5 Things I Learnt in my First Week as an NQT

5 Things I Learnt in my First Week as an NQT

As comprehensive as ITT schemes try to be, there is a huge difference between being a placement student at a school and being a fully-fledged member of staff from day one. My training year was wonderful. As a Schools Direct student I spent it in 2 contrasting schools, feeling very much a member of their Maths Departments, and struggled to think of any extra sessions that I could possibly have needed from University/Lead School at the end of the Summer Term. We seemed to have covered everything I could have wished to have known about working as a teacher in a Secondary School however, here are 5 Things I learnt in my first week as an NQT.

This week I learned I was wrong about that. There are some things you just need to be there from day one to appreciate. This is what I discovered this week:


  1. Inset days boggle your brain.

    I don’t think I am alone thinking this, as an NQT or otherwise. For every teacher, the first day of term at my school was filled with talks about last years’ results, learning how to use the new admin system and new departmental initiatives. As an NQT, I also attended talks covering the names and faces of every useful person in the building, the locations of every useful file on the system and the specifics of the behaviour system.
    It was a barrage of information, from 8:30am until 4:30pm. By the end of the day, I had so many questions that I was running out of post-its to write them on and was told by my mentor to go home when I forgot the question I was going to ask for the 3rd time in a row…

  2. What to do when the students in front of you aren’t who you are expecting.

    So you’ve created a seating plan, based on the set list on the system. Perfectly crafted, with the right mix of each child of each ability – you’ve even asked their teacher from last year who would be a nightmare to sit together. Then you line up the class as they enter the room, introduce yourself and set about sitting them all down in those perfectly picked seats… But Rachel, Joe and Steve don’t appear to be here, and instead you’ve acquired Jenny, Harry and Caitlyn. Some of these are on your register, some of them aren’t. One of them is on no list you can find at all! This makes the transition to your ‘expectations’ portion of the lesson substantially less smooth, and involves a lot of chatting by the rest of the class…
    As mentioned above, my school has a new admin system this year, and I think this has worsened the usual September Set Change debacle. We’ve muddled through as a department, but I have to admit I’m still not 100% sure if that was Abi or Olivia in that seat on Friday Period 5… Hopefully this will get sorted next week!

  3. How to entertain 25 students for 3 hours.

    On the first day of term my Vertical Mentoring Group (VMG) spent 3 hours with me in an effort for us to get to know each other. In the build-up, trying to find things to fill that vast 3 hour space seemed like an insurmountable task. However, I ended up with a list so long that I barely used any of them. We played a ‘People Bingo’, the students made their Student Profiles and helped each other with their timetables for the first couple of hours. Then after that we spent some time playing silly icebreaker games to get to know each other some more.
    The time flew by! My VMG are all great kids, and were great sports with my silly games as they wanted to get to know me too. I was particularly impressed with the Year 10 boys being so helpful and accommodating of the Year 7 students’ questions! We seem to be getting on swimmingly!

  4. What to do when a student is sick in your room.

    On Friday, my lovely little Year 7 group were working really hard on the Mixed-Up Clock problem, when one hand went up and little Abby* told me she had been sick. And she had, mostly all over herself … Yes, my lessons are that exciting!
    I have to admit that this is one of my worst nightmares. I hate being sick myself, and it’s all I can do not to follow suit when someone else is! But I held it together, asked the boys nearby to move onto another table and asked my mentor (who had thankfully popped in about 10 mins before this incident!) where Abby* should go… He took her to see the school nurse and she went home later that morning. But not before I had to clean up the desk and her belongings, before taking them to her… Thankfully my carpet was untouched by vomit, so I didn’t suffer the consequences all day.
    I’m impressed with my own composure over this whole incident. Though I have made a mental note to ask who to get in touch with if it’s ever worse/on the carpet next time!!!

