NQT? Five top tips for surviving your first five years

NQT Top Tips

Five top tips for surviving your first five years from TES shared by Schools Improvement, great for NQTs and experienced teachers.

Experienced teacher Christian Pountain is head of RE and director of spirituality at a secondary school in Lancashire, gives his top tips on how to survive and thrive during your first five years of teaching in the TES.

This year, as I approach one of those round figure professional milestones, I have been reflecting that I may now have more years under my belt in teaching than I have ahead of me. So here is the accumulated wisdom of 20 years’ teaching experience for those in their first five years, condensed into five quick points:

Keep the main thing the main thing
Never forget why you came into the job in the first place: teaching young people. The difference you can make to them in all their quirkiness and unpredictability, and the gratitude they have for the simplest piece of assistance you give to them, will always be enough to over-ride the negatives and keep you getting out of bed in the morning.

Get a life
Sleep well, take regular exercise and drink lots of water. Nobody will tell you this, which makes it even more important.

Think of a push-bike: it is balanced precisely because it is always slightly out of balance, to one side or the other. There are times during the school year when you have to work hard, but never let your work become more important to you than your family or your loved ones.

Hold your position and you’ll be on the leading edge of ‘new’ educational thinking within five years 

I was told this during my PGCE year by a wise old geography teacher. The figure he quoted was ten years, but I’m convinced we only need half of that. History is cyclical: it has to repeat itself, because nobody listens. But it only takes five years to outlast every child in an 11-16 school and for them to believe you are part of the furniture and your way is right.

Be comfortable with complexity
Some things in teaching are black and white, but there are also countless shades of grey. Teach yourself to live with it.

Who you are is more important than what you do
Remember your career progression will always be led by your identity, not your opportunities. You are a human being, not a human doing. Work on your character. The next thing will come out of the next you. In a couple of decades’ time, you’ll be half way to retirement, looking back on a very satisfying first half of your career.