Dear Nicky,

So much hard work has brought you to this point – your NQT year is about to begin and you have so many challenges ahead, but you will also be witness to some wonderful ‘light-bulb’ moments when a student finally grasps a concept they have been grappling with. You will peer into the faces of curious learners who are desperate to know the next part of the story or who demand answers to impossible questions… and at some point this year you will feel a glow inside when you hear one student say to another, “that lesson was alright, wasn’t it?” BUT it will not happen straight away! You need to establish the right climate in your classroom and forge YOUR identity as a teacher in your own right; only then will you be in control of what happens in your classroom and reap the rewards of what will be a tough, but incredibly fulfilling year!

Where to start? There is so much to remember… a new routine, new students, new colleagues… my advice would be to start with learning as many names in the quickest time possible, especially the names of the students you will be teaching. This knowledge is putty in your hands – where possible, start addressing each student by name and they will soon know you mean business! Use a seating plan, avoid moving students around in the first few weeks to give yourself time to put faces to names and learn where students like their name to be shortened and those that despise it! Greet students into your classroom by name, call on individuals to contribute to the lesson and individualise praise as you travel around the classroom (you will soon learn the students who are motivated by this and those who prefer to have it written down and not made public!) This is not just about behaviour management, this is the start of relational teaching and an investment of time at the beginning of the relationship will pay huge dividends later on in the journey you will take these students on.

Here is my challenge to you – during a lesson, engage individually with as many of the students in front of you as you can. Show them that you truly care about the progress they are making in your classroom, that they can approach you for help and that you will support them to take risks in their learning. This will lead to your students growing in confidence and challenging themselves to step out of their comfort zone, and we all know that this is the time at which they will begin to fly! Make your classroom a place your students look forward to entering, not because the learning is safe and easy, but because the conditions are right for them to be challenged and exposed, without being fearful. Think about the teachers you remember most from school, the ones that at some point have inspired you to pursue this career and spend your working life back at school – what made them great? The passion they had for their subject, the amount of knowledge you learned from them… and how much they cared about their students!

Finally, what about those hard-to-reach students? The one who very vocally declares “are we going to do something interesting today?” Or the student who struggles to make eye contact with you, or the one that will only give you a one-word answer no matter how you pose the question? As hard as it may be to crack the egg, get to know them and what makes them tick. Five minutes on a Sunday evening checking the football scores, asking them about the Motocross race they took part in on the weekend, finding out more about the dance show they are working so hard towards, might just give you the power to make a passing comment that changes the way a student views you… this teacher cares about me outside of these four walls… she’s taken an interest in my interests… now, let’s see what she has to offer in her lesson today!

Good luck – be resilient, ask for support when you need it and enjoy your NQT year!

Best wishes, Nicky xxx

Nicola Powling

People Development Lead and Faculty Leader

Mildenhall College Academy