Some Quick Tips for NQTs and Trainees

September 3, 2013

I’ve noticed that what I have written in the past about new teachers emphasises the worst case scenario about how bad training and support in schools is:

However, in this post I will give as many quick tips as possible for those getting started.


1) Don’t undermine yourself. Don’t negotiate rules. Don’t let kids tell you what is allowed. You set your rules. If necessary put them on the wall or make students write them in books.

2) Make a seating plan. Put it on the board so as to get kids into it. Alphabetical order may help as it means you can check they are in the right place as you take the register. Have several copies (one on your desk; one in a file; one in the box with their books) so you can’t lose it in the lesson. Keep kids in their seats. Refer to the plan so you know who you are speaking to, and they know you know who they are.

3) Have a paper register so you can write down behaviour incidents. You do not want anybody to be punished for something that you won’t be able to recall later. Write down serious incidents as soon as possible, particularly the exact wording of any rudeness or swearing.

4) Try to follow the behaviour policy. In some schools the policy is a joke and staff are deterred from using it. However, as a new teacher you are less likely to be told off for using it. Nevertheless, do focus on the two big issues: disobedience and interruptions.

5) Avoid turning your back on the class.

6) After giving an instruction (particularly if it was an instruction to start the work) check compliance; never assume that students will obey a teacher that has left them to get on with it.


1) Make explanations quick and clear.

2) Don’t let anybody talk over you.

3) Develop your questioning skills over time; don’t get carried away with unnecessary questions where you don’t care about the answers. Questioning is for assessment; it doesn’t make teaching more interesting and can slow it down.

4) The most likely problem with understanding something new is that kids are without necessary prior knowledge. Never assume they’ll know something just because they should.

5) Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself if you think somebody isn’t listening.

6) Remember you are passing on information or giving an explanation. it’s not a show. In fact, it’s not even about you.


1) Don’t do activities that rely on the good will or compliance of the class until you know you can count on them. It is better if the first lesson is boring than if it is destroyed by bad behaviour.

2) Avoid activities that require long explanations. Teacher talk should be rationed for telling kids what they need to know and explaining content, not listing the thirty-seven rules of an educational card game you have invented.

3) If you are teaching an academic subject don’t be afraid of written work and using the textbook. Teachers may use these less and less over time (particularly the latter) but your first priority must be to make your planning and your classroom manageable. If you are spending longer planning than teaching you will destroy yourself.

4) If you have never taught something before, see if you can get a resource from somebody who has. And make sure it is somebody who makes kids work.

5) If kids work on paper or a worksheet their name must go on it. Check every child in the room has their name on their work.

Be prepared

1) Make sure you always know where to find the following:

  • tissues (enough to mop up a spilled drink);
  • spare pencils (already sharpened);
  • paper (enough for a class);
  • spare board pen;
  • emergency set of worksheets (probably a wordsearch);
  • any resource you are using in the lesson (and a spare in case something is lost or destroyed).

2) Make sure you know what you’ll say if:

  • students (particularly more than one at a time) ask to go to the loo;
  • you are asked a personal question;
  • a student “drops” their pen on the floor;
  • a student argues with a simple instruction;
  • a student yells “I’m stuck” but refuses to cooperate with any attempt to help them.

3) Get plenty of rest. If you can’t sleep, don’t worry about it but stay in bed and keep your eyes shut. Don’t get up and work. Don’t be afraid of taking a “sanity break” rather than working through break, lunchtime and immediately at the end of the school day.

4) If your plan to stay healthy is to go to the gym or have a run after work several days a week, give up now. Eating sensibly (i.e. not as much as you ate when you were exercising regularly) and exercising at the weekends is more likely to work.

5) Make sure that you aren’t expecting teaching and the friendship of children to give your life meaning. The kids aren’t there to solve your existential crisis. They are there to learn.

If you are an experienced teacher, please add further tips in the comments.


  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. Always have an alternative plan for when the technology fails (it will).

  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel – use and adapt other colleagues planning. If you spend longer planning an activity than it will take to deliver in a lesson you are probably wasting your time. Don’t take anything the kids say personally.

    Plus, as singsunshine says, technology does not always work – the likelyhood of an ICT failure is directly proportional to the importance of the lesson!

  4. Good tips.

    My (secondary school|) ‘loo’ tactic is to agree but ‘kindly offer’ to give up, at break, as much time as they are out of the classroom to make sure that they don’t miss out or get behind.

    Beauty is that students/parents can’t throw back that you denied them the chance to go, or that you gave a punishment for them needing to go – afterall all you are doing is giving uo some of your free time to help them keep up to speed – really they should be thanking you!

    First couple of requests in the year will go anyway – you’ll need to be absolutely clear about making sure you follow through with giving genuine help over break/lunch for at least as long as they were out of the room.

    My first year of teaching I’d find at least one urgent toilet visit per lesson – it drove me nuts as I suspected many were false but didn’t know which. Using this approach I probably get one or two requests a half term max (which are almost certainly genuine).

    Just be very careful of the very small number of students who may have a genuine toilet problem. The school should advise you of these students if they are in your classes. Obviously this problem is far from fun for the kids.

  5. Don’t be fooled that most students like easy teachers who don’t push them to their best and let them slide.

    They might enjoy it in the short term but medium to long term they’ll resent it (and you) greatly.

  6. Fantastic Tips- particularly Behaviour point no 3.

    Very wise words indeed.

  7. 1) Learn who will support you and who won’t as quickly as you can. Then learn whose support is effective/useful and whose isn’t.

    2) If you don’t know ask

    3) When you’re going to be observed run your lesson plan and resources past someone experienced beforehand.

    4) Remember that it does get easier eventually.