  5. How tiring the first week of term really is.

    I think this one speaks for itself. After a 7 week summer, the early mornings alone this week were incredibly hard work. It really hit me how tired I was on Wednesday after a half day with my VMG… 3 and a half hours of being all-singing, all-dancing for a class is exhausting! I could barely walk around the kitchen to help with dinner that evening, and was sound asleep before 10pm.


It has been entirely worth it though, even if only for the small things. Like the Year 8 boy thanking me for a great lesson, a Year 10 who pretends she has loads of attitude but secretly loves helping out, and the 10 minutes that Year 9 worked in near-silence (except for helping each other) and realising that I did that… Me… I really am a teacher!

Written by

Arithma-ticks @Arithmaticks

NQT Maths teacher . Providing an honest account of her  year. Cohost of weekly  at .


6 Tips to Help with Classroom Management

6 Tips to Help with Classroom Management

As you become a more experienced teacher, you will develop you own tricks and tips to ensure that your classroom management skills are up to scratch. What works for one teacher may not necessarily work for another, or for you. However, there are some tips that will help with classroom management whoever you are.

1) Make sure from the start of the school year that your students know what behaviour is tolerated and what is not. One way of doing this is to ask students to work in groups to come up with classroom rules. Put these on the classroom wall and when a rule is broken, point to the rules and ask which rule has been broken. Ask why and then ask other students to comment. Remind students that they drew up the rules, and so should they should keep to them.

2) It is very important to maintain a sense of humour and have a quick, funny retort ready, if students seem restless, or if you suspect that trouble is brewing. Humour can deflect more serious behavioural problems in the classroom.

3) You need to be able to see what is happening in your classroom. You should not mark homework while in a classroom, however tempting it may be. If students sense that you are otherwise engaged, you can expect them to play up.

4) Move around the class, checking that students are all engaged with the task at hand. Bring them back on task when necessary. Try not to let individual students monopolise your attention by bringing their work to you. Explain that you will see each student’s work in turn as you move around the class. Don’t turn your back on the class. Walk sideways like a crab so that most, if not all, of the students are visible to you. You can also train yourself to write on the board while standing sideways.

Try observing your students from the back of the class. When you teach from there, students have to turn around to look at you. This keeps them on their toes and allows you to maintain control. Even if you have a back view of your students their body language will tell you if they are engaged or bored with the lesson.

Don’t simply teach from the front of the class.

5) Make sure that you vary the pitch and tone of your voice. Never speak in a monotone as students will soon get bored and probably imitate you to get attention from their classmates, whether in class or outside it. Bored students are disruptive ones.

6) If students are being disruptive move closer to them and stand beside them. Usually you don’t have to say anything to get them to settle down and focus. Address a question to a specific student if he or she is being disruptive and wait to get an answer. Don’t let another student answer the question you have addressed to a particular student. Make it clear that students should not shout out answers, but instil into them that you will choose who will respond.

Share your classroom management tips with your colleagues. You can all learn from each other.

How to be an Assertive Teacher in 5 Easy Steps

How to be an Assertive Teacher in 5 Easy Steps

Okay, we need to come clean about this – being an assertive teacher in the classroom or being more assertive in life isn’t always easy.

In fact, becoming more assertive, when you are not naturally that way inclined, is anything but easy – it can be very difficult, so ‘How to be an assertive teacher in 5 easy steps’ is perhaps stretching it a little bit, but here are 5 steps that will certainly help you along the way on your journey to becoming more assertive.

One – Accepting your self-concept

A human being’s ability to act in an assertive way really depends on their own self-concept. It is our own internal perception of ourselves that holds the key to unlocking our assertive potential. It is really based on what we think of our own skills and strengths. It might be quite different from how others perceive us, but understanding that our self-concept is at the root of all our assertive behaviour (or lack of) is an important first step.

Two – What assertiveness is

Assertiveness is having the ability to articulate our ideas, thoughts and feelings in an honest, direct and appropriate way. It’s about mutual respect – respect for ourselves and respect for others.

An assertive person can influence others. They are good listeners and strong negotiators – and those skills of influencing, listening and negotiating are pretty handy skills to have in the classroom.

