RQT teachers – Advice for early career educators
As a recently qualified teacher, when it comes to confidence, fake it until you make it…
- by Ros Wilson
How’s the start of your fourth year in this brilliant profession going?
Congratulations on successfully reaching this stage of your teaching career. I remember you saying, at the start of your third year, that if things weren’t any better by Christmas you were going to give up on teaching. Well, you didn’t! You’re still very much here.
Now, first things first, have you ever wondered why the profession so often says things like, “He’s moved up to KS2” or “She’s moved down to Y1”, as though being in KS2 somehow makes you more senior? Don’t be fooled by it. There’s no seniority in teaching the older students. In my experience I was always petrified of the ‘ankle biters’.
Give me older children that you can share a joke with and who can sit down to a task in a lesson and spend 30 minutes or more on it without any distractions. It’s not a promotion – it’s just different. Horses for courses, as the saying goes.
I’m so glad you’ve accepted the advice to observe teachers you admire and absorb positive qualities into your own practice, although please remember that that doesn’t mean you have to dye your hair purple if that’s their preferred colour! I’m a huge believer in ‘shoulders back, chin held high, make eye contact.’
When you exude confidence, people believe you are confident. And then, one day, you’ll realise you’re no longer emulating that demeanour; it’s become a natural part of your teaching repertoire.
If your next class has a reputation for being a bit challenging at times, see that as a compliment. SLT must think you’re the person best suited to calming them down and challenging them in their work. Despite what you might think, they haven’t done it just to make you finally flip and resign. You’ll be perfect for the job.
Just remember those basic rules for the first few weeks with a new class: clear and firm bottom lines (in classroom behaviour – not fashion); make eye contact and smile; plan brain breaks, debates and discussions; be creative and exciting and – if in doubt – use appropriate incentives and rewards.
Early career teachers
I recently wrote a book to help early career teachers gain experience as they move through the first five years of their career. I wrote to admired colleagues and their recollections were so reassuringly similar.
Dame Alison Peacock had me in stitches with a story about leeches. Another story about a creepy puppet with an awful Sheffield accent was hilarious. I was so struck by the similarities in the stories I heard that I sought out more experiences on Twitter. Again, teachers all had comparable stories to tell.
How can any educator plan for falling out of the window backwards, mid-sentence, or being told by the police to ‘fetch a teacher’ when in the middle of trying to organise pupils when the school bus breaks down and the children are running riot? There’s no training for this. A more-experienced teacher would be just as ill-prepared.
The message you should take from these anecdotes is this – you are not alone. We all started knowing and understanding little and making mistakes, and we all persisted to do this job we love.
So, as you move forward, be assured that despite the fact that college lecturers rarely cover it, almost every teacher in the country met the same dilemmas, difficulties and disasters as you, and we all overcame them.
Keep watching people you admire among the staff in school and model your demeanour and behaviour on them, in confidence, stance and communication.
Remember, every step back is three steps forward towards becoming that articulate, engaging and sought-after teacher that new recruits to the profession will watch, admire and emulate in years to come.