The relationships and rapport you develop inside the classroom - with your pupils and colleagues – as well as those outside of the classroom with parents and carers are vital to get right. But what’s the best way to go about it when there’s so much going on as an NQT? Keith Berry, Headteacher of Park Community Academy in Blackpool, gives his top tips on how to build effective relationships during your first term.
Getting to know your pupils
- Take every opportunity to talk to your pupils, not just in the classroom, to forge a personal relationship that makes them feel valued.
- Use your PPA (Planning, Preparation and Assessment) time to read up on your pupils, particularly if they may have additional needs. It is worth investing time in learning what makes your children ‘tick’.
- Observe them at playtimes and speak to colleagues, including ex-class teachers, classroom support staff and lunchtime welfare staff to understand them better.
- Try to recognise and understand their personal interests, strengths, areas for development, apprehensions, triggers, their friends and also the children they clash with.
- Get to know your pupils as well as your favourite novel, so that every time they ‘turn a page’ you know what’s coming next. Understanding your pupils is vital to your long-term relationships; it will shape how they respond to and respect you in the year ahead.
Getting to know their parents and carers
- This is equally important, but not so easily done. Try to keep parents and carers informed about what is happening in their child’s classroom. For primary schools in particular, the most obvious times to speak to parents/carers will be at the beginning and end of the day. In secondary schools you can look for other opportunities too, for example, the school’s social media pages, class blogs and newsletters. These channels will promote wider engagement but make sure you are following the school protocol and set boundaries on this.
- Personalised engagement and messages are key. If you are able to, try to share something positive with parents/carers about their child’s work and progress in the first term - they are then more likely to be receptive and supportive when the more difficult conversations might arise!
- Working with parents and carers can be challenging and requires sustained effort on your part, with support from your colleagues. A word of caution though - try to ensure you include and engage with everyone equally.
- One lesson I have learnt over the years in our profession is that a well-informed school community - pupils, parents/carers, staff, governors and the wider community - is most likely to be a supportive community.
Getting to know your colleagues
- One of the greatest challenges an NQT faces is leading and managing other adults in their classroom, whether that’s teaching assistants or support staff. But it is also important to remember that the leader in the classroom is you, the teacher, and that is where the higher level of duty of care sits.
- Establish a positive working relationship based on mutual respect by showing your colleagues that you value their skills and opinions.
- Exchange information about your pupils with colleagues and learn from each other – you might have different insights to share and this will maximise your knowledge of the children for both of you.
- Make time to keep colleagues fully informed; go through what is going to happen in your classroom and informally review your lessons together so that they can input improvements.
- If you do find it difficult at first directing someone you might feel is older or more experienced then seek advice and support early on from your mentor, a colleague or friend who you trust. Address any issues earlier rather than later to avoid more difficult situations and conversations later on.
As you move through your NQT year, you will learn how to build relationships with your pupils, parents/carers and colleagues in your own way. Don’t be afraid or worry if you make mistakes but, as with all things, follow your school’s protocol and ask your mentor’s advice if you’re not sure.
And one last piece of advice from me: remember that teaching is still the best job in the world!
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Keith Berry is a 2019 Lifetime Achievement Silver Award Winner.
Teaching Awards is an annual celebration of exceptional teachers, created to recognise the life-changing effect an inspirational teacher can have on the lives of the young people they teach.
To thank teachers for their incredible achievements, the Department for Education is supporting the Teaching Awards and sponsoring two of this year’s awards - Outstanding New Teacher of the Year and Lifetime Achievement. You can read more about all of the winners on the Teaching Awards website.