50 things I wish I’d known as an NQT

I’ve been teaching since October 2019. That’s when I first stepped foot inside the shoes of Mr Hamilton, Teacher of History, on my first placement. It was just a lesson for year 7s, and I didn’t even need to plan very much of it myself – simply deliver something similar to what was already on the shared computer drive.

But I was nervous.

Of course, it went super well – I was lucky in that my first placement was hardly going to throw me in the deep end. Everyone was really chill about the process of getting started, which made marching in not only easy, but somewhat inviting.

Anyway, fast forward to June 2020, and I’ve now been a Newly Qualified Teacher for nearly a whole year. Wow; time moves fast, huh? There’s a lot that I’m still learning, but a lot that I’ve picked up in this past academic year. Here are 50 of them.

  1. Find a book box as early as possible. Yes, for every class.
  2. LABEL your book boxes. They will go missing. No, you won’t know where to, and neither will anyone else.
  3. Set your clear expectations from the start of the year, not three months in.
  4. Don’t be afraid to reiterate your expectations.
  5. And again, and again, and again, until they get it, keep on reiterating those expectations.
  6. 3-2-1 will be the saviour of most of your lessons.
  7. (You will probably want to 3-2-1 your friends and fam. Avoid)
  8. Create clear boundaries between work and fun.
  9. Find hobbies that you enjoy and stick to them. Start doing something that you gave up last year.
  10. If you make time, you will have time.
  1. Be satisfied with your today, for tomorrow is another day.
  2. Close the laptop lid. Your lesson plan is fine.
  3. What takes an hour tonight can be done in a minute tomorrow morning. Go to bed.
  4. Exercise. Move your body. Do something that isn’t pacing around a classroom.
  5. You may need to refresh your subject knowledge, but that’s fine. We may be experts, but we are always learning.
  6. A beard will keep you from looking like a Sixth Former.
  7. (Face masks will cover up any advantages from point 16)
  8. Question: facial hair gets warm under a face covering. Is it really worth it?
  9. (Answer: yes).
  10. Dress for comfort, not for style. You will be doing a lot of walking; buy a pair of shoes that fit.
  1. There will be a lot more paperwork and data input than you could ever imagine.
  2. Data input is, weirdly, sort of satisfying.
  3. Come up with a short, snappy, marking criteria. Writing long comments that will go ignored is not a productive use of time.
  4. Read widely, and not just for your PGCE essays. Educational thinkers have invaluable insights!
  5. A visit home is an energy bar restored.
  6. Batch-cook your meals on the weekends. Your social life will thank you.
  7. Do no more than 1 weekend-day of work a week. You have a life; enjoy it.
  8. Don’t be afraid of working at home a little more when you need to. Workloads ebb and flow, and sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
  9. Get to know the staff; they’re brilliant, and you’ll spend 98% of your time in the same building as them.
  10. Get to know the kids, they’re actually quite funny.

Don’t be that one teacher who doesn’t know how to work a computer.

  1. Give those bed sheets a wash. You’ve earned a fresh set of linen.
  2. Invest in a good working-from-home setup.
  3. Decide whether you prefer working in your bedroom or at school, because you will be doing one of them after hours.
  4. Get lots of freezer space for your pre-prepared meals. There’s nothing worse than relying on ready meals because you simply don’t have the time for nutrition.
  5. On the other hand, one or two ready meals as a backup can’t be as bad as you might think.
  6. Stay hydrated. You’ll be doing a lot of talking all day, and your throat would appreciate a water bottle being nearby.
  7. Coffee. That’s it, that’s the tip.
  8. Get those shoes polished. Yes, it is important. No, it won’t take very long.
  9. Bedtime, no later than 10:30. Lights out by 11. Thank you.
  10. Don’t be that one teacher who doesn’t know how to work a computer.
  1. For the love of God, do not leave the cursor on the screen during a video.
  2. Get all of your printing done as early in the week as you can. Yes, that’s right: all of it.
  3. Figure out a planning system that works for you.
  4. Even if you don’t want to, you should get a Bullet Journal. Here’s why.
  5. Share resources with your colleagues. We are doing this for the kids, not for an ego trip to prove that our lessons are superior.
  6. Set up folders for your resources (I have a daily folder, plus one for my week’s resources, divided by day. I have a homework folder. I had a seating plan folder, before we moved to Class Charts and turned everything virtual).
  7. If you find a comfy chair, make note of where it is in the school. You will be coming there repeatedly, and you will be claiming it as your own.
  8. Get a good quality bag. Trust me. Make it nice and big. You will need the space. (Feeling nosey? Click here to find out what’s in my teaching bag)
  9. You are still learning.
  10. And you always will be.

Are you and NQT? Experienced teacher? Maybe you’ve been looking into starting a PGCE and getting going with your training? Wherever you are on your journey, I’d love to read your tips and tricks for getting the most out of teaching – and hitting the ground running.

What’s worked for you?


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