My NQT year was absolutely superb, and not just because I secured a permanent job at the end of it. Having ‘ticked the box’ I was sent to Arran (a place I had only visited once for a less-than-sober camping trip) along with a friend from teaching training. Was I a bit nervous? Of course, but my excitement really did outweigh the nerves.
I was massively lucky to have been sent to Arran High – it’s a great school and my PT and mentor is a remarkable teacher. I was made to feel very welcome immediately and encouraged to do my own thing, which leads to my first piece of advice: take risks! I changed the whole Int2 course by introducing 4 new texts; I published a book of short stories with an S2 class (which can still be bought online…); I carried out debates with a less then perfect S3 class (in front of the HT). There were plenty of mistakes, but as i often tell my pupils you learn a lot from getting things wrong.
There is another key piece of advice that I would give, and this one might be a bit controversial: cynicism is not always a bad thing! There are times when a good teacher will have to protect their pupils from the worst excesses of a system run by politicians and bureaucrats, and sometimes that will mean upsetting people. Every new innovation is not automatically a good idea, even if driven by people who generally get things right, and it is important to be brave enough to recognise this.
Also, be ambitious! Great results stem from high expectations, and I personally believe in setting targets that are slightly beyond attainable to encourage constant progress. Your pupils are invariably capable of more than they think. This ambition shouldn’t be restricted to your pupils though. There are lots of great things happening in education right now, but a crippling lack of ambition still presents barriers far too frequently (ie. E-portfolios). If you’re going to do something, don’t just do it right, do it brilliantly – never settle for what is provided for you just because it is easier (ie. Glow).
Finally, have fun! Teaching is a superb job, and teaching teenagers is a privilege – as soon as you forget that the job becomes ‘just a job’, and if that’s all you’re looking for there are much easier ways to make a living.