Just before the summer holidays I was at an ASE Teachmeet where one of the talks was from two NQTs just finishing their first year of teaching. Their talk was called ‘An NQT’s Wish List’ and they set about describing what they felt were the most important things to do when welcoming NQTs to a Science department. They kindly shared their notes with me so I’ll paraphrase their points below.
NQTs are often eager to impress and might not feel comfortable asking lots of questions, opting instead to muddle through in hopes of appearing super-capable. Spare them having to go through this by making some obvious information explicit:
Where is stuff?
Take the time to talk through where the important things are: photocopier, stationary cupboard, coffee, etc.
The first lesson
I remember how gut-churningly nervous I was in the lead-up to my first lesson as an NQT. I’d done plenty of lesson planning on the PGCE and had plenty of ideas but not the confidence that I could deliver them effectively in a new context. To lessen this stress for NQTs you could provide a lesson plan and resources for the first lesson back.
NQTs joining your department will have come from training schools with a variety of policies regarding behaviour and teaching and learning. Be specific about what you’d expect to see in lessons, at the start of the year and as the teacher progresses. Also suggest useful ‘first lesson’ activities (that the rest of us have developed over several years of trial and error) to get to know a class, set expectations and establish routines.
Lessons on the system
NQTs WILL reinvent the wheel unless you show them exactly where they can find existing lesson resources.
Exam board specifications
Provide explicit guidance as to which classes are doing which exams, and where to find the specifications. NQTs are a creative bunch and it’ll be important that they’re ticking the right boxes with exam classes.
Make NQTs feel part of it. Be positive around them because they’ll need to store up that positivity to get them through the inevitable hard times.
Emphasise how important it is for a teacher to have a good relationship with the technicians! Show NQTs exactly how the technicians like to receive requisitions.
Make it clear that these are opportunities for reflection and improvement, and make that a reality by being constructive with feedback. Encourage NQTs to observe a range of teachers from within the department and outside too – I remember some of the most useful experiences I had in my NQT year were observing experienced Science teachers and teachers from English, Technology and others early on in the year.
Make time for regular meetings. This opportunity to reflect, discuss and ask questions is vital for an NQT, and each cancelled meeting, however infrequent, is a missed opportunity for the new teacher to improve. The mentor should be extremely positive with the NQT and give advice rather than criticism – they are ‘sensitive souls’ that are harder on themselves about bad lessons than anyone else could be.
Don’t be afraid to give NQTs extra responsibilities – they’ll appreciate the trust you put in them as well as the extra experience. However, be aware that they’ll be eager to impress and may take on too much. Don’t overload them – make sure they are focused primarily on developing their teaching practise.