Being assertive means taking responsibility for our actions and not judging or blaming others (such as the students when things go wrong).

Three – What assertiveness isn’t

Assertiveness often gets confused with aggressiveness. They are not the same thing. An assertive approach aims for a positive result for the mutual benefit of all – a ‘win-win’ situation. An aggressive approach often threatens a ‘win-lose’ result: ‘If you don’t do this homework, you will do it in detention.’ (Teacher wins: pupil loses).

Four – Deflecting, Diffusing and Distracting

Teaching is a stressful job. Sod’s Law always dictates that you will face your own personal nemesis of a class last period on Friday afternoon, or that the powder keg that is teenage friendships will explode in the corridor as the bell goes just before your next lesson. And as a teacher, somehow, you have to deal with it.

Whether it’s a one-off incident, persistent low-level disruption or attention seeking/work avoiding behaviour, you can deal with these situations by being able to deflect, diffuse and distract pupils’ actions by being assertive.

Always try to isolate a situation if at all possible, removing the impact of there being an audience – an audience that can either be played up to, or will take it upon themselves to get involved.

Always try to actively listen and to speak calmly and assertively and remember the messages we give are both verbal and non-verbal.

Five – Give students some space and time

Often situations within a classroom can escalate disturbingly quickly because they become teacher-pupil confrontations. Crowding, pressuring or demanding immediate compliance from students who are already angry rarely ends well. Allowing the student to have a bit of space and time to think and to process your requests is far less aggressive and much more assertive.

Is Teacher Paperwork Increasing?

Is Teacher Paperwork Increasing?

Is Teacher Paperwork Increasing?

Going into teaching can be a daunting career choice. The idea of standing alone in front of a 20-something strong group of people hormonally inclined to dislike you and having to teach them about osmosis is enough to make anyone think twice. But as if this wasn’t deterrent enough to those looking to get into teaching, ever increasing oversight from Ofsted and the DfE and the accompanying paperwork, have bloated a teacher’s weekly workload to 59 hours for primary school teachers and to 55 for secondary school teachers.[1] But is it all doom and gloom- is the workload increasing? And is the amount of paperwork a bad thing?

Is paperwork actually increasing then?

Yes and no. Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, launched the Workload Challenge- a scheme created back in October 2014 to reduce the “unnecessary and unsustainable workload” of British teachers.[2] As part of the scheme, she asked teachers for responses to a survey of three questions:

  • What are the unnecessary and unproductive tasks which take up your time?
  • What solutions and strategies for reducing workload work well in your school? and
  • What do you think should be done by government, school or others in response to the problem?[3]

44,000 teachers responded. 56% of the respondents had said that ‘inputting, monitoring and analysing data’ contributed to the unnecessary and unproductive workload they were under- a higher proportion than for any of the other options, which included lesson planning, setting targets and implementing new initiatives. 63% of respondents stated that an ‘excessive level of detail’ was a key problem, 45% thought that duplication added too much to their workload and 41% complained of their work was overly bureaucratic.[4]

In another government survey related to teacher workload, 44.6% of classroom teachers and deputy heads thought that their time spent on ‘unnecessary or bureaucratic’ tasks had increased, 41.7% thought that it had stayed the same, and only 4.8% believed that it had reduced.[5] In response to the Workload Challenge, ‘accountability or the perceived pressures of Ofsted’ was given as the most common answer to what teachers believed to be the main driving force behind unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork.[6]

So it does seem as though the paperwork load is increasing.

Is the system working?

Accountability isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes things go wrong, or somebody makes a mistake, and needs to be made responsible for their actions. For that, it’s useful. It’s also useful for quantifying and comparing one school to another- whether this helps or hinders schools is up for debate.

But when 50% of teachers in England are making plans to quit in the next two years, it’s surely time to listen to the reasons why.[7] Excessive paperwork intimidates and overwhelms PGCE students and seasoned veterans alike, and accountability to Ofsted isn’t important enough a reason for exacerbating an already dire teacher shortage. It is high time that the mounds of paperwork reach their high tide.

