Thinking Ahead: Top Tips for your PGCE or NQT year

As September approaches, many prospective and experienced teachers will be thinking about the new school year – thinking about how to ensure they enjoy the last of the holidays whilst getting organised and prepared for the year. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my top tips for anybody getting ready to start a school placement as part of ITT or their NQT year.

NQT Tip 1: Perhaps most importantly, remember to keep things in perspective. During your NQT year or training year (and every subsequent year of your teaching career!) you will have lessons that don’t go well and leave you feeling disappointed. Remembering that a bad lesson is only one hour of their 25-hour week often helps to put it into perspective- sometimes, it’s far too easy to forget that we are part of a far bigger picture!

NQT Tip 2: If a resource is going to be re-useable with different year groups / topics then give it time and effort first time round and ensure you laminate it! As a geography teacher, my ‘Development Top Trumps’, ‘Sustainable London Fact Files’ and ‘Geography Through Chocolate’ resources come out multiple times a year and it was definitely worth the effort of laminating them to ensure they are reusable.

NQT Tip 3: Find techniques that make your life easier & embed them. For me, it’s my stamps that link to my current priorities (improving green pen quality & encouraging students to use subject-specific vocabulary- allowing them to ‘Speak Like A Geographer’). The stamps help me set my expectations and save so much time writing comments!

NQT Tip 4: Set up your ‘magpieing’ system (the art of collecting generously shared resources from others!) and stick to it. Mine is that when I see an idea on Twitter that I like, I ‘favourite’ the tweet and then come back and ‘unlike’ them once I’ve embedded them into lessons.

NQT Tip 5: Use every opportunity to raise the profile of your subject. Workload can mean it’s not always possible but there are so many local, national and global events to look out for- many of which are cross-curricular. Look out for events such as National Careers Week, Climate Action Week and Maths Week to name a few.

NQT Tip 6: Don’t fear group work; just fear ineffective group work. One idea is that when working in groups, give each student a different coloured pen & inform them that this is how you’ll monitor their contribution. This way, if you notice that there’s no green pen on the page, you can then talk to this student and ask them why they haven’t shared any ideas. It’s a game changer!

NQT Tip 7: Sometimes the best lessons involve minimal planning, minimal resources and are stripped-back-to-basics. Embrace it! As a geographer, I wouldn’t teach plate tectonics any other way- it only needs a white board, my brain and their books and voila.

NQT Tip 8: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, engage with your subject community. This can be through the subject specific community on Twitter (for example #TeamEnglish or #HistoryTeacher) or blogs like this one. There is also a huge array of organisations out there with fantastic resource pages- be sure to check what’s out there already before reinventing the wheel.

Kate Stockings is Head of Geography at The Hampstead School having completed her PGCE at the University of Cambridge 2014-2015. She is an author for OUP and has just completed her Masters in Education.