How ECTs should spend their summer

Set the scene: you’ve just walked out of your placement school for the final time. Every assignment has been submitted with a tick and you’ve passed the training year. Congratulations! In my opinion, training was a lot more strenuous than the year spent as a Newly Qualified Teacher – or NQT. I faced a plethora of challenges at every stage in both years, sure, but the strategies, pedagogy and presence I’ve established over my first year out of University have felt far more secure than they did while training.

Hang on: I think I might be getting ahead of myself. Yes, this year ended up going really quite well, but I was in a weird position this time one year ago. My training year had ended abruptly and I was left figuring out what to do between then and starting my career in September. How best could I prepare? I wouldn’t be teaching again for a long time and probably needed the practice, but I was acutely aware that it would be a very busy year ahead (and it was).

It was at this point that I had to seriously question: what are the most essential things that I need to do this summer as an ECT, without burning myself out?

Get the know-how

The NQT year has been replaced with the Early Career Teacher framework, or ECT for short. This is a two-year induction period designed to give recently qualified teachers an easier go of settling in, likely to retain teachers in the profession, since it’s a career with a ridiculously high turnover rate. It’s different to the year that I’ve just had, which was a one-year induction period.

Despite the name change, my summer top tips remain identical, and that starts with getting the know-how. If the school that you’re teaching at in September hasn’t contacted you yet, get in touch to find out what’s going on. I eagerly chased up my workplace reason last year because I was eager to get my life sorted (though that may be due to the lockdown boredom). Turns out, my timetable had already been constructed and there was an academic diary, teaching planner and iPad-stylus combo all waiting to be picked up.

I attended a New Staff Day, too, which allowed me to get set up on SIMs and other logins and to go for a tour of the school, since it had been a while and I could have done with being reacquainted with everything. Finally, I got to meet the senior member of staff who would act as my mentor for the year, and she answered all of my questions and more, which included queries about schemes of work, how the Academy Trust works, and Covid worries.

Top tip for your first mentor meetings: there are no stupid questions; ask away.

Get the knowledge

After I’d set myself up at school, I left with the two GCSE textbooks we’d need as a guide for teaching years 10 and 11. With that, I promptly worked away at taking notes from these books to, effectively, teach myself. While on placement, I was advised to always stay at least a chapter ahead of the kids and, while that is good advice (as you’re not expected to know everything), it is useful to have a solid understanding of the whole course prior to teaching it. This is really crucial when it comes to sharing with learners the big picture, but also for establishing yourself as the expert. 

It’s really important for teachers who are new to the school of the profession to establish themselves as experts, or else students may view you as lesser compared to your colleagues.

Top tip: I read in somebody’s academic text a few weeks ago (the name escapes me but I’ll edit this post if it returns!) that, to really solidify your subject knowledge, you should read one level above the students. So, if you teach Normans to Year 7, it may be useful to read the GCSE textbook, as you’ll have a more in-depth understanding of the topic that may be shared with pupils in order to up-skill them.

Get the rest

I had a conversation with a trainee colleague on their final day with us the other week, and they were adamant to start preparing lessons for their new school as soon as possible. While all of our situations at home are different (she was also a full-time mother, for instance), this should be the last thing on your mind.

In reality, once you’ve secured the subject knowledge, you should aim to use the summer to relax, unwind and take it easy after what I have been told has been the most unusual and stressful year for any NQT or trainee. It’s fruitless, too, to plan for lessons before having had a good chat with your colleagues to find out what the schemes of work are, as well as medium- and long-term plans. You may even find that some resources have already been made and used by colleagues for years, and only require mild adaptations prior to being used in September.

Top tip: summer is for sleeping. Get caught up on it while you can!

What are you top tips for helping ECTs to make the most of the summer break? Share them in the comments below!

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