Have you noticed a difference in the quantity of paperwork? Leave your comments below.


[1] http://tdtrust.org/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-teacher-workload-survey-2

[2] http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7222/CBP-7222.pdf

[3] http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7222/CBP-7222.pdf

[4] http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7222/CBP-7222.pdf

[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/285941/DFE-RR316.pdf

[6] http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7222/CBP-7222.pdf

[7] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34426598 

Top 10 Fun Ways to Engage Children into Learning

Top 10 Fun Ways to Engage Children into Learning

Early years and primary school students learn best by experimenting and exploring the environments (Active Learning/ Experiential Learning), and to do so they make full use of their senses (Multi-Sensory Learning). They will always need lots of positive feedback to boost their confidence and to encourage them to explore their interests further (Positive Pedagogy). They also require enough space and freedom to satisfy their individual needs and preferences (Personalised Learning).

Here’s 10 tips how to provide interesting learning opportunities for your students:

1. Creative Experiments

Organise work and play area in your classroom in a way your students can experiment with whatever they find inspiring, e.g. dismantling an old CD player or a radio, constructing a vehicle from spare parts, making new fashion from dress-up costumes, sand & water play space, reading corner, etc. Let your students decide how and when they want to use the play area, and ideally do not ask them to tidy it up right away. Some projects may take longer.

2. Reading Corner

It has to be functional and super exciting, especially now in the era of mobile devices. Ideally the designated reading area would be carpeted to let students read and play on the floor. You may also want to add some bean bags, a small table, and some chairs or a sofa. Make sure the reading space is a private area free from noise and other distractions. Organise the books in boxes or on shelves making sure they are at your students’ eye level, and that your students can access them easily at all times. Every few days display 4-5 books as ‘Books of the Day / Week’ putting them in a visible place to attract your students’ extra attention.

3. Apps and eBooks

Both offer excellent opportunities for Multi-Sensory Learning. There are apps that will foster your students’ Literacy and Numeracy skills, support their Creativity, or help them extend their Knowledge and Understanding of the World. School children are always expected to demonstrate knowledge within limited timeframes, and their skills will be tested regularly. So, to help them reduce the stress and offer some extra practice that is definitely more fun than just regular pen and pencil exercises, consider offering a bunch of apps that combine an element of fun with some form of learning or even testing.

4. Role Plays

A fantastic way to help your students express themselves creatively by pretending they are their favourite movie heroes, book characters, or even real life people. By providing some dress-up costumes, a few everyday objects, some cardboard boxes and coloured pens and pencils should be enough to keep your students happily busy. And besides knights and princesses other popular choices are fire fighters, actors, singers, cooks, vets, shop assistants, doctors or police officers. It’s quite easy to support your students’ learning about the world and jobs by using some objects that reflect the profession of their choice. Then playing becomes more meaningful and provides excellent opportunities for learning social and communication skills.

5. Exploring Nature

Let your students spend more time outdoors whether it’s a local park, the school playground, a nearby beach or woods. Not only your students will have a chance to make new friends but also learn more about the world by playing with natural toys (such as sticks, pebbles, pine cones, sand, mud, water) and sneak-peaking on animals and insects. As they interact with the world around it is always a great lesson on safety and managing risks.

6. Photo Hunt

One of the best ways to support your students’ creativity is to work with photographs. Just grab a camera and explore the world with them. Children are usually more observant than adults and they see beyond the obvious, which may be a great starting point for classroom discussions. You can start with a no-topic session allowing your students to spontaneously capture whatever they find intriguing. Then, you can extend your photo hunts to regular themed outings and add an element of a mission to it.

7. Growing plants

Encourage your students to grow their own plants and observe the growing process. It will be one of the most meaningful experiences related to time. At first it will be just waiting and watching the time passing by without any visible changes. But when a plant finally starts to emerge, it will be easier for your child to notice how much time is needed for the plant to grow through its different stages. Then, as a follow up, it may be interesting to watch a documentary about plants, which often show the growing process in a fast motion.

