Your first steps into teaching
Guidenace on achieving Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) as well as what to expect on your first day, how to get by in the Staffroom and what teachers are really like on the job.
As part of your assessment to achieve Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) you will be required to submit coursework and complete assessments. Balancing this with lesson planning, marking and other school work can be a challenge. Reflection or evaluation is also a crucial aspect of the teacher training process.
You will need to provide written evidence that you have reflected upon most of the lessons you teach or observe. It is worth spending 15 minutes each day on this so that it doesn’t mount up. When filing observation notes or any other work that can contribute to your final portfolio, it is useful to use a ring binder with sections for each QTS standard. This will prove invaluable when you come to create your final presentation for your QTS assessor. For more information on the QTS standards, visit theTDA website.
Many training institutions stagger deadlines across the year, so students don’t get too overloaded, but it is easy to get caught up with the demands of your training. It may sound obvious, but it is important to spend a couple of hours on your diary at the beginning of the year. Your training provider can give you a list of key dates and deadlines at the beginning of your course.
Noting these down in your diary, along with reminders about coursework and assessment deadlines, will help you plan your workload. In addition, don’t forget to be realistic; build in enough time for lesson planning. If each period or lesson lasts for one hour, it is likely that you will need at least this much preparation time.
Nevertheless, there may be times when you feel tired, stressed and overworked. If this happens, don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to other trainees, your school mentor or tutor about how you are feeling. As well as providing a listening ear, they may be able to offer practical help or solutions. Studying, planning lessons or even marking with fellow trainees are great ways to share ideas and ease the load. Alternatively you can call the Teacher Support Network support line where our coaches and counsellors are there to offer to both practical and emotional support.
Training to teach involves a great deal of coursework, therefore you might find the hints below useful for tackling essays.
- Time management – plan enough time to research, write and evaluate your essay.
- If possible, discuss the title and content with fellow students to better understand the purpose of the essay. This should make it more manageable.
- If you find yourself staring at a blank screen, make a start by getting everything that you know on the subject down on paper. You don’t always have to begin with the introduction and actually getting some content down will give you the confidence to go on to other sections.
- Check the marking criteria before you start so that you know where to spend your time and where to place emphasis.
- Bear in mind who will be reading your work. Use relevant terminology but don’t overdo the jargon. The main priority is that your research and subsequent argument can be clearly understood.
- Write the bibliography as you go along so that you don’t have to face this huge and time-consuming task at the end, when you may be in a rush to complete.
- Always support your argument with appropriate, reliable facts and research – properly referenced. Find out what is the preferred style for references.
- Make sure the essay is structured and objective, but don’t forget to define and develop your argument or discussion clearly.
- Finally, after you have proof, read it; see if anyone is willing to take a look. It can be difficult to see your own mistakes.
It can take time to acclimatise to working in a school. If you’ve come straight from university or college, it could be your first taste of working life. For career changers, it might be necessary to adapt to a different working environment. If you’re from overseas, you may have to familiarise yourself with a completely new education system. Depending on the training route you have chosen, you need to go on placement for a minimum of 18 weeks in at least two schools.
Many teachers describe their job as a way of life, as opposed to an occupation. Even when they are not in the classroom, they are thinking about school. This can be difficult to get used to at first. It is really important to be organised and leave time for interests and hobbies. Achieving a good work-life balance will help minimise stress levels and will benefit your overall professional effectiveness as a teacher.
It’s also a good idea to work on developing your communication skills, as they will be central to your new role. The relationships you form with staff, students, parents and governors can make all the difference, especially in the early stages of your career.
Familiarise yourself with school policy and procedure for more effective teaching practice both in the classroom and in the area of pastoral care.
Find out about the following:
- Health and safety.
- Equal opportunities.
- Behaviour management.
- Child protection.
Teachers from other countries are becoming more of a feature in UK schools, particularly in London, south east England and other large cities. If you have come from overseas you will need to obtain QTS before you can find a permanent job. You can discover more about the Overseas Trained Teacher Programme (OTTP) by going to http://www.education.gov.uk/get-into-teaching/.
Starting out as a teacher can feel like a daunting experience – and even more so if you are starting out in a new country too. Of course, there will be lots of things you need to learn: how the education system works; what the national curriculum is all about and your legal as well as contractual obligations.
Once you achieve QTS, you begin your induction year. This compulsory period of induction provides you with a combination of monitoring, assessment, support and guidance to help you through your first year of teaching. Think of it as your opportunity to really learn the ropes – experience as much as you possibly can and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
You will have the chance to identify any issues as and when they arrive and then tackle them early on, before they become a problem. You will still have regular contact with your local authority which, along with the headteacher, has responsibility for ensuring that your training and support is up to scratch.