  8. Superb post, I will be directing a number of New staff to it.

    The bit about staff being deterred from using behaviour policies worries me. I have experience of only a small number if schools, but behaviour policies have been there to be used in all. I feel this support is essential, particularly for NQTs.

  9. Don’t worry if kids act like a request or task is abnormal. Carry on with conviction.

  10. Wow, how things have changed and how stressful teaching has become, I can count on my figures the number of times I lost sleep through work, and then mainly through the need to change jobs, and I did have responsible, eventually senior management, jobs.
    I have memories of a history teacher, who was referred to as a master because he had a degree, who sauntered around the classroom with an air of insouciance delivering a lesson on British political history. After his discourse he would sit down, put his feet up with his hands behind his head and point his fingers together and say something along the lines of ” compare and contrast in three hundred words Disraeli’s second ministry with his first”, and then read the Telegraph.
    We had a math’s teacher who would explain the methodology assisted by an example on the blackboard, of, say, tackling quadratic equations then tell us to get out our text books and tackle a given exercise. He would then stair fixedly out of the window for 30 minutes before giving us the answers.

  11. 1) You are always right, even when you’re wrong.

    2) The kids on the C/D borderline are a flipping nuisance, not your main priority.

    3) Take a nap at lunchtime or in a free period. You need it to get you through the day, so if SMT claim that it means you’re slacking, that’s a very good sign that they’re not worth working for.

    4) Remember that you’re in it because you love your subject above all else. If you don’t, then the kids you teach it to are going to get a raw deal. You also love the content of the subject, rather than any of the empty marketing tools, masquerading as lesson activities, designed to make it ‘more fun’. Nothing is more fun than learning an interesting piece of knowledge, and all knowledge is interesting if is conveyed in a way that shows that the teacher thinks it’s interesting.

    That said, one of your chief jobs is to sell your subject, and to make the kids in your class want to do it to the exclusion of anything else for the rest of their lives. One child choosing your subject for A level, or when s/he could otherwise have dropped it, is a triumph for you, and should e celebrated as such. A good school can, therefore, be defined as one in which nobody can ever decide which subjects to drop, because they love them all so much.

    5) Spelling and punctuation are vitally important, regardless of what the trendies say.

    6) If a trendy tells you to do something, do the opposite. It’s the modern equivalent of the tinker’s dog.

  12. Beg, borrow and steal resources

  13. […] I've noticed that what I have written in the past about new teachers emphasises the worst case scenario about how bad training and support in schools is: FAQs for NQTs Is This Normal? How to Destro…  […]

  14. I strongly disagree with pretending to be right even when you are wrong – the children always see through it and resent it. Would you do this to an adult? Instead, gain respect by apologising when you are wrong, just as you would to an adult.

  15. A very worthy post. I particularly like the very practical suggestions. I’d like to add two things.
    Firstly, remember that you are not paid to be popular – so do not beat yourself up about that. It’s far more important to be a good teacher. As it happens, the little acts of kindness and thoughtfulness will be remembered and appreciated in years to come – so too will your good teaching.
    Secondly, even if you do not see yourself as a trade union type person, join a teaching union. After many years of being a union caseworker, I’ve represented dozens of teachers who never dreamt that they would need a teacher and ended up grateful that they had joined with nearly everybody else when they started.

    • “remember that you are not paid to be popular” – wise words.

      Popularity can be easily gained by being ‘easy’ with the students but this will be short term and the students will resent it/you when they realise they are falling behind.

      Long term popularity – or perhaps respect is a better word – can’t be gained as quickly but comes from developing a reputation as a teacher who helps all students achieve highly.

  16. Beware the overly simplistic behaviour policy. I encountered one that insisted on 3 warnings before any sanction! Verbal warnings might be fine for chatter, but serious offences need proportionate sanctions.
    Choose your battles. Let experienced teachers sort out the issue in the corridor.
    Use the resources available. In my 4 years I taught 3 different KS3 schemes and 5 different GCSE courses. Higher authorities can impose as much change as they want, but they are going to have to accept that this will mean more off-the-shelf lessons.

  17. As others have noted, a genuinely useful set of tips. I’d add these two.
    1) Never have conversations in corridors. Make children come to you at agreed times, in agreed spaces.
    2) Check your classroom between each lesson for litter and graffiti, then do something about both. After a while…you won’t ever need to.

  18. Excellent advice. The need to establish and thereafter stick rigidly to rules and boundaries cannot be overstated.

  19. London Tefl is offering intensive is an accrediting body of TEFL/TESOL courses and course.

  20. Very solid advice, if, as always a little jaundiced. Your first year starts hard and does get easier. Remember that the students generally want to learn and want you to teach them.
    The biggest piece of advice is obvious but essential…get help before the wheels come off…make your mentor work for you and get them in your classroom. If they have no ideas then ask for someone who does.
    Doing things with students outside of the classroom, like clubs or sports, can also accelerate your place as an established MOS.
    Oh yes and finally use anything good you do, like an observation, to enquire about your contract being made permanent if you are now one of the many one year NQTs…

  21. 1) Children are products of their experiences, but students are products of your expectations – the VAST majority of your pupils are capable of much more than they think they are, and it’s your job to help them realise it.

    2) Don’t give a damn what teenagers think of you (that’s what your own teenaged years were for).

    3) You don’t always have to agree with experienced colleagues – sometimes they’re wrong too.

  22. […] Some quick tips for NQTs and Trainees | @OldAndrewUK | Blog […]

  23. […]  Quick tips for NQT’s – Old Andrew […]

  24. […] very experienced Andrew Old with advice on behaviour, teaching and preparation which can be found here. A recent article appeared in the TES by my good friend Tom Rogers reflecting on what he wish he […]

  25. […] is in homage to an original post written by the master […]

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