8. Play tents

They make students of all ages love them, are very flexible and offer endless opportunities for exciting play time. Apart from pure fun, play tents can support the development of your students’ motor skills and creativity, and foster their Knowledge and Understanding of the World. They are also perfect for role plays and play-pretend games in which your students can become medieval knights, pirates or princesses where the tent is their castle, a ship or a fortress.

9. Word Hunt

One of the most effective ways to naturally support early literacy is by helping your students notice words around them. Children sooner or later realise that letters and then words form a useful coding system. Draw your students’ attention to various strangely shaped letters that they see around every day (e.g. in shop windows, on food products or toys, etc.) and simply read them out loud. You may do the same while reading stories to your students. Let them pick funny looking, the biggest, the smallest or the weirdest letters or words they can find on the pages of their favourite books. Turn it into an exciting letter/word hunt and make it a regular activity.

10. Library visits

A very exciting adventure time with plenty of new books to choose from. Modern British libraries are a child-friendly place where your students can feel free to explore the world of books the way they like it. There is usually a comfortable carpeted reading area with soft beanbags, funny cushions, great book displays, and play spaces. Children can socialise and play with other kids, take part in educational workshops, or join story time sessions.

Guest Author:

Top 10 Fun Ways to Engage Children into Learning is written by

Vito Matt (MA Edu) – Curriculum Developer and Instructional Designer

How to Survive as a Newly Qualified Teacher

How to Survive as a Newly Qualified Teacher

How to survive as a newly qualified teacher

There’s no doubting that the PGCE year is a very tough year. Anybody who has gone through the PGCE route into teaching will remember (predominantly, with horror) the time (literally hours) it took to meticulously craft lesson plans, with timings cast in stone to the second, only to see all this good work unravel (usually by the end of the starter activity). And who could forget the pressure of juggling the need to submit essays at the same time as teaching?

There are no two ways about it, the PGCE and any route into teaching, for that matter, is very tough.

But you do get through it…

Don’t smile until Christmas

So, you have got through it and what do you face next? The NQT year. Unfortunately, this is a year that’s even tougher than the PGCE year! But, just as you got through the PGCE year, so too will you get through the NQT year. It will be tough but you will do it!

‘Don’t smile until Christmas’ is an old adage in teacher training. In fact, it’s bandied about so much it has achieved almost folklore-esque status within teacher training.

Why? Well, that’s a very good question because in many ways, the warning that you should not smile in the classroom until Christmas of your NQT year is an absolute load of rubbish!

There is a logic to it, of course. During teacher training, trainees are told ‘don’t smile until Christmas’ or you will see your classes run rings around you. It does make sense in that it is always best (and much easier) to start teaching a class by being strict and then gradually relax things a bit if needs be, than to do things the other way around.

It’s a myth that you can’t be strict and smile though and building positive relationships with students is a crucial aspect of successful teaching.

Another interpretation of ‘don’t smile until Christmas’ is far more useful though, in my opinion. It is this…

If you ‘smile to yourself’ at any point before Christmas thinking ‘I’ve cracked this. I’m now a proper teacher’ that will be the precise moment where things begin to slide.

But you should always smile in front of the kids, as much as you can!

Be consistent and persistent

A head teacher I worked for once made the argument that people often over-complicated the whole issue of school improvement. He made the point that, to a large extent, school improvement can be broken down into something that is very simple: all staff within a school community need to be consistent and persistent in everything they do and how they treat students.

There is a lot of truth in this statement and as an NQT always doing your best to be consistent and persistent will stand you in good stead.

Consistent in the way you do things, the way you treat students, the way you deal with misbehaviour, the way you mark books, etcetera. And persistent in the way you stretch, challenge and support your students and persistent in your commitment to become a better practitioner.

