It’s been over 13 years since I was an NQT but I still remember it vividly. Two things really stand out for me about that time: firstly, I was incredibly fortunate to work in a school with a fantastic headteacher and supportive staff who went out of their way to help me – they gave me a real platform for my career. Secondly, the first six weeks of being an NQT passed by in a complete blur – I literally cannot remember them. In fact the main feelings that I felt at the time, in-spite of working in a great school, were those of trepidation, vulnerability and anxiety. That age old feeling of ‘Am I good enough?’ What you don’t understand as an NQT is that in many ways the vulnerability and reflective questioning never leave us but what does ease is that the more frequently you pass through those processes the more you learn how to deal with them. You understand that you are passing through a phase. I think that is why the NQT year is hard because you don’t have that understanding to draw upon.
The First Term
I was discussing how hard the first term is as an NQT the other day with a group of first year teachers and the message that I wanted to give them was simple. This first term is tough. It tests you resolve. It makes you question your ability. It makes you feel isolated. The bad news is that they are currently in the most difficult phases and, in many cases, this is when many NQTs question their ability and generally have a wobble. The good news is that, come January, many of them will have a new sense of resolve and determination to stay the course. And stay the course they must do because as leaders we need them to make it. Education needs them to make it. Children need them to make it.
The Need to Succeed
In an age where I believe it is the hardest time ever to break through as an NQT we need these new generation of teachers to succeed, flourish and learn to push the educational boundaries to take education into an exciting new era. It is important that whilst we bring a sense of realism to Newly Qualified Teachers we also need to inspire them to go into leadership and want to be headteachers. The key question is how do we do this? It’s not an easy question and the answer is even harder because if we really knew how to do this there would not be a shortage of headteachers nationwide. I personally believe that the way forward is to encourage big picture thinking amongst the NQTs from an early stage – let them see how decisions made influence the big picture. Let them see that leaders are fallible, have self doubt and like anyone else question their decisions.
The other phase in helping NQTs to succeed is the more obvious – surrounding them with great people and a structured programme of support. It is vital that NQTs are encouraged to be reflective, put the children at the heart of all they do and understand key principles of pedagogy. It is also vitally important that, even with the reduced roles of the LA, we provide opportunities for NQTs to network with their peers across a range of schools. In many ways this is the most important support we can offer them and it is important that this isn’t lost in a time when some schools are looking more internally than ever. The NQT year makes or breaks a teacher’s career and, as leaders, the onus is on us to make sure that we are creating a new and brilliant generation of teacher.
If you’re an NQT and you’d like guidance then watch here http://youtu.be/6mCBduRlNzo