing this section on this post and this appeared on my Twitter feed from @LearningSpy (David Didau)
www.learningspy.co.uk – Back to School Part 1 – School Rules
While his approach is from a Secondary point of view and mine is Primary – I agree almost entirely with the message! David’s key points are: (Read his blog for expansion!)
1. Know the school rules and stick to them.
2. Never let pupils sit where they want.
3. Use agreed consequences fairly and consistently.
4. Never let pupils work off punishments
5. Make 3 phone calls every day – talk about progress not behaviour
There are apps/websites such as Class Dojo, which can help. I will be trying it out this year.
However you intend to use and apply rules and expectations – BE CONSISTENT!
There will (hopefully) be a set of agreed and applied expectations, the children will know them (unless you are in YR perhaps). You need to know them, older children will expect you to know them and if they think you don’t, be sure they will try to change them and you will find it harder to get them back again.
The old adage is: ‘If you say it, mean it’.
If you are keeping someone in from break for 5 mins, then don’t do 10 (It is your break you’re wasting!).
Please don’t say: “I’ll let you off this time.”
1. Don’t be too prissy!
Don’t be uptight!
Remember, children make a mess, just make sure that you make them responsible for tidying it up again.
Your classroom will look amazing at 0830, but by 1047 it might not be!
Don’t worry, it’s all good!
Children need to feel comfortable in their space to learn and that is why you put the effort in. The trays and books are labelled. The reading area is stocked with fun and interesting materials, perhaps some comics too!
You have put the time in and you’re ready.
Even though we all know what the pressures of teaching today are like – it is still the Best Job in the World!
Well, there you have it!
10 things to do, think about or reflect upon before you start.
As I always say:
“Is it perfect?” No.
“Is it without fault?” No.
“Am I an expert with professional research to prove any of this leads to success?” No.
I am a teacher and Senior Leader with 15 years of experience.
These things help me and have helped those I have shared with before.
By all means share and leave your comments, feedback, additional ideas in the comments section.
Rachel Jones @rlj1981 has created a ‘Crowd Sourced’ book of Wisdom for NQTs
It is fab and you can download it free here