Review and reflect

Lessons often go wrong when you are a NQT. Let’s be honest, they often go wrong for very experienced teachers too! It’s important that you reflect on what went wrong with a lesson or with a class.

It can be a steep (and sometimes painful) learning curve, but it’s an important one. Reflect on what has happened and what you might have done differently. Be honest with yourself and don’t look for excuses and don’t be afraid to ask for support when you need it.

The ability to review and reflect on your practice helps you to build the resilience you need to survive your NQT year. But, you will survive it!

Professional Communities Can Reduce Teacher Burnout

Professional Communities Can Reduce Teacher Burnout

By Ina Krasteva

Stress is an inevitable part of almost any job. Sometimes it can be for good; it challenges you and makes you leave your comfort zone to achieve something greater. However, when the stressful moments become more frequent (and particularly when you cannot control them anymore) it may turn into a case of teacher burnout and may seriously affect your health. The stress of teaching can be a problem, but it’s not one that can’t be solved.

Teaching has always been considered a high-stress profession. Mary Bousted, the General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), has commented that the teaching profession in the UK was “no longer compatible with normal life” due to the increasing workload and demands on teachers.

According to a recent BBC survey, the level of stress among the teachers in the UK continues to increase. The survey of 3,500 members of the NASUWT teachers union showed that 83 per cent of the respondents reported work-related stress. 67 percent admitted that the teaching job had negatively affected their mental and physical health, and nearly 90 per cent of union members cited the workload as a major concern, followed by remuneration and government inspections.

As Sally Weale of The Guardian noted, four in ten new teachers will quit the teaching profession within a year of qualifying, according to a new study by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. 76 percent of the respondents cited the huge workload as a main reason for their decision to quit, and 79 percent of them also mentioned they lacked a decent work-life balance.

Bousted, in her capacity of a general secretary of ATL, openly admitted:

“Unless the government makes changes to address teachers’ workloads, we fear thousands of great teachers will leave.”

In response to the numerous research findings pointing out the heavy workload as main reason for stress and burnout among teachers, a spokesperson for the Department for Education said the government would work closely with the teachers to reduce the workload and unnecessary bureaucracy.

In the meantime, the burnout among educators remains a problem.

Some of the symptoms include, but are not limited to, emotional exhaustion, constant frustration, anger, and decreased interest in teaching.

Strong depersonalization is another warning sign for burnout. Teachers sometimes become cynical; their attitude towards pupils and colleagues is affected negatively, and they can even avoid socializing and begin to isolate themselves from the surrounding world.

Teachers suffering from burnout usually lose interest in their job. They no longer set goals and have lower confidence in their professional skills and abilities.

Consequences of teacher burnout are not limited just to the teachers. Stress and burnout are contagious; it can affect other teachers, students, families, and the education field in general.

In the beginning, teachers may not even be aware of what is wrong, and many of the initial burnout symptoms may remain hidden. Identifying the early signs of burnout is not always easy, especially at school. In businesses and corporations, burnout is a management issue; companies regularly measure employee engagement and performance. If the results are unsatisfactory, a human resources department steps in. They receive support through different channels, including coaching, career growth opportunities, personal training, and motivational incentives.

Teachers and schools, however, rarely have such systems in place. Although not all these best practices can be fully applicable to the school context, many of them could be adjusted accordingly by school management. For instance, the governing body of the institution may decide to re-organize purely administrative duties and transfer some part of them to the non-academic personnel. By this, teachers would have more time to focus on creating interesting lessons, exchanging ideas between themselves, and building a strong, motivated team. Administration can also set up a mentoring system for the new and less experienced teachers to help them develop strong skills and deal with any problems that come up early in their careers.

Identifying and understanding professional burnout among teachers matters not just in schools, but also more broadly in society. There is no universal way to avoid it completely, but one of the most effective ways to combat stress and burnout is developing a stable professional community. Setting up such a community is a shared responsibility of school leaders and teachers. It is not easy, and it does not happen overnight; nevertheless, it would benefit us all.