Being an NQT can be a bit like being a tight-rope walker. Just as you’re beginning to find your feet, people start throwing you more and more things to carry, a rogue gust of wind threatens to knock you over and halfway across you start having serious wobbles over your choice of career.
Get the routines sorted on early in the term, however, and you’ll be zipping across to the end of the year in no time.
You need routine but try not to get bogged down in a regime so complex that your pupils need a PhD to interpret it. Stick to some very simple rules and remember that they are there as guidance. Encourage positive behaviour that puts the focus on responsibility and getting it right rather than strict punitive measures that only serve a few.
Were you told that on your training course? The idea is that new teachers should channel their inner Miss Trunchbull and be stern and unfeeling but there’s really no need. Firmly state your expectations at the beginning of each session and remind pupils of your simple rules. Act assertively and calmly and deal with small niggles in behaviour before they become problems. Smile when the pupils do well and act responsibly. Go on, it’s allowed.
The curriculum can seem very didactic and constrained but there’s still room to add in a touch of creativity. Yes, you have to teach fronted adverbial clauses and equivalent fractions but try to plan lessons that engage the pupils from the word go and have a mix of challenges and problem solving. Those who struggle to sit for long periods and are most likely to start with low level disruption may be able to engage better with practical lessons. Think film clips, music, books, stories and creative IT use and ask more experienced colleagues what works for them.
New teachers often fall into the trap of allowing low level disruption to carry on while they’re trying to teach because of time constraints. The whispering, chatting, moving around and general fidgeting that counts as low level disruption can really drive you to breaking point but there’s no point starting to teach unless everyone is ready. Perhaps one of your rules is something along the lines of ‘ready to learn.’ You’ll have discussed what ready to learn means- eyes on the person speaking, no voices and listening actively. If equipment is missing then the pupils can get it after you’ve finished speaking, not during. Insist on this rule being followed every time you start a lesson, thank the pupils for paying attention and teach.
When dealing with tricky behaviour, state your case clearly and calmly using the child’s name and remind them of the consequence if they don’t respond. If poor behaviour continues then follow through on your school’s behaviour policy and make sure you speak to the child after the lesson. Do they understand what went wrong? What choice did they make? How did their behaviour affect others in the class? What choice could they make next time?
Above all, keep calm and carry on walking that tightrope. You’re doing a great job and remember that all teachers need support with behaviour so don’t be afraid to call in help from SLT or book onto our Advanced Behaviour Management for NQTs or Behaviour Management for Primary NQTs courses. We look forward to seeing you!
A former deputy head and local authority adviser with a specialism is Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) and Healthy Schools, Siân is now a freelance trainer and writer. She leads courses on Leadership, PSHE, resilience and wellbeing and behaviour management for Creative Education and loves working with teachers all around the country. Siân writes award winning education resources and has written resources on subjects as diverse as light pollution, ethical labelling, world travel and butterfly counting! She is interested in bringing humour, creativity and innovation into every day working life.