You will also be assigned an induction tutor, who will usually be an experienced member of senior staff. They will be your main point of contact in school and you should approach them first if you have any problems or queries. They are there to help.
Throughout your induction year you will receive regular progress checks and have the opportunity to observe more experienced teachers. You may also get the chance to shadow a teacher. Observe how they manage tasks, such as recording and tracking students’ progress. You will pick up tips that will help you in your induction year and beyond.
This factsheet also contains information on what to expect if you are told that your teaching in your induction year is considered unsatisfactory.
Like any new job, your first day at a new school can be daunting. The best advice you can take is to be as prepared as you can. Work out your journey time in advance so that you don’t turn up late on your first day. Familiarise yourself with the school timetable, staff handbook and your class list. Develop an understanding of the school ethos and culture, such as attitudes towards school uniform, homework, behaviour and equal opportunities. The more information you can glean before you start, the easier you will find it to settle in.
What not to wear
We’ve all wished the ground would open up and swallow us after making embarrassing fashion faux pas. But whether we like it or not, first impressions count. Find out what the official, or unofficial, dress code is for your school. Will you be expected to wear a suit, or are things more casual and relaxed? Have a think about how you will be presenting yourself to the pupils, staff and parents.
Good communication skills are central to the teacher’s role. The relationships you form with staff, students, parents and governors can make all the difference in the early stages of your career. Make it a priority to build and develop these relationships from the outset. The following factsheets will give you tips on developing communication skills and things to avoid:
In the school environment, you will have to interact with many different kinds of personalities. Building positive working relationships with colleagues takes time and effort. However hard you try, it isn’t always possible to get along with everyone you work with and there may be times when you don’t see eye to eye. Check out our factsheet to help improve communication in the staffroom.
Fitting in can be hard to do, especially as a new teacher when you are trying to make a good impression, understand the school culture, and work out who’s who. Here are some tips to help you find your niche:
- Take your time: you don’t have to suss everyone out. Equally, they don’t need to know you inside out within the first week!
- Beware of being isolated within a department. This may stop you forming other helpful relationships, notably with other new teachers.
- If you do notice cliques, try to stay neutral. It is important not to get drawn into internal disputes.
- Try not to allow your enthusiasm to be dampened by others’ negativity. You need to retain positive energy for your teaching.
- You’ll become closer to some colleagues than to others. Remember that pupils – especially teenagers – love to speculate about relationships between teachers. Try to keep a professional lid on all feuds and romances.
- Help others when you can: people will respect someone they can rely on and will be more likely to return the favour.
The pecking order
In any school there exists a complex network of relationships and the official hierarchy does not necessarily reflect where the ‘power’ lies. Help and guidance may come from unexpected sources. Working out how the staff relate to each other is invaluable, especially the relationships between teaching and support staff. It may be that the school secretary and teaching assistants are key people in making your time at work run smoothly.
You’re the new kid on the block
Well-established staff can sometimes feel threatened by change or new ideas. Acknowledge the skills and expertise of your more experienced colleagues but don’t forget that your view matters. Have the confidence to voice your ideas and suggest improvements – but remember to tread carefully.
Mugs and chairs
At break time, it is worth observing the ‘staffroom etiquette’. For example, be careful not to use someone else’s mug or sit in someone’s ‘special’ chair. It may sound petty but this could help you to avoid getting off to a bad start with your colleagues!
Teaching assistants, administrative, site management and other support staff have a crucial role to play in the successful running of a school. They should be able to provide information about the culture and organisation of your school and provide invaluable support for your teaching, so make a point of getting to know them.
It’s important to remember that many new teachers find it hard fitting in. As a new teacher, you should be assigned a more experienced member of staff as your mentor or induction tutor. They can be a great source of help and guidance during your first year of teaching. But if you don’t get along or feel you are not getting the support you need, this relationship can become strained. In this situation, it is vital to seek advice from a senior member of staff, who should be able to help resolve your difficulties. If you have asked for help from senior staff, but feel the situation has still not been resolved, you may wish to consult your union representative.
I felt my mentor – also my head of department – was over-critical, always trying to pick holes in me. I’d often go home in tears. After yet another lesson observation where she’d torn my teaching apart, I decided I’d had enough. I requested a meeting with her and asked for a senior colleague to sit in, as a neutral party. I told her how her behaviour was making me feel, how it was affecting my confidence. She looked horrified. I don’t think she even realised what she was doing. Things were a bit frosty for a while but she definitely made the effort to be more positive after that.
When I first started teaching, my mentor was one of the senior management team. She was overloaded with work and seemed far too busy to give me much time. I tried to tackle her, but she couldn’t seem to even spare the time to discuss it. Eventually, I had a confidential chat with another senior teacher. She had a tactful talk with my mentor and offered to take over the mentoring, which meant I finally got the support I needed.