What I Learned on Third Placement: Advice for Newly Qualified Teachers

It has been wonderful to see on social media so many NQTs, finishing their teacher training and sharing their excitement at gaining their first teaching job. But many may also be questioning what they might have missed out on, having not had a third and final placement, so as a recently qualified teacher, I thought I would share reflections from a few recent trainees on preparation for your first classroom. 

Tackle your time management. I loved my second placement, wrapping up the classroom in brown paper decorated with sweet wrappers, hiding golden tickets for a day of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired learning.  Because on second placement, I had time - time to research amazing resources, write detailed lesson plans and keep a daily reflection journal.  My biggest take-away from third placement was experiencing the reality of school life: a full day of teaching, with after-school clubs, then marking, then planning, as well as managing meetings and juggling a full to-do list, whilst completing University tasks and balancing family commitments.  

I worked in professional services for twenty years, teaching project and time management and those skills stood me in excellent stead. Whilst you have some time now, reflect now about your time management skills and how you work best, especially if this wasn’t something that was covered on your ITT.  

Get yourself a planner. Be realistic about how much non-contact time you have, and the fact that in your first role you will likely be creating or tailoring resources to your class, so things may take you longer. Discuss this with your mentor and ask for advice about where to invest time and learn to prioritise. One of the benefits of lockdown has been the sharing and availability of resources, so if you have a new school, ask them to share logins for resources sites, as well as any materials used by the previous teacher. 

Navigating the curriculum and medium-term planning. On third placement, you are planning more of the children’s work and seeing how this relates to the rest of the curriculum, so it is a great way of understanding how teachers build and review knowledge, aligning it to children’s progress. If you haven’t had much exposure to this, ask your new school for their medium-term plans and progression grids. Meeting with subject leads, once you have found your feet during your first few weeks, is invaluable to talk through their curriculum maps and how learning progresses across year groups. September 2020 is likely to look a lot different to previous years, so discussing with your new school how they are approaching their recovery curriculum will be vital, as well as collecting interesting and useful resources that will aid children to settle back into school. 

What do you want the children to learn? A fantastic teacher I worked with, after I had done a lesson where they explored all the mobile phones I had ever had, reminded me of this – great lesson, but what did you want them to learn?  In my enthusiasm for creating a really engaging task, I had overlooked what I wanted them to actually learn. Once you know your year group, spend time researching and getting up to speed with the curriculum, focusing on the knowledge and skills your children need to acquire and thinking about where their gaps might be, given where their learning may have been disrupted due to lockdown. Time will be even more precious than ever in the coming school year, so focusing learning on core skills, rather than an interesting activity that you might have found on a resources sharing site that broadly fits the topic you are doing, will be really important.

Behaviour and building relationships. On third placement, you start to build those relationships where children see you as their teacher and you can see pupil progression. This experience teaches you more about your values and how you manage behaviour, which carries you on to what is important to you when looking for your first school. There are some amazing books out there to review in the context of how you manage behaviour. Spend time reflecting on what you find challenging and need to address.  Every teacher will tell you the importance of creating routines and how classroom layout can hinder or help you. Again, speak to your school before your first day and discuss how they manage behaviour and what routines are important in their school, especially in light of the return to school for some children after a lengthy absence. Handover conversations with the previous class teacher (if still in the same school) are also invaluable, and even more important to understand the home-learning / in-school learning context for the different children in your class and their potential needs. 

Sort your NQT file.  This is one area you can prepare ahead of September. If your school are happy for you to get in touch with your local NQT mentor and explain you are either joining that area (or if not yet employed) that you hope to join that area.  Ask them how their scheme works, when the training days (or remote learning schemes) are and what good looks like to them in terms of your NQT file. Get your NQT file organised and grab a box file you can keep on your desk, where you can grab pieces of work/ideas/notes to build your file. If there are any RQTs in your school, ask them to share their experiences and advice. 

#ReadingRocks.  Whatever year group you are going into, one of the most important areas of being a primary school teacher is inspiring a love of reading. There are some amazing teachers to follow on Twitter who regularly share books they are reading and sharing with their class. Follow the #edutwitter or #readingrocks tags. Invest time now ensuring you have a range of great books to share with your readers, across genres and topics.  

Sign up now for free CPD.  If you are lucky enough to have some down-time take advantage of the free CPD that is online at the moment. From the Chartered College of Teaching to ResearchEd Home 2020, there is a brilliant array of opportunities to connect and consume excellent CPD right now. Build your networks now, to help support and sustain you. Many organisations and resources sites have special discounts for NQTs, so now is a great time to sign up. 

Seek out support. Finally, and probably most importantly, don't be afraid to ask for help.  You may be unable to build your NQT network, as face to face training will likely not be available for the foreseeable future, so don't be afraid to remind your NQT mentor and colleagues that you are still learning and that you didn't complete as much in-school time during your training.  Phrase your request positively - saying "I'd really appreciate your support/ideas/feedback on how to tackle this area as I have less experience here..  ", shouldn't be something that is met negatively. It is important to build your network in school too as well, from RQTs to subject leads to those who had your class the year before, there are plenty of professionals willing to support you. 

Unprecedented is a word that has been used a great deal over the past few months, but you are joining the teaching profession at a time when your energy and enthusiasm will be greatly appreciated and valued. Remain flexible and adaptable and reach out to people when you have questions. Undoubtedly you will work hard but there are few other jobs that will be as personally rewarding or fulfilling.  

For more tips and advice on surviving your NQT Year, read Tamsin’s 4 top tips to thrive in your first year as a qualified teacher
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