I thought i’d begin my blog by reflecting on my NQT year. Instead of revelling in what went wrong and telling you how arduous it was, I thought it would be good to consider some practical things that I wish I knew when I started. Let’s begin with wellbeing.
Illness will happen.
Snotty noses, grubby hands and coughs in the face – it’s impossible to escape them. I had been told the year before by a colleague that all NQTs get ill in their first year and she was right. For me, it was the sickness bug that knocked me for six. A simple way to prevent (but definitely not to solve) illness is to carry vitamin C drink tablets with you to school. I wish i’d have done this sooner. In the summer term I used them a few times and it solved the beginnings of a cold.
Protect your rest.
I spent a short period of time off school this year due to anxiety and stress. In that short time, I realised that I had not protected this essential bodily function. As teachers, our work is ‘decision dense’ and we ‘perform’ for lots of the day to engage our pupils in learning. In addition, challenging behaviour is exhausting, not to mention explaining this to the parents after school! Try to do your very best to set up a clear cut distinction between your work and home life. At times this will be impossible but make sure you can play catch up at certain times in the week by doing something you enjoy that is not associated with work.
Don’t depend on Caffeine.
I regularly found myself at my desk on a Monday morning not being well rested after a long weekend. My solution was often to drink more coffee to get me through the day. This was a really poor choice. I found myself becoming jittery and anxious, in addition to getting headaches. This had a direct impact on my teaching. I became less patient and struggled to remain calm with certain pupils in my class at times. Coffee is a wonderful beverage but only in moderation. Try to limit yourself to between 1-3 cups a day. Why not even try to sit in the staffroom until you’ve finished your whole coffee and see it as an opportunity to integrate ‘rest’ into your day.
Eat lunch everyday.
By this I don’t mean that you should have five minutes scoffing a sandwich at your computer answering emails in your lunch break. Neither do I mean have a three course meal in the staffroom that you have painstakingly cooked the night before. Have a period of rest, where you sit, eat and talk to colleagues. Consider what you eat: have you eaten a piece of fruit, some carbs and some protein that day? This sounds so simple but I forgot it within three weeks of starting my NQT year and reverted to barely eating at all during school to ‘save time’. A very bad move. Carve out time and space to prepare easy to make food for lunch times. I noticed the benefits of this within a few days.
Make the most of your travel time/commute.
I used to spend my morning cycle stressed and anxious about the day ahead. All I could think about was getting to the printer first before someone else got there (!). Similarly on the way home, I felt nothing but worry about getting all my marking done that I had carried strenuously in my rucksack. As I reflect on this, I realise that this commuting time just became and extra hour of worry and stress every day. Instead, in my summer term, I decided to walk. It took me 35 minutes. I listened to music, books and at times just enjoyed looking at the world around me. The point i’m making here is not about the mode of transport; it’s about the principle of integrating reflection into your everyday schedule in a meaningful way – and that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘reflecting on your practice’. I found my time walking to and from school so profitable for considering not only what had happened that day but also about my life in general.
What are your thoughts? Are there any things that you’d add to this list? I hope this has been helpful to you if you are starting out in the profession and I’d love to hear your thoughts.