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How to Survive (and Thrive) in your First Term as an Early Career Teacher

How to Survive (and Thrive) in your First Term as an Early Career Teacher

Date posted : 03 January 2022

Your first term as an Early Career Teacher (also known as an NQT) will be one of the busiest periods of your life. Late-night lesson planning, creating teaching materials, marking homework, setting expectations with your new students, getting to know your colleagues: by December you’ll be looking forward to the Christmas break more than the students!  

Whatever happens, your first term will certainly be memorable. To help you out, we’ve got a bit of advice on how to make it successful too. Here is everything you need to know on how to survive - and thrive - during your first term as an Early Career Teacher!  

1. Take advantage of the support available

It’s easy to feel a little bit callow and inexperienced in your first term as an NQT when you’re surrounded by veteran teachers. But these people can be your biggest source of moral support and useful information. 

The most experienced teachers in your department have been in your shoes once upon a time. They will most likely be sympathetic and willing to give you feedback, advice and help. All you have to do is reach out and ask.   

You can also lean on your fellow ECTs; a sense of camaraderie can make all the difference in a daunting new job.  

Check out our recent article here to learn about some all the sources of support that you can turn to as an ECT. 

2. Use your PPA time wisely

You’re probably already aware of the Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time allowance that every teacher is entitled to. But did you know that, as an Early Career Teacher, you’re also allowed to take an extra 10% in your first year of your scheduled timetable for additional supportive activities over and above your PPA, and an extra 5% in your second? 

While some of this time should be spent on marking and planning, you can also spend them being mentored, attending school meetings or reflecting on your recent strategies.  

3. Make the most of development opportunities  

Your school will provide you with a range of professional development opportunities, but it’s up to you to take advantage of them. During a busy term, it can be tempting to turn down opportunities like courses or lesson observations to give yourself more planning time, but this can actually harm your development in the long run. That doesn’t mean you should say yes to everything. Instead, it’s best to consult with your ECT mentor about the most beneficial uses of your time.  

If you’re registered with Teaching Personnel, you will also have access throughout your whole induction period (and beyond) to high-quality, accredited Continuing Professional Development courses through our CPD Academy.

4. Reflect on your teaching highs and lows  

It’s hard to hear but it’s inevitable – at some point in your first term as an Early Career Teacher, you will teach a lesson that goes wrong. Yet you can take some solace in the fact that, at a different point, you will teach a lesson that goes perfectly.  

It is very hard to predict when either of these things will happen. While one scenario is obviously far more enjoyable than the other, in both cases, it’s important to spend a little time reflecting on what you can take away from each. Knowing what went well (and what didn’t) means you can act on this in the future and stop yourself from repeating the same mistakes.  

5. Get to know your students

New teachers can be prone to rigidly sticking to lesson plans, rather than going with the flow. Flexibility is one of the most important things you will learn in your first term as an ECT.  

Unyielding adherence to your lesson plan cramps your style and stops you from unleashing your all-important human touch. The key to engaging your students and developing positive relationships is getting to know them. In some cases, this means abandoning the plan to take the class on another tangent that is interesting to them or to discuss the outcome of the recent sports day.  

As long as you clearly set your expectations from the first lesson and stick to them, a rapport should start to develop naturally.  

6. Remember why you started

Whether you have an all-consuming passion for your subject, love working with young people, or want to feel like you’re really making a difference in this world, we all have our specific reasons for becoming a teacher. Keeping your own ‘why’ in mind will keep you motivated during the low points of your first term and inspire to try even harder during the highs.  

Teaching Personnel is here to help you flourish in your teaching career 

As the UK’s largest educational recruitment agency, Teaching Personnel has helped thousands upon thousands of new teachers progress in their career over the years.  

Whether we’re finding them jobs through our ECT Pool or giving them access to our six specially-designed packages of ongoing support and development once they’ve taken up their offers, we’re always here for newly qualified teachers. Let’s work together to kick your career off the right way.  

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