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Guest blog post from Dan Gallagher. Visit Dan's blog at

Having made it through my School Direct training year and two-thirds of my NQT year, I thought it would be a good idea to write my first blog about the one thing that has taken over my life for the past 18 months or so. I want to give an insight into my own experiences and my top tips for surviving, what some people call, the toughest year of teaching.

In all honestly, teaching is not a walk in the park and the thought of standing up in front of 30 children whose eyes fixed on you can be extremely intimidating. The nerves can certainly take over, if you let them; however, it is important that you remain calm and remember that sitting in that new classroom, with a new class teacher is daunting for them too. Therefore, my first tip is to be confident.

Confident – feeling or showing confidence in oneself or one’s abilities or qualities.

Be true to yourself and believe in your own abilities. You may not have that experienced teacher by your side, who helped guide you during your training year, but you do have all the experience and expertise you have gained whilst they were by your side. For me, I don’t believe I established myself as a “confident” teacher until I lead my own class this year. I was constantly doubting my own abilities during my training year and looking for reassurances and praise but when I began my NQT year with my own class the doubt washed away as I began to be myself and relax in the classroom. This leads me into my second tip (consisting of 2 points): Be yourself and relax.

“Live life though nobody is watching, and express yourself as everybody is listening.” – Nelson Mandela.

Being yourself and relaxing is something you should think about inside and outside of work, as it is important that you do not burn yourself out and you have time for you. Feeling stressed during my training year and at the beginning of my NQT year led me to seek advice from colleagues and other professionals. However, for me, this was not beneficial. I kept getting the same advice: make time for yourself, exercise (this will definitely help with stress), do things you enjoy. The advice never worked and trying to fit other components into my life, alongside being a new teacher and a new Dad, increased my stress levels.

I decided it was time for change; I took away anything in my life that was not essential and stripped my life back to basics. This included working, looking after my son (Arthur) and spending time with my wife (Sam). These are the most important things in my life right now and I am, only now, beginning to add other elements to it. I’ve found new interests in reading (currently working my way through Tomi Adeyemi’s “Children of Blood and Bone”), blogging and cooking. Having this time to reflect, thinking about my life and my work, is extremely beneficial and has allowed me to find a way to release some of my thoughts and anxieties that build up during my day-to-day life. In saying this, my third tip is reflect and consider what is really important.

If, like me, you think too much, doubt yourself, are self-critical and expect too much of yourself, teaching will become difficult. A chore even. This should not be the case. It is not important to be an outstanding teacher in every lesson of every day; it is important to be creative, take risks and to create a fun and engaging learning environment. Some may say this comes down to being thoroughly planned, however, although planning is definitely important, in my short experience as a teacher this comes from (linking to tip number two) being relaxed and willing to experiment, not worrying if you make a mistake. Like I tell my class everyday, mistakes are important: they are evidence that you are pushing yourself and trying something you do not find as easy. If this is true for children, it must also be true for adults, teachers in particular. Who remembers being taught by that teacher who did the same thing day in and day out? This was the best way, for them, it most certainly wasn’t for my classmates and I. This leads me into tip number four – Push the boundaries (don’t be afraid to make mistakes).

Mistakes help us learn and will ultimately make us better. Remember – you can’t do it yet! 

Mistakes are ok

Making sure we keep our teaching fresh and innovative is essential for ourselves and for our class. Doing the same thing everyday will get tiring and monotonous and will switch the children off. Isn’t the point of teaching to switch them on? Ignite that spark, that love of learning, that will make them life-long learners in their own right. Therefore, it is vitally important that you connect with more experienced colleagues, fellow NQTs and fellow teachers on social media (one of the most powerful tools). Share ideas, ask for suggestions, work collaboratively on an area that you feel is weak. This will only help make your NQT year a memorable experience, by ensuring you add variety into the classroom and hone those skills you feel are your weaknesses – mine’s was literacy but this is fast becoming a strength.

Tip five – connect/talk to others

Get yourself on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook etc. These are fantastic platforms to find innovative ideas from like-minded professionals who want to be in the profession and who want to help new and experienced teachers because, at the end of the day, they too were an NQT, they know how hard it is, and that little piece of advice can help turn a hard week into a memorable one.

Thank you for reading my first ever blog! I hope you found it interesting and insightful and if you are going to start your NQT year in September remember – Be confident, be yourself and relax, reflect, push the boundaries and connect with other like-minded individuals.

Mr G.


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