Updated: Jul 1
The ECT phase can be a challenging time for any teacher and it is important that you go into this process with the right mindset and expectations. In this article I will try to give you an insight into the process, using research evidence and my own experiences from the early stages of my teaching career. In the first of this blog series- I will focus on how you should manage your expectations and prepare yourself for the challenges ahead. There may be ups and downs but try to enjoy the ride.
I will start by covering the task of managing workload. This is difficult to summarise as it is largely dependent on the training provider. However, surveys from the DfE have shown that work load either matches or exceeds expectations in almost all cases. It is likely that you will feel very busy in this first year, and depending on your career background, you may feel the shock of working full time in a school. It is fast paced and can be overwhelming at times. The key here is to be kind to yourself, understand that the workload is high but try not to let this phase you. More experienced teachers would have already gone through this, and should be understanding of this when providing your training. You will still need to develop your teaching practice at your own pace.
Most of your training will be provided by a mentor that is assigned to you. They will be tasked with helping you to develop behavior management strategies, pedagogy and subject knowledge as well as many others. Your experience of the NQT year will be largely dependent on who your mentor is and the qualities that they have. While it is likely that you will have a fantastic mentor that takes the time to help you to improve, the DfE have identified that mentors with other busy roles such as heads of departments, may in some cases, struggle to provide enough support for the ECT. There have also been many cases where teachers are not given sufficient time to implement the ideas that the mentor is feeding back to them. If you find yourself in this position, it is important to remember that there are several other teachers that would be willing to offer you additional support. Do not shy away from asking for support if you feel that you are struggling in a particular area of your teaching. You could also look to your colleagues for ways to implement new ideas and improve your lessons using observation feedback. Finally, you could reach out to other teachers on twitter or through our forum. Remember that you are your own teacher and you can take ideas from everybody, you do not have to become your mentor.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is key to developing your practice as a teacher, but also in helping you to manage stress in the early stages of your career (Day & Gu, 2010). So I would advise approaching CPD sessions with enthusiasm, get involved in the discussions, share your ideas (they are just as valuable as those of the experienced teacher). In the fast paced working environment, it is very easy to let ideas from CPD sessions, mentor meetings and lesson observations be forgotten. Remember that the main purpose of this year is to develop and improve your teaching, so take the time to reflect and try to adapt your teaching based on what you are learning.
Stay kind to yourself- you do not have to achieve everything right away.
Ask for help and collaborate with your colleagues.
Get actively involved in CPD.
Reflect on your lessons- without being hard on yourself.