Back to Blogs

NQT Survival Guide – How To Combat The First Year!

  • Publish Date: Posted over 3 years ago

We think teachers are heroes. That’s why Dunbar Education love working with you! We agree and know that teaching is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and not only that, one of the most responsible jobs out there! With everything you need to think about, you are nurturing our future generations of leaders, scientists, doctors and more. A lot to think about, we know. You are passionate and you care. It is emotional, yet oh so rewarding. But remember you’re an NQT, we understand how overwhelming that is

graduates in their caps and gowns

In this guide, Dunbar Education have put together some tips, tricks, and vital information to get you through that first tricky year of being an NQT. We want you to thrive and not just survive.

These are the first steps of a fulfilling career and you’ve got this!

Dunbar are with you every step of the way.

You’re a boss, not ‘just an NQT’

Take charge and put your boundaries in place with your students from the get-go. Be consistent with your policies such as behaviour and organise your students.

Seating plans are always helpful. Engage with your class and get to know them. If you feel they can be trusted to sit next to their peers and work, your students may appreciate that trust and work harder as a result. And remember, to your students you are not an NQT, you are a teacher.

It’s fine to not be liked

However, relating to the above, it’s not your job to be adored. Remember children may dislike you. That’s allowed and that’s ok. It can be difficult, and everyone wants to be that ‘favourite’ teacher. But just like life, you may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Specially when behaviour management comes into place. There are rules and there’s things you have to say (as much as you would rather say the contrary to get on their side.)

Effective teaching will have a balance of mutual respect and it’s more beneficial to keep the students on the right track with their learning rather than just being ‘nice’ and not wanting to ‘rustle any feathers’.

Say no!

As you are new around here, try not to let people walk all over you. Yes, you are going to be keen and may want to help and show your commitment, however you need to ensure that you learn to say no when it’s needed, so other members of staff do not unintentionally add to your workload.

We can understand that you do not wish to come across unwilling and leave a bad impression – but make sure you do not spread yourself too thinly. Being an NQT is difficult enough as it is with lots to learn about your new school and students.

‘Wow’ lessons

You are going to be mentored and have endless lesson observations. You are going to have lots of resources and check box exercises from your learnings about making that ‘wow’ lesson for when you are observed. But remember, that’s not real.

That lesson observation needs to be realistic. You need to be showing what you can do every day and how you would teach a ‘normal’ lesson. Putting on a big show is not something you can upkeep. Show a true reflection of your practice, so your feedback becomes relevant, achievable, and sustainable.


It is important to reflect on your own teachings as an NQT. It may be worth keeping a journal so you can write down what worked well after each lesson and what you can improve on. Take all of your feedback from your mentors and lesson observations and make them count – this will help with your development.

Some teachers like to use video so they can watch themselves back, reflect and note down the positives and negatives, this will allow you to understand a little clearer what needs improving.

Time management

To be a teacher, you will be an expert multitasker – and if you are not one already, you soon will be after completing your NQT year.

We know you have a lot to juggle from lesson plans, marking books and other responsibilities within the school, so planning your time with deadlines will help with keeping you organised and your head above water.

Also, ensure you are doing one task at a time and give yourself a time limit – the same way you would your students. We would also recommend leaving the more interesting tasks last, as you will naturally spend more time on them as you enjoy it. This gets the more mundane and urgent to do’s out of the way.

Number 1 top tip – nothing major is going to happen if you do not get your lists done. Try to learn to not over pressure yourself. You do not want to over stress yourself to the point you become exhausted and can’t do anything.


Don’t do it!

Stop comparing yourself to your colleagues, peers and that awesome teacher that inspired you in school.

Your strengths may be different to someone else, and that’s ok. All students learn differently, and all students will be inspired by different teachers.

It really doesn’t matter that he got that promotion and she got complimented by parents during that parents evening.

This does not mean you are failing or are not working hard enough. Your journey is personal to you. Everyone’s time will come, and we all make mistakes. Teaching is hard, but you are already proving yourself by being passionate enough to be an NQT and you will not be an NQT forever. This is your book, your chapter, and your time to shine. Focus on how to improve your character rather than compare your story to others.

So much opportunity will come once completing your NQT year, the wonderful world of teaching has begun, and you have plenty of room to develop and blossom. To read one of our teachers’ experiences, click here!

If you are looking for your NQT opportunity or next career move, we would recommend using an agency to support you in finding that next step.

Dunbar Education have worked hundreds of NQT’s and have a wide variety of opportunities to offer. If you would like to speak to one of our dedicated consultants, get in touch today.

We already know believe in you and know teachers are heroes.