THE Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) that every principal wants







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Today’s blog is another guest blog post from Kerry based Principal Patrick Crean who has 7 years experience as a principal. He tells us all about the qualities he likes to see in NQTs to his school and that are valued by principals in schools in general.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned over the years from being principal is the importance of recruitment. To put it very simply; successful recruitment is the single biggest action that a school can take to improve its teaching and learning. During the course of my career; I have been fortunate to work with numerous Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) just out of college, who have made positive contributions to the teaching and learning in our school. Their eagerness to bring new ideas and point out where there is room for improvement has helped develop our school to be at the forefront of education. These inspired, motivated and informed young professionals are what the teaching profession requires and make sure that none of us become complacent in a fast-changing profession.

Here are five traits and skills that the best NQTs bring to our schools.

1. Bring Energy and Enthusiasm

As we are all aware, teaching is an engaging and demanding profession. Schools are extremely busy and energy-sapping places with increasing demands each year. The past decade has seen enormous changes in the Irish education system with teacher morale in the sector dropping. Croke Park hours, school self-evaluation, a complicated new language curriculum, initiative overload, increased paperwork and a culture of increased communication with parents has led to burnout and disillusionment from teachers. Very often an energetic and enthusiastic NQT is what a school community needs and this positive attitude can be infectious throughout the school. Schools will look for NQTs, who are able to create a positive classroom environment and plan exciting lessons for pupils, whilst being able to adapt their teaching style if needed. Many of our school timetables are still dominated by the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic). A proactive and creative NQT who can teach a variety of subjects with integrative themes, while utilising a range of resources and technologies is often the shot in the arm that a school needs.

2. Share ideas and knowledge

Irish schools are tremendous places for our children and help problem solve so many issues. Tried and tested techniques will often be effective, however like every organisation change is important and schools will benefit from fresher perspectives. Very often the culture of a school can dictate how a behavioural issue is addressed or a curricular area is taught. NQTs can often adapt older ideas or even offer a more effective approach to an issue. In essence, they can often challenge the status quo and with a fresh pair of eyes. Very often a more amicable solution can often be found or a more effective teaching strategy can be used.

An effective NQT will be confident in sharing knowledge and information with his or her colleagues. They are not worried about imposter syndrome or being inadequate. Remember they have completed their relevant degree and qualification and will develop a CV that stands out from the crowd before going through the rigors of a challenging interview process. Being exposed to the most recent educational research and technologies, gives them the upper hand when it comes to introducing new teaching methodologies and techniques.

In the Irish primary school, all the NQTs that start in schools will have completed their degrees and courses with the fundamentals of the child-centred curriculum. Furthermore, their understanding of literacy and languages is underpinned by the New Language Curriculum, which most current primary teachers still find difficult to understand. NQT’s are up to date on the importance of assessment and data and the requirement to engage in the School Self Evaluation process. An effective NQT will also have had the opportunity to engage in college with current issues such as Children’s health and fitness, cyberbullying, and the importance of mindfulness. 

3. Buy into the School Culture and procedures

Successful NQT’s buy into the school culture and immerse themselves with the history, knowledge and procedures of the school. They understand that when you start in a new school you have to play by their rules. Yes, they would maybe do things differently, but they don’t yet. They respect, appreciate the culture of the school and don’t look to change right away.

These successful teachers examine child protection policies, discipline polices, health and safety policies, subject policies and homework policies. They make sure they are not digressing from the standard procedures of schools. No school wants an NQT who has developed their own style of discipline, which contrasts to others or who gives much more homework than other teachers.

These positive teachers look to strengthen the extra-curricular activities of a school and are proactive in contributing something new. Perhaps a new sport or a new skill such as music or debating that a school may be lacking in. They ask crucial questions on policies and procedures thus challenging other teachers to readdress or define their approach to school life. These thought-provoking questions help to keep the school on their toes and can often be a catalyst to important changes in the future.

4. Work effectively with all stakeholders

In my experience NQTs bring massive positivity to school. Colleagues are excited at the prospect of working with someone with new ideas and fresh perspectives. Parents will often look at the recruitment of an NQT as being progressive and positive for their child. Children enjoy these energetic and ‘fun’ teachers that help to discover learning in new and exciting ways.

If an NQT works well as part of a team, the school will be able to maximise pupils’ learning by sharing ideas, resources, knowledge and understanding. The most successful NQTs in my own schools have sat down with parents, SET teachers and lead the way in developing and monitoring the targets of individual children. They have been receptive to advice and been committed to work effectively with professionals and outside agencies.

Good NQTS work well with their mentors. They ensure that they show gratitude for their time and advice. They develop trust with all colleagues and take responsibility for their own learning.   

5. Be organised

Lastly, the NQT needs to be organised, consistent and proactive in establishing a routine. In this age of paperwork and procedure, they are being thrown in at the deep end. Successful NQTs establish a clear routine that makes their pupils feel more comfortable and engaged in the school day. Teaching methodologies are varied with interesting content from the curriculum. There is a wide range of assessment strategies with clear data on each child’s progression. They build a picture over time of a child’s learning progress across the curriculum. They use different ways to gather evidence about how and what the child learns on an ongoing basis. This information is used to celebrate the child’s current learning, and to help make decisions about the next steps for future learning.

A bone of contention can often be homework. Successful NQTs make sure that this is well planned, effective and differentiated if it needs to be. The homework that is prescribed has purpose and is in line with the learning outcomes of the class.

The best NQTs develop long-term and short-term planning that is clear, detailed and up to date. These plans are developed specifically for their own children and are in line with the school’s specific curricular policies. Classroom support plans and pupil support plans need to be constantly reviewed with realistic targets being formulated and monitored. Finally, a proactive NQT, will hand up their cuntas miosúils each month demonstrating effective learning and progression in the classroom.

Many thanks to Patrick for sharing with us what are very valuable insights. It’s powerful to learn about leadership in education so that teachers can understand and more closely align with best practices from a principal’s perspective.

What action will you take having read today’s blog?

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